Game: Call of Juarez
Developer: Techland Software
Call of Juarez is an FPS game set in the Wild West, one of the few games that cropped up at around the same time. And it’s about the best of the bunch, despite some minor flaws. The game revolves around the interesting idea of having two playable characters, each with a different style of play, and alternating the levels between them.
The first character you play as is Billy, nicknamed Billy Candle, on account of his head being on fire. Umm…I mean, because he has a medallion with a candle on it. After failing to find the treasure of Juarez after years of searching, he decides to return home to see his mother. Billy’s segments of the game focus mainly on stealth and some cliff climbing platforming sequences. He comes equipped with a whip that he can use to climb and swing from in true Indiana Jones fashion. He does carry a gun at times, but he’s generally weak and useless at combat so you spend most of your time avoiding it.
The other character you can play as is Reverend Ray, the insane preacher who chases after Billy to bring vengeance on him, in true western style. This is after seeing Billy stood over the body of his mother and stepfather (who happens to be the Reverend’s brother) and assuming he was the murderer. So you get the strange situation of alternating between controlling the person running away, and then the person chasing. Reverend Ray is the character that brings the gameplay you expect from a western game. He gets a variety of weapons, including his two holstered guns. These can be used in quickdraw mode, one of the interesting unique features of the game. Firing your weapons without having them ready takes you straight into this bullet-time-esque mode, where everything goes into slow motion. Unlike normal bullet time games though, in this, two crosshairs float across the screen, each one representing a different gun, which can be fired independently with the left and right mouse buttons. It means you can take out a large group of enemies in a second or two without them getting a chance to return fire. He also ends most of his levels with a showdown against the level's main antagonist, where you have to pull down the mouse and then quickly take aim before getting shot, in a fairly successful attempt to recreate the traditional movie gunfight feel.
The game does make some mistakes. The start of the game is the worst of them. It launches you, as Billy, straight into an irritating stealth sequence. It’s not what you expect, or want, from a game with this setting when you first load it up. Fortunately, the few later stealth sequences are done much better than the opening part, and add some variety to the gunplay, but starting the game like this was a mistake. Later in the game, Billy’s levels actually provide some of the highlights of the game, especially an entertaining challenge involving hunting with a bow and arrow while riding on horseback in a huge open area.
The game does have a few nice touches that, while they don’t add huge amounts to the game, deserve special mention. If you look down in this game, you can actually see your feet and body. No longer are you the floating disembodied pair of eyes that you play in most FPS games! Very few games, if any, since the mess that was Trespasser have attempted this, and here it succeeds brilliantly. Another great feature is Reverend Ray’s Bible. You can equip it as a weapon in one hand, and read quotes from it by using it. This means you can walk into battles shooting people while shouting out fire and brimstone quotes from the Bible. It has practically no purpose in terms of actual gameplay, but who could resist doing it?
The storyline overall is fairly standard western revenge stuff, but it does it well, with a good ending, and incorporates some nice treasure hunting elements into it too. In fact, the feel of the entire game is pretty much spot on. Call of Juarez isn’t the most original game ever, but it’s always nice to see a game utilising this underused setting, especially one that’s this well made.
Multiplayer: Fairly standard class based stuff. Quite fun, but nothing too spectacular. There are some bugs in the original release, but most of these are apparently sorted out with the patch. It’s unlikely to become a long lasting multiplayer game, but you should be able to get a few hours of enjoyment out of it.
Save System Review: Save anywhere.
Graphics: The game looks fantastic, with wide open landscapes and rocky mountains. The characters are fairly detailed, although they do look slightly strange.
Sound: Sound is very well done in this game. All the effects sound appropriate, and the voice acting is all good, especially Marc Alaimo’s Johnny-Cash-gone-psychotic Reverend Ray.
Gameplay: Solid FPS gameplay, marred only by the occasional annoying stealth sequence. Everything works just as it should do in a game of this type.
Bugs: Refreshingly bug free in single player. I didn’t notice a single problem. Pre-patch multiplayer was a different matter unfortunately. But it’s single-player I’m focusing on for this game.
Storyline: It’s not incredibly original, but this is a western, it’s not supposed to be. It does everything it should do very well, and has a fitting end to the story which many games lack.
Arbitrary Final Score:
Can this game hold a Candle to the best of the Western genre? Mosey on down to the forums!