Call of Juarez: The Cartel

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Call of Juarez: The Cartel review
Ryan Sandrey


How the West was lost

Out of Control!

As the first game using Techland’s proprietary Chrome Engine 5, which will later be used in Dead Island, it is a marked improvement on Chrome Engine 4, with the graphics being more than adequate. However, it does suffer from several problems. The engine relies on an over-abundance of bloom effects that cause headaches, particularly in the woodland levels. It’s unnatural and painful to see. Aside from decent water effects, the low resolution textures and lack of any kind of decent physics engine(apart from in a set-piece early on that was clearly geared up to show what the engine can do, but Techland forgot to implement it regularly, with a shooting range being the only other time it is shown) means that the game looks and feels like it was made 5 years ago. The slowdown and jerkiness encountered at times also adds to the game’s budget feel. It’s hardly a decent showcase for the new engine, but graphics aren’t everything.

Controls, on the other hand, are vitally important, and this is another area where Call of Juarez: The Cartel falls down, with the default button mapping being a bizarre cavalcade of awkward and misplaced buttons. Y on the 360 pad usually equates to ‘change weapon’ in most of the game’s peers, but here it is used for reload, with the right bumper being handed the awkward task of cycling through weapons when it usually only handles grenades. The grenades have been delegated to the left bumper, with X becoming purely the use button. This results in clunky and awkward controls to get used to. Why they chose not to emulate the Call of Duty control scheme when they have seemingly ventured to the style of gameplay is beyond me.

How-Die, Partner?

The gameplay is not anything to write home about either. The gunplay often feels awkward, as is a problem with many console shooters, with the innovative cover system that Bound In Blood possessed inexplicably removed. However, many of the gameplay stalwarts that are identifiable with the Call of Juarez have remained, such as Concentration Mode and the door-storming Partner move. However, as is becoming obvious, these have also been mutilated, with Concentration Mode reduced to a clichéd slow-motion section where McCall shouts out the same piece of the incidental dialogue over and over- bible phrases ‘enhanced’ by gratuitous swearing- which is representative of the lack of incidental dialogue for all of the playable characters. The door-storming mode is often unnecessary and easily predictable- whenever you encounter closed double-doors, get ready to storm the room. This is often a showcase for more glitches, as your partner often misses the door they are supposed to be kicking in, but the door opens anyway. They work, and are the same in essence, but lack the character they had in previous games. Added to these are driving sequences, with stereotypical bumper car handling and strange invincibility that a normal car could only dream of, yet is always the case for vehicles in games not primarily about driving. This unrealistic invincibility also spreads to your character in certain situations, like encounters with helicopters, which is inconsistent with the rest of the game where you can be killed by a slight breeze.

The game’s selling point has been the 3 player co-op, and whilst it’s not a unique selling point, it is a good thing to have. However, such focus means that the game often seems confused about what it is- the co-op influenced lobby before every mission, where you can choose your weapons loadout in a similar way to the Left 4 Dead safehouse at the beginning of every part, seems at odds with the long dialogue sections and cut-scenes. However, the co-op is fun and it eradicates another of my gripes with the game- the broken Partner AI. During the course of the game, you are forced to rely on your partners for advancement, such as the new Cover Fire system, where they provide suppressing fire in order to let you move forward. Whilst the idea is good, the execution is poor, with your partners often advising you to ‘move to the next bit of cover’ at the wrong moment. This often results in death. The Co-op isn’t perfect however, with the co-op being hampered by the necessity that the host must be at the same level of progression as the players joining, and that the player must be in the Lobby at the beginning of the mission when people attempt to join, otherwise it refuses to work.


fun score


Enjoyable Multiplayer, Once the story picks up it is fairly enthralling, co-op works well barring a few problems, Campaign is a good length. Secret Agenda is an interesting idea.


Broken partner AI, problems graphically, major slowdown in places, dialogue is grating, voice acting is terrible, controls awkward and clunky in places, driving sections have terrible handling.