Call of Juarez is making its under the radar return from exile next month -- perhaps because it’s an XBLA/PSN title -- after promising origins in 2009’s Bound in Blood were diminished by the shambolic modern-day sequel The Cartel.
Everything with “cartel” in its title is terrible.
Call of Juarez: Gunslinger is returning to the Old West, where the series was born and should prosper with an arcade structure and reinstatement of a raft of features that feel at home in a linear gun totin’ narrative.
Gunslinger's campaign is told through a series of flashbacks, as our aging protagonist Silas relives his heyday through a series of saloon stories to wide-eyed locals.
It’s an interesting approach to storytelling and one that certainly suits the era, as well as the platform as a budget shooter. Westerns have a pedigree for producing manly, prestigious (washed up) heroes but for $18, we just want to shoot stuff, and shoot stuff we shall!
Combat has been supercharged with an arcade-esque run and gun approach to ploughing through bad guys.
Combat has been supercharged with an arcade-esque run and gun approach to ploughing through bad guys. With no cover options, you’re forced to shoot for your life, literally, in relentless action.
For the full arcade experience, jump into the aptly named mode that picks levels from the campaign and redirects the focus to scoring more than your online mates. Headshots are encouraged by delivering instant kills and vastly improving your score, while combos and multiple kills will earn you much needed bonus points.
With stages that last just a few minutes, you’ll be pushed to replay each section to better your score and rocket up the online leaderboards.
The progression system allows the player to choose which skills to upgrade, and once again forces you to pick off heads and wisely plan attacks, in the heat of the moment, instead of spraying bullets into the side of yet another stationary train.
But it isn’t all a hectic blaze of firearms: super slow-mo "Concentration Mode" kicks in at various stages, mostly notably when you’re on your “last chance” and need to fight for your life. It’s also handy when barging into a room to pick off unsuspecting targets about to get the final fright of their lives.
When it’s all on the line in boss encounters, “Showdown” kicks in to replicate a good old fashioned duel. You need to carefully steady the aiming reticule over your opponent and hand over your gun using both analogue sticks to be ready to draw and shoot when the opportune moment arises -- or you could just cowardly shoot him early, but that won't bode well for your score.
It rounds out a solid Old West package catering towards the budget download market. Call of Juarez is dead as a full priced franchise, but Gunslinger just might surprise a few in the digital space when it launches on PC, XBLA and PSN on May 22.