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Veteran Member - Level 13
A month ago, I wrote a six-part blog series about how I felt
the modern FPS was in decline. Fun, singleplayer experiences have been replaced
with somewhat annoying multiplayer shooters such as Call of Duty: Ghosts and
Battlefield 4. So imagine my surprise when the game to revive my faith in the
genre was a downloadable game in a historically ‘meh’ franchise.
Call of Juarez: Gunslinger is an arcade-style first person
shooter with slight RPG elements. You play as Silas Greaves, a grizzled bounty
hunter who is telling his somewhat fabricated tales to eager bar-goers. One of
the best elements in the game is Silas himself, and how his commentary effects
the levels. At one moment you may be facing off against Natives, and at the
next he’ll revise his story to replace them with bandits. This is used
surprisingly effectively to lead to some entertaining scenes.
Silas’ true motives are ones I won’t dare spoil, but the good
ending was one of the best in recent memory. Each of the characters grows their
own personalities throughout the game, and they all manage to play off of each
other in very entertaining ways. While some of the missions may have disappointing
writing, the over-arching story is gripping.
However, in this shooter, the shooting is what you should
care about the most. There are three classes available: The dual wielding
gunslinger, the long-ranged rifleman, and the anarchist trapper. They each have
unique skill trees you can pursue, and New Game + lets you go back and max them
all out, becoming an unstoppable man with a higher body count than the same
criminals he hunts down.
There are four main weapon classes: Shotgun, Rifle,
Dynamite, and Pistol. They do have slight variations, but the only one that
sticks out is the sawed-off shotgun, which can be dual-wielded for an ensured
close range kill. There is no excuse not to invest into the dual-wielding skill
when you start the game, it will make your ride much smoother.
When you get down to the gunplay itself, you will find a
surprisingly deep experience that lets you experiment with opportunities. The
main gimmick is bullet-time, where you can slow time to pull off headshots and
strafe out of the way of fire. However, bullet time can add in other opportunities.
Throw a stick of dynamite, slow time, and shoot it when it flies over the heads
of bandits. Shoot a chain on a crane to drop a load of wood onto your foes. To
get a high score (and to have more fun) I’d use these at every opportunity you
Of course, there’s one last interesting gameplay mechanic to
balance everything out. Sense of Death. When your Sense of Death meter is filled,
you can bob your head in the opposite direction of what would be a killing shot
to fight another day. This can be upgraded to add in instant counters,
increased bullet time, and even an easier dodge.
But it’s not all great. Each of the boss fights are particularly
unenjoyable up until the final encounter. The dueling seems to be based on dumb
luck most of the time, and the normal boss fights can take multiple sticks of
dynamite to the face without dying, and counter with a two-shot kill shotgun
blast. The inevitable encounters were always the worst parts of the game.
Once you’re done fighting Jesse James on top of a burning
train, chasing down bandits after a botched bank robbery, sneaking through an
apache cave, and running through an exploding mineshaft, there’s still more
iconic cowboy scenes to reenact in arcade mode. These score-based competitions
include defending a barn, fortifying yourself in a spiritual spring, and the
inevitable saloon shootout. Yes, they’re all based on cowboy clichés, but they’re
realized so well that I can’t complain.
The FPS was diseased with mediocrity, and I believe that
Juarez is an antidote. Even if the game’s campaign only clocks in at five
hours, the bonus arcade modes and New Game + should keep you hooked. In a genre
where good games are hard to find, and an industry with surprisingly few
western games, Call of Juarez manages to stand out from the crowd.
+One of the best endings I’ve seen in years
+Deep skill trees
+Packed with iconic Wild West imagery
+Addictive arcade mode
-Clumsy dueling mechanic
-Lack of meaningful weapon variety
-Horrible boss fights
10-Masterpiece. One of the best games of all time.
9-Legendary. A must play.
8-Great. A game I’d heartily recommend.
7-Good. A fun game you should check out.
6-Ok. Not good, not bad. May be worth playing if it sounds
appealing, but not for everyone.
5-Meh. I’d consider passing this one up, you won’t miss
4-Bad. I came out of the game feeling unsatisfied. Not worth
3-Terrible. Broken, annoying, and most likely repetitive.
Avoid this game.
2-Awful. An unplayable mess. Don’t touch this one with a
1-Eldritch Abomination. One of, if not the, worst games I’ve
ever played. Just seeing it should send you running.