Hands on preview with Call of Juarez: Gunslinger

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Many things can be said about the previous title in the Call of Juarez series, unfortunately since this is a respectful site not many of them can be reproduced here. So when a preview disc for Call of Juarez: Gunslinger landed on my desk I can’t say I was ecstatic about the opportunity.  how wrong I was.

First up, this is not a realistic or highly in-depth title. If you were looking for an open world sandbox title then you should rather go pick up the excellent Red Dead Redemption. However if you’re a fan of the spaghetti western with kick ass bandits, corrupt cops and more manliness that you can shake a stick at then this could be the game for you.

The game follows the story of Silas Greaves, a battle-hardened bounty hunter who swaps side faster than a Chelsea FC supporter. The preview code presented to me had two modes unlocked which were story mode and arcade mode. A third mode, Duel, was locked unfortunately.

As usual it arrived with the typical NDA and embargo details but for once they didn’t mention anything around graphics, load times or known faults so I am working off this being close to final code.

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I started the game up and appeared miraculously on a dusty road in backwater USA back when cowboys roamed the land. The story is set out in narration style with Silas telling a group of people his story compared to what the kids read in the current dime novels. This mechanic is a nice engine for the writers to work off as on a few occasions you will replay the same level from different perspectives, one from what the kid read and then the real version of events. It’s a nice touch and makes the game feel more likeable.

The game is linear and very story driven. You are given a road to walk along until you find some bad guys, then you need to pull our your trust 6-shooter and go to town. Gunslinger has all the attributes of your good arcade shooter. Headshots give bonuses, hitting someone while they are running gives you extra points, death shots through the door also give you a boost etc… all these points aren’t just for fun either.

They help you build up your focus meter, once full you can click RB and everything goes into slow motion with the enemies glowing red. Great for massive ambushes and also for finding that one annoying bastard hiding in the bushes.

The game proceeds then from one set action piece to the next while telling you the story of the old west.

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It’s not a complicated or deep game but I will absolutely admit that I had a fantastic time playing through the preview. From messing around with different guns and dynamite to hearing the tails Silas had to share it really was a good experience.

I experienced three end of stage duals, with the last one against two enemies at the same time. These are great setpiece moments where you need to use the right analogue stick to focus on the enemy and the left stick to keep your hand perfectly positioned to grab your gun as soon as he moves… if you move first you can take him down but you will always be remembered as a dishonourable person, a legacy worse than death itself.

It’s hard to say much more about the game without ruining some of the story lines but needless to say the preview was fun and addictive from the get go, the humour is well placed and the range of weapons does make you really start thinking about what you want to carry and what can be discarded… do you need a pistol with severe damage but slow reload or the trusty fast shooter that can empty it’s entire cartridge quickly but is useless in long distance?

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Oh last mechanic before we go onto arcade.. ."Sense of Death”, when your health is completely used up and your Sense of Death is charged to full you are given a chance to dodge that fatal bullet. The game slows down and you are forced to focus on the character who unleashes said metal pellet of death. You can then use the analogue stick to dodge left or right.. get the direction right and you are rewarded with some extra health to try survive… get it wrong and that’s all she wrote.

The other mode I got to play was Arcade mode and the only way I can explain this is to compare it directly to the bonus Airplane level in Modern Warfare

It’s a set stage (there will be a lot of them) where you choose your load out and then tackle the thing head on with the goal being to finish it as quickly as possible and with the best accuracy and score.

You will then be able to compare (gloat about) your accomplishments with your friends on Xbox Live and PlayStation Network.

And that really is that when it comes to Arcade mode, it could become a great experience with an intimate group of friends and will likely be something you feel you have to complete before you can feel the game is totally complete.

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The only other thing I haven’t touched on yet is the upgrade paths. As you progress you will receive experience points. These can then be traded in on 3 tech trees where you can enhance certain abilities depending on how you prefer to play. The idea seems solid but the preview didn’t give me enough time to really see if these upgrades made that much of a difference.

Is Call of Juarez: Gunslinger worth forking out over R500 for when we haven’t seen the full title? Absolutely not but since it’s an XBLA, PC and PSN title that isn’t the case anyway. Is it worth the equivalent of $15? Absolutely.

For any Cowboy fan worth their salt this is a must-experience title, it’s not perfect but what it lacks in longevity or polish it easily makes up for in fun.

Is it enough to revive the Call of Juarez brand? Well only time will tell on that one.

Last Updated: May 21, 2013

Gavin Mannion

I for one welcome our future robotic overlords

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