While you might be thinking that the next installment in the Call of Juarez franchise could only end in tragedy, the results couldn't be further from the truth. In fact, this might just be one of the most enjoyable digital games you can find on your service of choice right now. But you'd better be into slinging bullets at cowboys in the Wild West because, as the name suggests, that is the overarching theme of Call of Juarez: Gunslinger.
The art style sticks out, mixing cel-shading with exaggerated violence. It gives the impression that you’re playing through a graphic novel in motion. Death animations are slow dives with arterial spray, bleeding onto environmental canvases. Cutscenes play out in a similar fashion, sporting silhouettes as the narrator drops knowledge on a colorful group of archetypes, further driving his story home. Their reactions to the tall tale actually break the fourth wall at times, causing the environment to dynamically change around you. This creates a very unique atmosphere which is as clever as it is beautiful, further lending to the game's personality.
The levels are vibrant, each with their own feel and significance to their respective outlaw’s story. Chasing Jesse James through an explosive train robbery was a personal favorite, but many of them dish up some great and gritty Western ambiance. The environments also feature a fair amount of destructibility, mostly in the cover, adding to the overall sensation of constantly being in a shootout with cowboys -- while augmenting the combat. Should you be one bullet away from certain death, the camera slows to show the projectile zooming towards you, providing a chance to save your skin. Agility is key in avoiding a bullet-riddled Game Over screen. All these visuals cater to the strength of the combat mechanics and for as good as it all looks, it feels even better.
Call of Juarez has told many stories in the Western genre, but Gunslinger seems to have the strongest sense of place in the legends of old. This installment is the story of Silas Greaves, legendary bounty hunter; whose life has intersected with some of the most unsavory characters the West has ever known. An FPS at heart, Gunslinger’s format reminds me very much of light-gun shooting gallery. It has a combo system for building up points, which are aggregated at the end of each level. Enemies are cowboys wearing the appropriate red-kerchief who pop out from around the corner of saloons and from behind all manner of barrels or boxes. You roll through levels section by section, building your combo meter and unleashing hell via your various abilities.
Your primary skill is called Concentration, a mode in which time slows so you can pick apart your enemies. The more kills you combo and the more elaborate the deaths are, the combos will net you more experience points. These points can be used to stack various passive abilities that lead to more combos, unique weapons, and a few new abilities. It is a very satisfying package if not being a little light on variety.
Still you won’t get everything in a single playthrough and what you pick will deeply influence how you approach combat. I enjoyed the Gunslinger abilities, with his two pistols and quick reload, but you can mix and match as you please. Killing enemies is incredibly satisfying and as that is the core component, this game is success solely on the combat being so much damn fun. But not every encounter had me jeering.
The boss battles fail to provide you guidance in the discovering the most effective way to dispatch the scoundrels you’re pitted against. It doesn’t mean I want the game to do it for me, but trial and error by death isn’t much fun while getting to the end goal. Luckily the Duel system more than makes up for the occasional lackluster boss battle by creating an interesting mechanic that builds tension.
The ambidextrous mini-game has you plotting the demise of an opponent in a matter of seconds, as heartbeats count down to the moment of truth. And if you’re playing a rather unsavory character, you can draw early and give your enemy a dishonorable death. That alone is incentive enough for multiple playthroughs or jump into the Duel Mode outside the main story.
With such fun gameplay, an elaborate narrative, and cool art style; I can’t see any reason to avoid this. Sure Call of Juarez: Gunslinger isn’t a triple-A franchise. It is lacking some of the polish and accoutrements you’d like, yet the experience is fulfilling. Like Blood Dragon before it, this is yet another solid FPS from Ubisoft, available to download, at a very affordable price. I think if you’re into the genre, franchise, or simply enjoy a good Western; I highly recommend Call of Juarez: Gunslinger.
|ScrewAttack's News Director Sean Hinz worked in logistics for over four years before decided it was time to switch industries. After a couple years spent getting an MBA and freelancing, he finally found a home at ScrewAttack.com. As far as games go, Sean likes to play anything he can get his hands on, but especially enjoys third-person action RPGs. Is that really a genre?|
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