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  1. #1
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    Call of Juarez: Gunslinger

    -Review written by YesConsiderably

    Call of Juarez: Gunslinger sees the player step into the dusty old spurs - or perhaps more accurately, the whisky-drenched, moon-addled mind - of one Silas Greaves. He may be a famous bounty hunter, or he may be an elderly man looking for someone to buy him drinks, but he definitely has a few interesting yarns to spin.



    The game starts when Silas enters a saloon and is asked to introduce himself. Dwight, a young patron, recognises the name from a dime novel and buys our hero a drink, betting he has some good stories. A small crowd gather round and he begins recounting how he crossed paths with Western legends such as Butch Cassidy, Jessie James and Billy the Kid, and took part in some of the era's most remembered incidents, including the famed, failed, Dalton bank robbery.

    It's experienced as a series of memories, and takes full advantage of using an 'unreliable narrator'. The scenery and weather changes as Silas recollects new details, the action rewinds to correct a mis-remembrance, and in one case the same story is relayed through the eyes of several listeners before Silas gives it to 'em straight.

    Or as straight as he can remember it. Sometimes this impacts the actual gameplay, as numbers of enemies are ever-so-slightly exaggerated on occasion resulting in a quasi-horde mechanic.

    As a first person shooter, it plays very much like a modern Call of Duty clone. Only the grenades are replaced with sticks of dynamite, machine gun nests with Gatling guns, and riot shields with barn doors. The controls are slick and intuitive, Silas responsive and easy to manoeuvre, and the weapons deadly and accurate. The game also has a 'bullet-time' feature that is used by simply tapping the right bumper. This drains 'concentration', but is easily replenished by killing enemies.

    Another interesting mechanic is the 'sense of death'. It has its own bar which recharges over time, but when full gives you a chance to dodge a bullet that would otherwise prove fatal. Time slows down as the bullet homes in on you, and you have to choose whether to dodge left or right.


    You pick up points for killing enemies in specific ways, and multipliers for stringing kills together in quick succession, which can be spent on new abilities. There are three trees built around particular playing types. Ranger focuses on long-range kills and makes using a rifle easier, while the Quickslinger tree lets you do things like dual-wield pistols. The trees are presented as two separate revolver chambers. By investing a certain amount of points in each chamber, you unlock an upgraded version of a particular weapon. Deadlier, but also shinier. The standard rifle becomes gold plated, while the quick-draw pistol gets an ivory handle in addition to a boost in accuracy and damage.

    You get to carry two weapons at a time. One long one, such as a long-barrelled shotgun or rifle, and one handgun, such as a pistol variant or sawn-off version of a longer weapon, in addition to a few sticks of dynamite, and a melee attack. Some levels end with something resembling a boss fight, but most of Silas' enemies met their ends in a good old fashioned duel.

    In this mode, the player uses the right stick to keep a reticle on the enemy. The longer you manage this, the more focused you are which makes aiming significantly easier. The left stick is used to control Silas' hand, and the closer you get it to his revolver, the quicker you will draw when the time comes.

    When that time comes is up to you. If you like, you can draw as soon as you're focused enough, but this is seen as 'dishonourable' and you loose points. To maximise XP, you should wait until your opponent goes to draw, and then follow suite. It's harder, but you are rewarded.


    Scattered throughout the levels are 'nuggets of truth'. Collecting them awards you with bonus xp to spend on abilities, but also act as a sort of encyclopedia, giving more accurate accounts of the men and women Silas met, and their adventures. I think i learned more about the American West from playing this and Assassin's Creed III than i did in the terms worth of history lessons dedicated to it back in high school.

    Maybe it isn't surprising the writers would go to such lengths, considering the controversy surrounding the sensationalised account of the Mexican drug wars in the series' previous effort, The Cartel.

    In a similar vein, it is immediately obvious that a great deal of thought has gone into the game's presentation. There are precisely 54 'nuggets', and in the game's menu each is displayed as a playing card. When you want to replay a particular stage, you don't pick a 'level' or 'chapter', you pick a 'recollection'. And when you take damage the screen doesn't flash red, but rather bullet holes appear, obstructing your vision.


    The game itself takes place in a vibrant, cel shaded world, and there is just enough variety in locale to prevent the familiar sandy, wooden townships from becoming boring. Silas also travelled through a murky swamp, a snowy mountain and underground mine, but ultimately it is the more traditional Western settings that define the game's look. The sound is also very good, with authentic accents, true-to-the-time wordings and a fun soundtrack - including a ditty from Silas himself, that he bursts into mid-level.

    Silas' tale is disjointed, doubles back on itself and comprised of mostly self-contained chapters, but hurtles like a steam locomotive towards a satisfying conclusion of the overarching narrative, and once its done you unlock a new game + mode, in which you can replay the story keeping all your ability upgrades, and new, harder difficulty.

    The package is bolstered by an 'arcade' mode, in which you play through short sections from some of the games settings with differing enemy arrangements. The goal being to pick up as high a score as possible, and duel challenge, in which you try to best fifteen opponents with only five lives.


    Verdict: 8/10. The campaign comes with the AAA sheen you would expect, and the unreliable narration adds flair to what would otherwise be a fairly hodrum story, along with a real sense of fun and some laugh-out-loud moments. The historical characters and real-life incidents explored in the game lend it a sense of authenticity, which only heightens the Western experience and makes the solid game mechanics all the better.

    It'll take about six hours to finish the single-player, but with two different endings and the ability to keep your skills, there is enough to entice you into giving it another run.
    Last edited by INTY; 01-06-2013 at 03:31 AM.

  2. #2
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    Watched the WTF is of this a few days ago and the review pretty much agrees with most of what was said there, good comments all around for the most of it. Sadly, for some reason for me I don't enjoy the Western theme-films, games or anything themed around it, just never been able to get into the setting, even when I see good quality's in the execution behind it. And the same for here unfortunately, which is a shame as a few things in this game do look fun to me-especially the execution for the narrative, particularity liked when the story back-tracked with a minor detail ^^. Ah, anyways-a fairly good review Val, would hope to see more from you as it's always enjoyable to read through a good piece of analysis
    Last edited by INTY; 01-06-2013 at 04:17 AM.

  3. #3
    Prosecuting with style Vyse the Legend's Avatar
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    Really enjoyed reading that review, nicely done Val. Am I right in presuming that this was the first you have written for the site?

    I've not played the game myself, but did watch someone else play through the entire game. Looked extremely impressive, more so because it had all the trademarks of a full priced retail game, with the attention to detail included, and optional extra's that you can collect or play. Seen many downloads for the same price that certainly weren't value for money, but this appears to not be the case here.

    My favourite aspect of the game was the narrative, and how the player would go through certain segments, in a re-enactment told by Silas, only for him to recall he had told it wrong, forcing the game to reverse back in time so to speak, and have to then experience this alternate past. I thought that was really well done, and stopped the story from feeling predictable and repetitive.

    Anyways, keep up the good work Val, hope to see more reviews from you!

  4. #4
    Can you call me Nyteblade YesConsiderably's Avatar
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    Oh, thanks.

    It's not quite my first review. I wrote one for Quantum of Solace back in 2008, and Transformers: War for Cybertron when it was released. I may start doing it with a little more regularity.

    But yeah, Gunslinger is a really fun game. I'm quite fond of Westerns and Call of Duty-style FPSs anyway, but the way the story is told and the manner in which the game is presented really impressed me. Considering it is only an arcade game there is quite a lot to do, too.

    If only retail shooters were priced as fairly.

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