From Horses to Cars
The Wild West has become ripe pickings for game settings the past few years, with the likes of Call of Juarez and Red Dead Redemption continuing the re-emergence of the Wild West as a backdrop started by Gun in 2005. And why not? John Wayne milked the backdrop to death over his entire film career, and comparatively there are fewer games than movies made about such an interesting period of history. However, Techland have decided that enough is enough.
Not content to simply continue the character and feel of the previous two Call of Juarez games, the setting has changed. No more long horse rides on my beloved horses Jeffersons 1 through 8. No more whipping snakes to death in my quest to collect eagle feathers. Moving from the Old West and 19th Century Mexico to the 21st Century is a risky move in an era of Call of Duty clones running riot, like Apache raiding parties, throughout our multiple formats. The original series had the type of character that Call of Duty can only dream of- it was a reliable Labrador that greeted you whenever you started the game with the nagging feeling that you haven’t watched The Magnificent Seven in a while and should really dig it out. We liked the feeling. Conversely, The Cartel leaves me with the feeling that this game should be placed in a drawer and never dug out.
Life is a Highway
Call of Juarez: The Cartel starts off in a massive adrenaline rush, with a highway shootout from the back of a Cadillac Escalade. The game then backtracks to tell the story of Detective Ben McCall, DEA Agent Eddie Guerra and FBI agent Kim Evans, who form a covert task-force under government supervision to investigate the Independence Day bombing of a FBI agency by suspected Mexican cartels, mainly the Mendoza cartel based outside of Juarez. A fairly uninteresting story it certainly is, with the perpetrated links between McCall, the bombing suspect and a bombing victim culminating in predictable actions by the Ray McCall-lookalike. The story is supposed to be deepened by the personal problems of each of the 3 characters, such as Evans’ links to Los Angeles crime gangs and Eddie being under investigation by DEA internal affairs, but they are handled in such a clumsy fashion that often it seems the game has forgotten that these issues are going on, with them only briefly appearing through phone-call cut-scenes and a few heated arguments. They just seem to disappear as soon as the cut-scenes end, meaning that you are left feeling that these issues were just an afterthought to attempt to make the story seem more engaging.
The story does eventually pick up about 8 hours in, but that is far too long for the story to have any real hooking effect. Only the very committed or the foolhardy will venture that far in. Once you do, however, the story begins to take shape nicely and culminates in a predictable but satisfying ending. Along the way however, you will begin to get very irritated with the cut-scenes for a number of reasons. For one, the voice-acting in them is quite frankly terrible, with the voices sounding like they were recorded in a large glass dome, with an unnatural and cringe-worthy echo to them. Secondly, several of the cut-scenes suffer from a tendency to glitch hilariously- on one occasion an entire cut-scene glitched so I couldn’t hear anything that was clearly being said. On another occasion, the car I was travelling in during a real-time cut-scene collided with a car and ran over a pedestrian, with no reference being made to either event apart from the vehicle exploding. This seems to be an inherent problem with the ‘live’ AI during the cut-scene, as that was not supposed to happen. It’d be funny if it wasn’t so tragic.
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.