by Marko Susimetsä
previewed on PC
Call of Juarez was a relatively successful Wild West themed action adventure that let you play the roles of a crazy elderly gunfighter and a misunderstood Native American youth. Now, Ubisoft and Techland are giving the title another go as they will soon release Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood, the story of which will be set before the events of the original. Basically, this lets us meet Ray McCall when he was younger and, presumably, a little less crazy.
Call of Juarez was actually also one of the rare games that I've played through to the end, so I must admit interest in this sequel, especially if they've been able to fix the worst problems from the original. But, let's see what we know thus far about this upcoming prequel sequel.
Ray McCall, the crazy gunfighter is back. This time, with his brother Thomas McCall, whom we only met as a corpse at the beginning of the original title. Both able gunmen, the brothers will be battling in Civil War era Georgia and Mexico, trying to protect their families while serving the Confederate army. As they leave the service to be better able to protect their loved ones, the brothers hear about a treasure in Juarez. Their intentions are to use the gold for the good of all, but while they search for the riches, greed, lust and revenge begin to tear them apart and thus their storylines separate...
Perhaps the best sign of the ethical stance of the two brothers are the colours of their hats – neither of them is likely to feel too much regret about killing a couple of people if they are on their way from rags to riches. Both Thomas and Ray have their own gunslinging styles and they specialise in different weapons and abilities. Playing alternatively with both characters, you'll get to try out which specialties and methods work best in particular situations. Thomas is the more agile of the two and handy with rifles, while Ray likes to get up close and personal with his enemies, using his great strength and reflexes to take out multiple opponents.
Thematically, Bound in Blood continues the modern view of the Old West described in such TV series as Deadwood etc. where there are no good characters and even the white hats have got pretty dirty many, many years ago. In addition to the moody atmosphere of the Civil War era, the game will also deal with other events of the period, including an important conflict between two well-known Native American tribes. The developers also reveal that the game will have practically all the elements of a good western story from the Pinkertons to gunrunners, stagecoach chases, prison breaks and holdups.
Multiplayer: a bounty on your head
The online multiplayer mode of Bound in Blood will allow you to take out your fellow gamers and collect points as you cash in the bounties on their heads. Naturally, the increasing bounty on your head as you do this will attract more and more gunslingers your way. The developers have paid extra attention to the multiplayer mode and it should be fun western action in the good old spaghetti tradition.
Shedding the burden of the original
The original Call of Juarez was a refreshing but under-appreciated take on the Wild West genre that was blamed by many for the dull platforming sequences (certain mountain comes to mind) and, by me personally, for the underuse of the bow – if I remember correctly, the only real situation where you actually got to use the bow against enemies (instead of merely practicing) was three or four shots at the beginning of the end battle. Likewise, the final action scene of the first game was one of the most annoying “you have only 0.4 seconds to aim your gun with your mouse and click the left button” setups that I've ever seen. Also included was some horseback riding with horses that steered worse than a 3.5 tonne truck.
Aside from these small troubles, the title offered a great deal of satisfying gunfight action in towns and out in the wilderness. Especially the slow-mo concentration mode that you got to use when controlling Ray was a satisfying way to take out multiple opponents before they had time to even draw their guns. If Bound in Blood is able to downplay the above-mentioned weaknesses of the original and offer something new in the same package, it will certainly make a better impression than the original did.