Bound in Blood serves as a prequel to the first Call of Juarez game, laying the groundwork for characters and plots from the original and telling an engrossing yarn of its own along the way. While it is one of the better looking first-person games to come out this year, it isn't the most technically savvy. The gameplay isn't perfectly honed, but an ever-changing mix of clever ideas, evocative locations, and engaging characters tap the best traditions of the Western genre.

The core first-person shooting mechanic delivers solid thrills, whether you're hitting a rooftop sharpshooter with your rifle or busting through town with both revolvers blazing. Enemies make some questionable decisions as they fight. Then again, dropping seven thugs in a saloon before they can squeeze off a shot does have a certain appeal.

Both of the two main characters have their own specialties, and I enjoyed flipping back and forth between the two as the game progressed. It's a shame the design doesn't allow for a cooperative game mode, as the story and level structure seem tailor-made for that addition. Nonetheless, the two unique characters allow for compelling replay potential; that potential is magnified by a few light RPG touches, such as the ability to buy new weapons and dictate your own loadout before a fight.

The frequent diversions from the basic shooting grab your attention. Classic one-on-one shootouts are genuinely challenging and tense. Brief, historically questionable Gatling gun sequences up the destruction quotient. A couple of open world side mission areas take a break from the story and give players some freeform gameplay to explore. Stagecoach chases; buried Aztec treasures; conflicted heroes; the sultry, troublesome girl – all the pieces are in place for a familiar but classic tale, and Techland found the right combination to keep the action fresh.

I was also pleasantly surprised by the game's multiplayer component. Playing through matches earns you money to unlock new classes, creating a fun interplay between the different modes. While some standard multiplayer modes are in place, the cool objective-based game type gives ­players different missions for each map. Old West bank robbery, anyone?

Whether you're playing alone or multiplayer, the game isn't the most polished action experience, but that's not the reason to get excited about Bound in Blood. Look to the gorgeous locales, the spot-on tone of your favorite dusty old Western movie, and the chance to sling a six-shooter with the best of them.