|System: X360, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Techland||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Ubisoft||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: June 5, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1 (multiplayer)||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Matthew Walker
June 13, 2007 - It goes without saying that the Wild West is a part of history that fascinates us. Heroes and villains always defined by black and white, thick as brass women, riding the open range with a trusty steed and handy six shooter, saloon brawls, chasing bandits or running from posses, and epic tales of our favorite outlaws - I mean what is there not to like?
Apparently, Techland and Ubisoft have that same burning question. This is blatantly apparent in Call of Juarez, a tale of the West told on the borders of what we have grown to love from the time period that seems more myth than fact. If you have seen CheatCC's homepage recently, then you know that I have been anticipating this title for a while and with the title still spinning in my Xbox 360, I can say that justice has been served.
The story takes an interesting direction by allowing you to play as both hunter and prey in the forms of a self righteous Bible clasping man of god named Reverend Ray McCall and the would be finder of the Gold of Juarez, Billy "Candle." Each man has their own story of finding their place in the West, and each man's story overlaps one another.
It appears that Billy has slain the brother and sister-in-law of the good reverend, but as we find out early on, this is not true. Unfortunately for Billy, Ray does not seem to be the type to listen to any kind of reason, thus beginning the chase. Call of Juarez splits up the story of each individual by allowing each of them to have a "level" of the game following the other character. However, these are not set up as levels at all really, more like chapters. Each one begins with a small introduction by the character you will be playing as to catch you up on the events you have missed off screen. It is almost like Techland took two pulp novels from the west and blended them together to tell this amazing story about how the laws of the West were made by the men that broke them.
The gameplay further divides between the two characters. For instance, Billy will eventually equip not only various handguns, but also a whip and a Bow and Arrow. In my opinion, the Bow and Arrow will become the favorite weapon for Billy among several players. Ray will harness dual pistols, a rifle, and a shotgun and will rely heavily on his gunfighter skills instead of the sneaking attributes that come naturally to Billy. The gunfighter skill that I referenced is actually called, "Concentration mode." To some this may come off as a weak gimmick in the game. However, I would just like to say that in the heat of the gunfight, you can swing from around a corner and enter into this mode to plug a few solid lead slugs into your enemies and you will feel your adrenaline rise as you try to survive the heated confrontation.
Even the weapons reflect the times with an accuracy that equals that of the rest of the game. Of course, there are several authentic harbingers of justice, but the true beauty is the requirement to not become attached to a specific weapon. You will not be able to hold onto a certain firearm for too long because it will become overheated and start to smoke. If you don't replace it, it will eventually explode in your hands. The fragile nature of these weapons further proves the steps Techland took to authenticate the experience of the game. Of course, this painstaking attention to detail is not the only area that you feel the grip of the West.
To me, aside from the overall gameplay, the heart of the game is the graphics. I admit, not everything is perfect, but the scenery is exquisitely beautiful in every sense of the word. The mountains are high and the rivers long. Right down to the swaying trees of thick leaves, you can see what the west might have looked like. Several of the NPCs also join in on the authentication of Call of Juarez. For example, the male NPCs all have the rugged appearance from living in the dusty droves of the desert. However, some of the female characters did not receive the same care in their design and most look a bit "mannish." While, most characters move on accurate mannerisms, too frequently you lose the realism when looking at Ray or Billy's shadow by seeing the unmovable shadows of the characters; this is bad when riding a horse.
Deep, rich sounds will fill your home at every moment in the game. I am not talking epic orchestral music. Instead, I am pinpointing the jagged strings of the guitar being plucked along with the beating of your heart kind of music. To give an example of the melodic themes blanketing Call of Juarez, you need to look no further that the soundtrack of another favorite western title - Young Guns II. On the soundtrack there is an instrumental track titled Guano City, which will give you a small hint to what you can expect. Unfortunately, there is not as much to glorify with the voice acting. Not to say that it is bad, there are just a few instances that it could have been a bit sharper and not as forced, which brings me to my favorite aspect about playing as Reverend Ray. While it could be easily said that Ray quoting scripture as he guns down the vile sinners before him is a horrible aspect to the game, I strongly feel that having that option readily available to you easily provides a few extra credit points to the crazy level of the good reverend.
Call of Juarez does a fascinating job of blending an epic period in history with an already proven gaming genre. It strays here and there, but it is the overall experience that Techland set out to provide, which I feel they have succeeded at tremendously. Simply put, if you are not remotely interested, you may not like this game. However, even if for the slightest inkling of appreciation you question the legends of the West, then this game is for you. From the moment you pop it in until the time your initial run is over, you will continuously hear the Call of Juarez.
CCC Project Coordinator