Call of Juarez: Gunslinger Review — For A Few Dollars Less

 

At least Gunslinger looks great. The visuals are slightly stylized, slightly cel-shaded, in a way evokes Borderlands without ripping it off (see Game Front’s screenshot gallery). The art direction is mostly immaculate, mixing honeyed yellows and whiskey browns with the green of the trees and the dashes of color provided by the bandannas wound round outlaw faces. The nostalgic, natural beauty of the Old West is lovingly depicted.

There’s one exception to this visual splendor: the villains of the piece. Silas Greaves’ tales (if they’re to be believed) bring him face-to-face with nearly all of the Wild West’s household names: Billy the Kid, Jesse James, the Dalton Brothers, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid, etc. Unfortunately, they’re all dressed up in the same ridiculous Burning Man fantasia of a Western outfit, which has the effect of making all these legendary figures look a. stupid and b. identical.

This homogenizing effect is also a result of the game’s mission design. By the time Greaves shows up, the Dalton brothers or whoever have already robbed the bank — the only thing left for the player to do is shoot everybody and then duel the named bad guy using Call of Juarez’s dueling mini-game (which, to be fair, is well-designed and fun). Billy the Kid and his ilk never gets to be characters, never get to say any lines — they”re just an excuse for the developers to say “hey, you’ve heard of this guy!” before he circles around for a while in a funny outfit, and then you shoot him.

It’s a frustrating failure, considering the potential of Greaves’ Wild West-trotting backstory. Still, at $15, Call of Juarez: Gunslinger represents good value for the money. Shooter fans looking for a quick, accessible fix will enjoy it, especially if they lose themselves amid the dusty streets of the game’s score-challenge leaderboards. Dedicated fans of the Wild West setting will also find plenty to justify a purchase, though they may be more miffed than most by the way Gunslinger treats legendary characters like Jesse James as mere pantomime villains.

Techland will need to find a way forward — the studio currently has the worst of both worlds, stuck making a largely conventional blockbuster on a shoestring budget. Whether they go bigger, embracing convention, or smaller, embracing their more original ideas, they have to go somewhere, or be stuck making mediocrities, which is what Call of Juarez: Gunslinger ultimately is.

Pros:

  • Attractive, stylized graphics
  • Excellent voice acting
  • Polished gunplay
  • Clever narrative devices

Cons:

  • Conservative gameplay design offers few new ideas or changes of pace
  • Disappointing story wastes its clear potential
  • Short running time
  • Overshadowed by competitors, both as a budget shooter and a Wild West Game

Final Score: 69/100


Game Front employs a 100-point scale when reviewing games to be as accurate about the experience as possible. Read the full rundown of what our review scores mean.


Read more of Ben Richardson’s work here, and follow him and Game Front on Twitter: @B_C_Richardson and @gam

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4 Comments on Call of Juarez: Gunslinger Review — For A Few Dollars Less

Red Menace

On June 4, 2013 at 8:36 pm

After the Cartel debacle, I didn’t have high hopes.

Chode

On June 5, 2013 at 6:37 am

@Red Menace: Same. It was a huge mistake to take COJ out of the Wild West setting in the first place, but to then rush it so badly that it didn’t even appear to have been play-tested in some cases was a farce. It’s amazing that they even got another chance, considering it only took one sh*tty effort to end the promising ‘Destroy All Humans’ series. But, Gunslinger’s pretty decent.

Chad Beharriell

On June 6, 2013 at 11:37 pm

Good of you to give attention to the game….and I have had a different experience and enjoyed it. I teach a college level course on the Westerns genre and write about the genre at http://www.westernsreboot.com – I think that Gunslinger will actually help a lot of gamers learn actual North American history via the “Nuggets of Truth”, which is a plus.

I recently did an interview with the game’s lead writer Haris Orkin for my site – if interested, the link to Part One of that interview can be found here:

http://westernsreboot.com/2013/05/09/call-of-juarez-gunslinger-a-new-trail-toward-the-western-part-one/

Thanks,
Chad

Chad Beharriell

On June 22, 2013 at 8:29 am

Good of you to draw attention to this excellent Western FPS. I teach a college-level Western course and write about the genre at http://www.westernsreboot.com – it is a plus that the game actually provides real historical information….believe it or not, my students will be studying this game! :)

As you mention the story-line, you may be interested in a recent interview I did with the lead story-writer for the game, Haris Orkin. Part One of that interview can be found at:

http://westernsreboot.com/2013/05/09/call-of-juarez-gunslinger-a-new-trail-toward-the-western-part-one/

Thanks!
Chad