Platform(s): Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Review Platform: PC
Release Date: May 22, 2013
Despite its shortcomings, Techland’s 2009 sequel Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood was a sleeper hit offering exciting shooting mechanics, a beautiful Wild West backdrop, and a meaty campaign. Shifting the FPS genre to a Western setting felt refreshing and it was a real shame that The Cartel took the entire franchise to its grave two years later. Hoping to redeem themselves, Techland decided to revert to its old Western roots with a shift towards arcade-style gameplay and a good dose of humor. While I was somewhat skeptical at first, I’m happy to report that Call of Juarez: Gunslinger is a remarkable sequel that puts the series back on the map. With its comic book style presentation and a heavier focus on headshot combos and climbing score charts, Techland finally found the perfect balance between western badassery and unadulterated silliness.
Call of Juarez: Gunslinger pays homage to legendary Wild West tales with a charming satirical undertone and beautiful semi cell-shaded graphics. You play as headhunter Silas Greaves who tells of his encounters with infamous outlaws Billy The Kid, The Dalton Brothers, and many more. Each chapter is dedicated to a different bandit and John Cygan ties the narrative with hilarious narration that oftentimes throws jokes at the gaming industry and its clichéd trends. Silas tells his story to a kid and a bartender who’ve only heard the tales through their dime novels and hearsay. As you shoot your way through hordes of enemies, the game sometimes pauses, rewinds, and lets you replay areas “as they really happened” according to Silas. It’s gimmicky for sure but it works really well with the game’s lighthearted and silly tone. In a way, it feels like a really long action packed episode of Saturday Night Live.
Where Gunslinger truly earns the series’ respect back is in the gameplay. The action is fantastic! The shooting feels tight and precise and the emphasis on score points gives each level great replay value. While Gunslinger is quite linear and pretty much never rises beyond being a shooting gallery, it works in its favor. This is “old-school” arcade FPS action at its finest. As you gain XP, you can level up your character’s specialty trees based on your play style (dual-wield weapons, long range weapons, and such). The popular duels also make a comeback and serve as mini-boss encounters between levels. To be honest, these are my least favorite aspects of the game as the dueling mechanics aren’t all that fun. Red Dead Redemption handled this system more creatively and a similar approach would have worked better. In addition to the duels, you now have to deal with more traditional boss fights as well. Typically confined to a closed off area, these shootouts provide a bit of diversity to the otherwise linear venture. Whether it’s a nutso with a rattling gun or a fat man throwing dynamite, these confrontations are both fun and frustrating. Ultimately, the core game itself is far more enjoyable that these little distraction, but you can’t blame them for trying. Once you’re done with the story mode (which consists of a solid 14 missions), you can jump into the arcade mode where it’s all about scoring the most points in the fastest time. It’s a wonderful addition giving the overall package tremendous replay value.
Visually, the game has received a breathtaking facelift. Environments radiate with vibrant colors and sharp textures and everything has a unique semi-cell shaded look to it. There’s a subtle outline to every object which gives the world a comic book- esque aesthetic…it’s beautiful and I really hope that Techland carries this style over to their next installment.
Call of Juarez: Gunslinger is a spectacular return to the Wild West. Techland should be applauded for listening to their fan’s (and critic’s) feedback and making their latest entry in the Call of Juarez saga the best one yet. It looks fantastic, controls nearly flawlessly, and for a meager $15 offers a ton of replay value. Bravo Techland, bravo!
|Final Score||“A Spectacular Comeback”||8.5|
A beautiful new semi cell-shaded look gives Gunslinger a comic book aesthetic that fits the Wild West theme perfectly. Please, please carry this style over to the next installment Techland!
The shooting is fast, precise…and incredibly satisfying, but the boss fights and duels feel like unnecessary distractions.
The best $15 you can spend. A solid 14-mission long story with and arcade mode adds tremendous replay value. What more could you ask for?
The humorous script and John Cygan's performance are exemplary and the accompanying soundtrack fits the fast paced gameplay brilliantly.
Review by Tin Salamunic
Tin Salamunic is the founder of The Game Scouts. He is a Video Game Journalist during the day and illustrator by night. He's been obsessed with video games since the early NES days, collecting every major system and game on the market. Video games are the reason he pursued the illustration career and he hopes to be creative director for a video game company one day. All Articles by Tin