by Marko Susimetsä
reviewed on PC
Back to the Wild West
After some detours that should go unremembered, the Call of Juarez series is returning to the Wild West. The first game in the series brought back the Wild West genre to computer games and it was regarded very favourably by the press. It is no wonder, therefore, that the latest game in the series is returning to this rich genre.
Call of Juarez: Gunslinger tells the story of a ruthless bounty hunter going after the worst outlaws in history. The story is explored through the tales of the bounty hunter, Silas Greaves, himself as well as his audience as he shares the adventures of his youth with the citizens of a more civilised era.
The bounty hunter’s story relates the events that Silas Greaves claims that he’s lived through and the outlaws that he has hunted down during his career. These include Billy the Kid, the Dalton brothers, Jesse James, The Wild Bunch and many others and the adventures have him killing veritable armies of these masterminds’ henchmen on his way to the big bounties themselves. It is up to the listeners to decide which ones of the stories are true and which are simple fables told by an elderly man wishing for a drink.
The storytelling mechanic allows for some very amusing moments, where, as the bounty hunter describes the scene, the scene around the player changes accordingly. As an example, Silas says how a “barn appeared as if from nothing” when he was walking through a misty swamp. The player sees the barn practically growing up from the dirt in front of his very eyes. These, and many other cute turns in the story makes the storyline an entertaining experience, even though the gameplay is little more than shooting at every red-scarved man who happens to peek from around a corner. The end of the story was very predictable – a standard ending really – but it suited the story very well.
When you are done with the story, you can continue enjoying the game with the Play[+] option which lets you keep all the weapons and experience you accrued during the first play-through – perhaps to try out that alternative ending this time. Or you can pick one of the arcade options and simply try for a high score on one of the levels on the offing, comparing your score to those of your friends. You can also just enjoy a few duels, if you find them interesting enough.
No longer are the bad guys marked by their black hats. After all, the good guys seem to prefer the black more and more. Thus, the bad guys need a new marker and it seems that the developers of Call of Juarez: Gunslinger decided that a red scarf is the next best thing. And, indeed, the red scarves make the enemies easier to detect in forests as well as in towns.
The enemy gunslingers are mostly armed with the usual fare: revolvers, rifles or shotguns, but there are some nastier surprises out there, such as armoured shotgun wielders who need to be shot in the head to take out. Even more dangerous are enemy bosses with gatling guns. These often require more than your usual tricks to take out – Kid Curry being perhaps the most annoying one of those that I met. Fortunately, not all big bosses wield gattling guns – usually you simply finish them in a duel where speed and focus are the key.
Running and gunning
Silas Greaves is a bounty hunter who hates horses. Therefore he mainly walks and runs around when he is not sneaking. In most missions, sneaking is only useful until the first shot is fired as thereafter the enemies will know that you are coming and sneaking only slows you down. Armed with one or two revolvers and a rifle or a shotgun, you will have to refrain from running too often, however, for the enemy is numerous and will gun you down easily enough if you don’t try to find cover where you can.
As you kill your enemies, you will accrue so-called Concentration, which allows you to occasionally slow down time and make the enemies glow red so that you can quickly aim and shoot them down before time resumes its regular speed. Similarly, you can occasionally dodge a deadly bullet in the same kind of slow-motion. But killing also brings in experience that you can use to upgrade your skills in Gunslinger, Ranger and Trapper skill trees. These mainly allow you to specialise in revolvers, rifle or shotgun, but all trees also include skills that help you out in general as well. They also unlock special legendary weapons, the favourite of mine being the Golden Rifle.
The Good, The Bad & The Dead
Call of Juarez: Gunslinger is essentially a shooter, but it is a good shooter for any fan of the Wild West. The story is enjoyable and the little twists and turns along the way keep it interesting and even funny even though you are basically doing the same thing over and over again: shooting at minions until you get to the final encounter of each scene.
Overall, I enjoyed the game and I will be certain to return to it for another playthrough at some point. Given the very affordable price, it is almost a must-purchase to anyone who liked the original back in 2006 and whoever happens to yearn for a good and satisfyingly long Western story.
Entertaining even if predictable story, good gameplay, Golden Rifle.
Slight repetitiveness of the missions, Gattling guns.