Call of Juarez: Gunslinger – PC
Release Date: May 22, 2013
Nerd Rating: 7 out of 10
Reviewed by Malefico
Call of Juarez: Gunslinger is the fourth in a series of games originally developed for Windows and released in 2006. This edition, released mid-2013 is available via PSN, X Box Live Arcade and Steam.
In the game, you play the part of bounty hunter Silas Greaves. The story opens with Silas arriving in Abilene, Kansas and walking into a bar, where he regales the patrons with tales of his dangerous exploits. Conveniently, Silas has been involved with many of the notorious figures from the American Wild West.
COJ: Gunslinger features three modes- Story, for those who want to immerse themselves in the game, Arcade, for those times you just want to shoot stuff, and Duel Challenge, allowing you to see how far you can progress up the ladder against skilled opponents in a series of one-on-one gunfights.
The game features familiar FPS controls- W, A,S and D to move an strafe, look/aim by moving mouse, fire with left mouse button, take aim with right mouse button. Jump with Space, sprint by tapping shift and couch with Ctrl. The sprint and crouch controls are toggles, making for easier play during fights.
When a player kills enough enemies, their Concentration bar fills up (shown by a transparent revolver in the upper-left corner of the screen that fills as opponents go to Boot Hill). Tapping Q at this point slows time and highlights enemies in red, allowing you to rapidly gun down multiple opponents. Almost immediately the game introduces Sense of Death, another special ability allows quick dodges to avoid fatal shots and works like Concentration, slowly filling up a pair of skulls in the upper right.
All other controls follow “industry standard” FPS layout in their default assignments. The movement/aiming controls are definitely adequate. Even a mediocre FPS’er like me was able to pull off a number of long-distance and head shots during the game.
Experience is accrued by killing enemies and completing objectives and gives bonuses for various types of more difficult shots, allowing the player to spend points in three areas- Gunslinger (Dual-wield pistols), Ranger (rifle specialty) and Trapper (melee expertise).
The Bottom Line
Graphics are so-so in this game, and video adjustments options are severely limited, highlighting the compromises developers must make when developing a title for multiple platforms. On the POS hardware, the game hovered between 35-45 FPS during most game play, so the game is easily playable on low-end systems. Although frame rates dipped into the low 30’s they never crossed the “unplayable” 30 FPS mark. The game looks very 360/PS3-ish, and there’s a lot of aliasing in the environment. This makes it difficult at times to pick out distant enemies against the background. Picking your shots and aiming down the barrel helps a lot in situations like this.
Unfortunately, PC players can’t improve the image because of lack of video options. Or maybe it’s something about the color palette the developers used to render the environment, but to me, there’s something not-quite-right about the game world. Still, the environments are interesting and detailed- cows low in fields, chickens hunt and peck in farmyards and tumbleweeds blow across the landscape. When the player moves into a gunfight, the terrain offers the player plenty of cover and opportunities to gain a tactical advantage during gunfights. Players can find limited cover in buildings, behind stacks of boxes or wagons that are sitting nearby.
Enemy AI is OK, nothing groundbreaking. Opponents will use cover, etc. but stick their heads out at predictable intervals, making most exchanges short-lived (and making players with my skill level feel like marksmen… er, markswomen… ummm, markspersons!). The game does set up some challenging scenarios, where the player is taking fire from a number of directions and elevations at once.
Game music is in keeping with the Old West theme. Reminiscent of the Clint Eastwood era of Western films, it sets the mood well. Like the graphics, it’s something you really don’t concentrate on when the bullets start flying.
The story line is interesting and allows you to face off against some legendary gunfighters. Without giving away too much of the story, every American alive should recognize at least some of the names. The game features a lot of Wild West cliches, but colorful characters keep it entertaining. Each mission encompasses a number of objectives, and the developers made each scenario interesting by switching up goals and opposition to scale the difficulty as the game progresses.Boss fights are accomplished by way of duels against skilled gunslinging opponents. Duels have their own specific set of controls and are over quickly… somebody’s going to die either way.
During a duel, palyers aim using a targeting reitcule that drifts and moves as they breathe and change position. Players start the duel with weapons holstered, so the initial move is to wait until the opponent starts to draw and then quickly draw and fire, just like the real thing would go down. Optionally, “yella bellies” can draw first, forfeiting XP in lieu of the guaranteed (?) victory. Early duels are not very tough, pitting you against single opponents. As the game progresses, duels become more difficult as you square off against more practiced pistoliers, and at greater distances. Eventually, you’ll be facing multiple, skilled foes that can kill you very quickly.
I should mention that this game is eminently deserving of the “Mature” rating. Language is colorful throughout, and the effects of bullets against the flesh of foes is spectacularly overdone, to say the least. Parents should restrict the use of this game, unless they feel up to explaining the nature of a “cocksucker” to their little ones.
Call of Juarez: Gunslinger offers FPS players a chance to explore a world with a different flavor. Overall, it’s a well-made game that keeps up the action and has good-quality level/mission design. The missions are varied and allow players to face off against adversaries of varying skills in increasing numbers. Controls are accurate and allow the player to make the most of his/her chosen weapon, even with the graphic shortcomings described above. Really, once the action heats up and you are running, dodging and crouching while dispatching enemies you don’t notice the (relatively) poor graphics. They certainly don’t ruin the game experience, just make you wish for a PC-only version where you could really turn up the settings and enjoy a more realistic experience.
I bought this game because I enjoyed playing Red Dead Revolver with my nephew on his PS3. The COJ series is very similar, if this game is any indication and as such there’s nothing earth-shatteringly awesome about the game. The developers took a winning formula and ran with it. But there are no glaring weaknesses either. In a genre overcrowded by monotonous, “modern” settings, a good old-fashioned Western shoot-em-up is refreshing and entertaining.
There’s something satisfying about strapping on a couple of simple, reliable heavy-caliber wheel guns and blasting away at opponents. Or picking up a laudable Winchester lever-action and picking off foes from long distance. Or just getting into a satisfying bar brawl.
Due to the fact that the graphics bothered me a bit, and the game offers nothing original, especially for those who have played Rockstar’s game, I can’t give this title a really great score, But it’s far from bad; it has good controls, missions and a story line that’s entertaining albeit far-fetched. But that’s in keeping with the legendary characters from our history, isn’t it? If you like FPS and want to try your hand with a Colt Dragoon, Call of Juarez: Gunslinger offers a great value and an enjoyable experience.
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