Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood was a really fun game. Call of Juarez: The Cartel wasn’t. The good news is that Techland has learned two very valuable lessons: 1. You don’t mess with a pretty solid formula, and 2. The Cartel has been acknowledged as a failure, and the developers aren’t happy about that. They want to fix it. Hence, they’re bringing gamers back to the Old West, where we’ll assume the role of a ruthless bounty hunter who must take out some of history’s most notorious baddies, including Billy the Kid and Jesse James.
One of the returning features will be that kick-ass Concentration Mode, which lets players target multiple enemies in super slo-mo, after which a series of bullets destroy the opposition. But in addition, Gunslinger offers more depth thanks to a brand new skill progression system, which lets us choose specific abilities we want to develop. Furthermore, as the series is going full-on digital for the first time, Techland views this new Call of Juarez as a somewhat experimental effort. Unfortunately, co-op is gone but you might appreciate the narrative contained in the campaign; the storyline could be more involving than ever before.
The plot will unravel through a series of flashbacks, as the main character is actually retelling the story of his gunslinging quests. He has decided to narrate his story for a small yet attentive group in a saloon, and that narration continues into the missions themselves. This means we’ll be hearing the voice of the narrator from time to time, even as we’re dispatching hordes of outlaws. Techland is taking another step, too, as sometimes the storyteller will dictate the gameplay. For instance, he might say, “And I wasn’t able to escape until…” And then it happens in real-time, thereby allowing us to continue. This idea has loads of potential.
And as this is a digital production, they’re going for a more arcade-like feel. So there won’t be any cover mechanics or anything like that; this is just a balls-out first-person shooter with a Western vibe. However, you’ll still be encouraged to perform well, as headshots will grant more experience points, which in turn will let you unlock new skills at a faster clip. Stylish kills (ala Bulletstorm ) are a big part of the experience, too, so feel free to experiment and drive up that combo score! And while it may sound straightforward, the designers have implemented several more new features that make the game much more appealing.
For instance, Last Chance kicks in when your health is critical; time slows and you can gauge the angle of an incoming bullet, thereby giving you extra time to dodge it. There’s also Showdown, which will come into play for boss encounters. This is the classic Old West gunslinger duel that absolutely had to be included, as far as I’m concerned. The trick will be getting the mechanics just right… At any rate, Call of Juarez: Gunslinger looks like a return to fantastic Western fun with a few extra twists, and we can leave the mediocrity of The Cartel behind. The new title is set to arrive on the PSN, XBLA and PC on May 22; the price will be $14.99.