Call of Juarez: Gunslinger Hands-On Preview – How the West Was Won
Written Monday, April 22, 2013 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
Remember when Clint Eastwood used to be cool? Before he became a doddering right-wing nutter? Call of Juarez: Gunslinger is like vintage era Clint, all six-shootin' cowboys, legends of the old west, and as the title suggests, there's plenty of gunslinging. Hell, you even play as a man with no name, just like Clint in Sergio Leone's classic Spaghetti Westerns.
Call of Juarez is getting back on its horse with Gunslinger, erasing the terrible memories of The Cartel, the previous entry in the series. This is Call of Juarez getting back to its wild west roots, and we're cautiously optimistic that it could put the franchise back on track.
Last time we saw Call of Juarez: Gunslinger, it was all strictly hands-off, but this time around we had the chance to get to grips with the game for the first time, and sample one of the game's missions set entirely within the carriages of a derailed steam train wedged into a narrow ravine.
It's the 'not-so-great train robbery' as told by the game's hard-bitten, hard drinkin', hard fightin', hard lovin' man-with-no-name narrator, who recounts Gunslinger's events to a captivated audience in a saloon. All of the game's missions will play out in this way, with Gunslinger's protagonist narrating as the story unfolds, while you enjoy the act of shooting bandits to rack up XP.
Call of Juarez: Gunslinger feels like immediate, pick up and play stuff too, making it perfect Xbox Live Arcade fare, with intuitive controls and speedy, hair-trigger first-person shooter action. There's clearly more of an emphasis on accumulating high scores this time, with more XP awarded for headshots or near-death kills executed through the bloodied haze of your low health vision.
There's bonuses for other kills like melee attacks or slow-motion kills using your Concentration Mode, which highlights attackers in red and gives you time to pick them off methodically. This is only available once you've built up enough adrenaline in your gun-shaped meter at the top of the screen.
Gunslinger is a lot of fast-paced fun, offering a non-stop shooting gallery, as we weave through the precariously suspended carriages, hot on the trail of The Wild Bunch. The narrator hasn't much of a head for heights as he shimmies outside the carriages, collecting 'Nuggets of Truth' as he goes.
These Nuggets of Truth fill in the real story behind the old west myths you'll play through during the course of the game, so any collectibles gathered during this level specifically pertain to George 'Flat-nose' Curry, the member of The Wild Bunch posse we're looking to track down. Curry was a real man, an actual member of The Wild Bunch, and you'll be able to bring him down to collect the bounty on his head.
There's a whole array of other legends of a similar ilk in Call of Juarez: Gunslinger, all of whom you'll either encounter or face off against. Expect names like Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid, Pat Garrett, Billy the Kid, Jesse James and many more to crop up alongside less well-known wild west legends.
Taking them on won't be a complete cakewalk of course, which means upgrading your abilities to suit the way you want to play. These include Ranger and Trapper attributes that bolster your aim, concentration and other skills, shaping the narrator into an increasingly deadly killer.
Progressing through our hands-on demo, we get to throw a few sticks of dynamite, wield a Winchester rifle, go on a rampage with a double-barrel shotgun and sample several different six-shooter pistols. There are certainly a lot of different weapons on offer, even if some are variations on the same essential gun. It does mean you can keep on picking up new firearms if you fancy mixing things up a bit.
The demo ends in an OTT bloodthirsty fashion, as we get our hands on an authentic hand-cranked Gatling gun and set to work mowing down hulking shotgun-wielding tank enemies and a seemingly endless wave of bandits with a death wish. It makes Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch (“if they move, kill 'em!") seem relatively tame by comparison.
Coming to the end of the road, we're finally face to face with 'Flat-nose' Curry, and it's time for a good old-fashioned pistols at dawn showdown. The mechanics of the showdowns seem to be by and large quite similar to those found in Bound in Blood, requiring a steady hand as you keep your finger on the right analogue stick while the crosshair gradually shrinks.
Maintaining focus, your crosshair grows increasingly smaller until it's time to draw. It's at this point that you need to ensure your sight is where it should be, before busting out your pistol and putting a bullet in your target. What we thought was a sure headshot turns out to be a fatal shot to Curry's gut, which we'll still chalk up as a modest success.
It's enough to complete the level, and we're presented with a post-mission breakdown of our stats and a mission rating based on our overall performance. This is where Gunslinger's replay value comes in, telling you which collectibles you missed and where your deadeye skills might have been lacking.
A colourful graphic novel-styled slice of wild west violence, Call of Juarez: Gunslinger has the potential to be a return to form for Techland's wayward franchise, possessing all the key ingredients to make it a downloadable title with some real substance and replayability. Not bad for a man with no name. If they move, kill 'em!
Call of Juarez: Gunslinger is moseying onto XBLA later in the year.