In retrospect, I really am not sure why I shoved this game onto my bucket list. I guess the argument is that it was a quality game that I could see myself enjoying, but nothing about it stuck out to me and I don’t recall hearing about its existence prior to its release, where ti was well received. Heck, the Call of Juarez series to me is encompassed by The Cartel, which is a game that involves choking strippers and misinforming people about sex slave trades. But regardless, I decided to pick it up and play it after falling into a rut of titles that were as stimulating as being in a muck-like substance that smelled like soup.
Call of Juarez: Gunslinger Review
Platforms: PC(Reviewed), PSN, XBLA
Call of Juarez: Gunslinger is a story told by its protagonist, Sillas Greeves, an old cowboy who lived a life of drinking, gunfights, and revenge that is not uncommon from what little grip I have on the western genre, but is sold by how it is indeed a story he is telling. With The framing device of a saloon and its patrons being told Sillas’ numerous tales of exceptional feats through a hyperbolic reciting of his greatest adventures. Allowing for somebody to question his actions, and for Sillas to alter the story, which is the part where the gameplay happens accordingly.
However, these alterations to Sillas’ narrative are kept at a fairly minor and tamed scope, at least in the realms of video games, as there is very little tame about a human being reciting how he single-handedly murdered at least 400 people in his lifetime. It leaves instances like a tree rising from the ground as SIllas recalls the event he is reciting took place in Autumn and the game backing up after one of his not particularly interesting listeners butt in with what they believe happened in the story that he told. I suppose the answer to why this is goes back to the grounded nature of its genre, and the concept of having notorious cowboys and late 19th century American outlaws in the same game as a drunk recites how a train started to become a man made out of metal may be a bit too nuts for the series the game is grounded to, or possibly insensitive. That said, it would have certainly helped give the game a bit more variety, not that it necessarily dragged on over the five hours it took me to beat.
Instead, Call of Juarez: Gunslinger is very much a straight frantic, fast paced, combo based shooter that requests fluidity and twitch reflexes from the player, meaning I naturally caused many a continuity error in Sillas’ story during my playthrough. Not that it is the game’s fault, as I am simply not that good at aiming reticles right above the primary color bandanas most of the adversaries in the game spout, especially when an unextendable regenerative health meter is not very generous with the level of bullets Sillas can take… Especially when you consider he is telling a story. Still, I seldom used an ability that slows down time and allows Sillas to easily pick off highlighted enemies, as I often treat abilities such as those as people treat mega elixirs in JRPGs, despite my awareness that I was being a dummy.
That said, I would not attribute that to me when it comes to desiring to collect collectibles, as that is precisely what they exist for. Unfortunately, going through the game with that concept in mind only proved to be detrimental to the core experience, as it left me with a certain, scratch that, massive degree of unrest that I would miss the EXP bearing “Nuggets of Truth”. It ultimately ended in me going through the game whilst Alt-Tabbing my way to a video showing how to obtain these collectibles due to how cleverly most of them are hidden throughout what are levels linear to the point where SIllas will be transported to his destination if the player goes off to the sides of the level.
It is a decision that makes less sense to me than what the game pegged as the best manner in which to house the majority of its boss battles, not because it is a classic showdown where the fastest shot wins, but rather the inner workings of the game during that. You need to manipulate a very sensitive circle over the foe in front of you with the right stick, while horizontally moving the left, both of which are done in order to increase your statistical chances of victory… or you can just say screw it and be “dishonorable” and shoot the foe when you hear their heartbeat. It is hardly fun, and has a challenge almost entirely separate from what the rest of the game is fixated on, leading a large portion of my deaths to come from here, removing just about any level of tension of drama to the situation as everything came down to how well you could manipulate not very well explained numbers.
I suppose I couldn’t compliment the more traditional boss battles much more, as they were a prime example of why regenerating health can prove to be detrimental to any form of intensity in a battle, as they all consisted of taking a few shots, bucketing down, taking a few more, and then hiding away once again. Combined with the limited quantity of weapons and lack of enemy variety, quite a lot of the game felt very hobbled up in a safety area, never doing much to raise a roof it more or less hits early on, and only escalating in terms of how many more men with guns value their lives as much as a normal person values a nice lunch.
When it comes to just about any game so much as resembling cel shading or a painterly art style I am often first in line to dish out praises, so it is a little bit upsetting that Call of Juarez: Gunslinger, equipped with a well composed look that I believe will age well, decides to not take its Western aesthetic much beyond the dull brown environments of the wild west, as being in forests is about the peak of the title’s visual splendor. In fact, it does have the problem with enemies blending into the environment on top of that, which is very much supported by how making them a bright primary color is viewed as a limit use power-up. Though, only having a handful of models for just about every situation hardly helps either.
Looking back at this review, which I made by pretty much dripping out my thoughts into a jar and tossing said jar at a wall, I realized that I actually did not like Call of Juarez: Gunslinger as much as I thought I did when breaking things down. While not wholly bad by any means, it largely held the same affect on me as witnessing a tumbleweed roll down a seemingly endless desert road. A mostly competently made title that ultimately provided little done to provide an impact, other than how it managed to be better than its disconnected predecessor, which I believe to be among the worst games of the generation. I certainly suppose that is an achievement, but when breaking down everything the game had at its disposal, it is hardly the best that could have been done.
By no means something that must be played, but not entirely worth pushing aside forever. The title is ultimately above average and keeps the good balanced with the bad by a noticeable enough margin to still be worth picking up… at a discount.