2007 Reviews

Call Of Juarez

  • Review Date: 2011-08
  • Release Date: 2006-09
  • Developer: Techland
  • Rating: 6.5

A lot of players seem to be torn on Call Of Juarez - some think it's great while many hate it. GameRankings had it at 75% aggregate from critics which is a pretty decent score, so I went in thinking the game might be a dud. Critics are often wrong. In this case though, Call Of Juarez is quite a decent game. It has some flaws which everyone agrees on, but it's something a little different in a shooter genre over saturated with sci-fi and war themes.

It's been a long time since I played something western themed. Probably Gunman Chronicles from 2000, which started life as a Half-Life mod. That itself was a good, under-rated game. There was another western themed shooter released a few years before Call Of Juarez, but it didn't get a good reception.

What makes this game good and enjoyable is the fact that it's fresh and different. Sci-fi, war, fantasy, realistic cities; they've all been done over and over again. But this western theme is a rarity and in this case it actually looks pretty good. The engine and graphics are passable and capable of some very large outdoor areas, which look good. Not at a Crysis level of detail and beauty, but pretty enough. It only starts to struggle when you look across the plains or get in areas quite high so you can far distances - the mountains end up looking extremely plain and under-detailed. Also at times some of the terrain can be a too blocky and unrealistic looking, but that's fairly minor. The game doesn't ALWAYS look good. While the beginning takes place around a little western town and lots of thick bush, you then move to a more open landscape with hills and mineshafts, and it looks bad. Really bad. I guess this engine can't do night time scenes well, but the levels look poorly design with hardly any detail and bland hills everywhere. It's ugly. But the game picks up again as you return to daytime settings.

The story is a highlight of Call Of Juarez. You play as two characters, alternating for each of the 15 levels (or episodes). The first is a boy named Billy on the run after being blamed for the murder of his parents, the second is a former outlaw turned reverend named Ray who's on the boys trail to bring him to justice. So the game switches between the Billy who is faster and more agile to the gun slinging bloodthirsty Reverend Ray. Ray's levels are all great - you can play with two guns at once, usually pistols in left and right hands and can fire them both at the same time. Then you get rifles and shotguns at your disposal. Ammunition and health are plentiful but the game is still a good blast as enemies can take you down quickly if they're carrying good weapons. You need to make shots accurate and it's very satisfying when you headshots. Without a headshot you can shoot an enemy up to several times before you get a deadly hit.

Unfortunately, Billy's stealth levels aren't nearly as fun, and the game got a hounding in reviews because of this. It's a little surprising because Thief and Splinter Cell were so popular, even Chronicles of Riddick which started off with stealth then went to action in the second half. So why does everyone rubbish Call Of Juarez's stealth sections so much? They were boring as hell, but most stealth games are to me so it's nothing new. Billy does get to do some gun slinging or bow & arrow killing-fun, but it's mostly about creeping around or climbing things for him.

This brings me to a major problem in the version I had of this game; the rope climbing is extremely buggy. There was once section where I needed to use my whip as a rope to climb a tree. Due to some bug in the game this wouldn't work at all. It just wouldn't allow me to attach my whip to the tree. I was completely stuck and it was a game ender, without getting a level unlock cheat so I could skip to the next level. Sadly this was probably the longest level in the game. Furthermore the updates wouldn't work so I couldn't apply any fixes.

There's also a DirectX 10 upgrade which improves the game, but this wouldn't work for me as it's only available for US versions of the game. But everything still looks fine even without the upgrade.

So overall I think Call Of Juarez is worthy of a play through the once, at least for it's action parts. Even though the stealthy, jumping Billy sections are a bit of a drag. The game looks good, the action is fun, it's not in the elite shooters of 2007, but for a bargain bin price I'd recommend it.