My Secret Agenda
Amongst all the gloom and mediocre rubbish, there are a few glimmers of acceptable game mechanics. The Secret Agenda system introduced in The Cartel is a perfect addition to the game. Secret Agendas involve side-missions or secondary objectives for each character, such as collecting Aztec valuables or mobile phones to collect money for acquaintances. The catch of these hidden objectives lay in the secrecy (bet you couldn’t guess that)- if a partner notices you being a ‘bad cop’, as the achievement states, then you will lose any XP bonus it would have given you. This would have the cumulative effect of reducing the amount of weapons at your disposal as some are only unlocked when you reach a certain level. Given the complexities of each character’s backstory, this is a decent addition. It is hampered, however, by several problems. Only in co-op can YOU spot your partners completing their tasks for an XP bonus, as you don’t appear to be able to in single-player. Your partners can spot you in single-player, but it appears to happen sporadically- you can be stood in front of them and pick something up unnoticed, but you can be spotted from across a dark nightclub from one side to the other. Like most things in The Cartel, it promised so much, and the execution lets it down.
Alongside the acceptable co-op, there is also an acceptable multiplayer mode. It’s not very original, granted, but it is enjoyable. Provided you can find a server with people on, you can play several modes, such as a Robbery mode which borrows heavily from the Medal of Honor Combat Mission mode, and Cartel Deal, where you are in the middle of a gang war. The multiplayer is better than any part of the single-player, but it suffers from the problem that there will never be a community for it. It’s too similar to other titles without doing anything new, and the game won’t sell well enough for people to give the multiplayer a try. It does implement a partner system, where you are assigned, or can choose, a partner who gives you ammunition and XP boosts provided you are in a close proximity. It’s a novel idea, but doesn’t work very well as there is no clear definition of how close you need to be.
Living in the Past
There is often the heavy weight of expectation on the shoulders of a game when it carries the name of a successful franchise, and this can make ‘weak’ titles akin to terrible games in the eyes of the beholder. The Cartel manages to not only disappoint fans of the franchise but be a terrible game in its own merit, with glitch uninteresting gameplay and poor execution of everything. It doesn’t do itself any favours either by making illusions to the history of the franchise, with fire-fights taking part in the familiar fort at Juarez and in the remains of a strangely familiar mining town. It then justifies the bewilderment of the player by showing enemies getting stuck in bits of the scenery, due to poor collision detection. This can also be seen in an invisible force-field around certain objects, preventing you from shooting through slats in staircases, amongst other things.
Techland have to be admired for having the guts to change their franchise in such an extreme way, but this time it just hasn’t worked out. Call of Juarez: The Cartel is a mediocre shooter, poorly executed in every single way. Even the promising parts of the game are ludicrously flawed, giving it a budget game feeling. It’s hard to recommend the game to anybody, as even the redeeming features are either flawed or copied from its peers. The game puts it best when it shows you an abandoned old mining town that was thriving 150 years ago. That is what the series has become. An abandoned shell of what it once was.
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.