The Call of Juarez franchise has been one of the oddest franchises this console generation. It all began with the simple, yet appealing original that put you in the boots of Reverend Ray and Billy Candle. Nothing was particularly revolutionary about the game but it got the job done and provided a good eight hours of thrill. Next up was Bound in Blood, which ended up being one of the best games released in 2009. The insane yet intriguing story combined with some enthralling action and made a product that was not going to be soon forgotten. That is, up until Call of Juarez: The Cartel somehow managed to squeak its way out. Cartel was a sad excuse for a sequel as it received no fanfare due to its awful execution on near every new idea developer Techland tried to introduce.
With the newest installment in this bizarre franchise, lost are the days of focusing on two main characters as you trot through their respective stories, also lost is the $60 price tag as Gunslinger is the first in the franchise to be a mere $15. In Gunslinger, you play as Silas Greaves as he stumbles into a bar and begins to tell his life story to some curious history buffs that surround him. Silas has been a bounty hunter his whole life and along the way has managed to run into some famous faces such as Billy the Kidd, Jesse James, and many others.
This storytelling hook opens up one of the more comedic aspects of Gunslinger as the entire game is set in the past, with Silas narrating what happened as you make your way through the linear Wild West. Along the way, Silas will forget certain tidbits of information such as how he got across certain areas. He’ll then chime in by saying “then out of nowhere, a ladder appeared before my eyes.” It’s a plot device that is a tad overused, but still gathered a chuckle out of me whenever a bridge or whole barn would appear out of the sky and fall down in front of Silas.
For the narrative itself, Silas’ story is nothing more than a plot device to push forward until you meet the next familiar face in a duel. That being said, things do begin to pick up some steam near the end when out of the blue, the story takes a turn for the supernatural. And though this may be reserved to history buffs like myself, the appearances of famous outlaws were a nice touch to keep my interest from diverting too far away from what Silas was rambling on about. That combined with the insane ending turns a rather lackluster story into something at least moderately memorable.
The Call of Juarez franchise has never been known as a visual powerhouse and that trend continues with Gunslinger. The issue I ran into may be something regarding my PC but as I would move the reticule around, the frame rate would chop up for a split second. I tampered with my visual settings multiple times to no avail. But even with that problem, environments do look very nice and the new semi-cartoony art style Techland has introduced really does a lot to add life to rather drab environments. The amount of color pumped into every texture is a really refreshing thing to see as many games these days love to use different forms of gray to get their depressing feelings across. Though it isn’t absolutely gorgeous, it’s always nice to see a color fueled shooter that isn’t afraid to have red blood spew out of enemies like coke from shaken up bottle.
The cartoony art style only heightens the arcade feel that the gameplay manages to bring forth. Similar to games such as Bullestorm and many others, points fly off of enemies’ heads anytime you begin to unload some 19th century lead into them. You get extra points for a headshot and can even squeeze out some more points by scoping out the environment and trying to find a special way to dispose of your foes. This is a brand new idea for the Call of Juarez franchise and it’s clear that it was introduced to further diverge away from the failures of The Cartel. The execution on these ideas are rather lackluster as the point system becomes insignificant as time goes on and you become more interested with leveling up and exploring your tech tree than squeezing every last bonus point out of the levels.
While the points system is very much a divergence from the previous installments, Gunslinger still features your traditional Western tropes like a duel system and of course, straight up gun slinging combat. The duel system emphasizes the use of both thumb sticks as one controls a reticule that you must keep placed on your opposing outlaw and the other adjusts how close your hand is to your gun. As you manage to keep your reticule on your enemy and hand near your gun, a focus and speed percentage consistently fills up until it’s time to pull out your weapon and unload on the man in front of you. The ideas here work out pretty well and provide for some rather intense and nail biting seconds while you’re waiting for your opponent to make his move.
The combat itself is rather simplistic, with a limited amount of weapons and not much innovation to be found. Then again, innovation isn’t something people should expect from a fifteen dollar shooter. On top of that, there are some rather poor decisions Techland made with how to handle their boss fights, thankfully those fights are never a prolonged experience and can usually be completed within ten minutes. Gunslinger manages to keep itself from falling into the pits of boredom by having a leveling system that allows you to upgrade your pistols, shotguns, or rifles depending on which you prefer. The expertly crafted weapon sounds and fine animation are also some nice touches on the combat that should not go unnoticed.
I’ll be the first to admit that my attachment to the Call of Juarez franchise is not something shared by the video game loving population. I’m aware that my high regard for Bound in Blood is not universal and that many held the first as a mostly unfulfilling experience. Even with that, I came into Gunslinger expecting very little. It was a small, little known fifteen dollar experience that was coming hot off the heels of Call of Juarez: The Cartel. What I got was a lot more than expected, through bewilderingly lovable storytelling hooks you’re locked in from the beginning and Gunslinger doesn’t let you go up until that final twist. It isn’t the next revolutionary shooter, but it doesn’t want to be, Gunslinger is its own thing: An enthralling little experience that deserves your attention.
- Lighthearted story that never takes itself too seriously, leading to some unique comedic moments
- Intense dueling mechanics that keep your attention glued to the monitor
- New art style and arcade mechanics fit the series perfectly
- Skill trees for multiple weapons is a nice touch and keeps the combat from becoming too repetitive
- Slight visual hitches are a bummer
- Poor design on boss battles can lead to some serious frustration
Article from Gamersyndrome.com