2009 Reviews

Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood

  • Review Date: 2013-09
  • Release Date: 2009-06
  • Developer: Techland
  • Rating: 8.0

It's very uncommon that I finish a game and have no clear ideas about what went wrong, or where to make improvements. Even the most popular games, there's usually some room for improvement that I can critique it on. But Call of Juarez simply doesn't have any big noticeable flaws. Sure it's not perfect, but for what it is - a basic, Western, linear shooter - it gets everything right.

Firstly the story is very well told, telling the path of three brothers, two of which you play as while the third tries to keep things peaceful. Bound In Blood is a prequel to the 2006 game, although only two characters are featured in the original. I won't go into detail, but I found the story to be well done with lengthy cutscenes throughout and ties in nicely with the original.

Apart from story, you can't make too many comparisons with the original because that was a flawed game. It's biggest issue was that it just felt a bit amateur throughout, particular in the design and visuals of the levels. Some of the levels were just ugly. Then there were all the stealth levels that no one seemed to enjoy at all. But Techland must have made some money from it, because their production values have dramatically risen in every area.

Especially the engine, which I'll start with. Call of Juarez can, in fact, now be compared to other outdoor shooters like Crysis. Okay so it's still not as beautiful, but it wasn't likely to be as the Western environment is made of vast empty plains, not lush rainforests, waterfalls and island beaches. But Techland do a good job of breaking up the plains with enough variety; more rugged bush areas, towns both bustling and ghostly, even mountainside descents. I won't say the game looks amazing, but it looks great for the environment it's based in. Leave it to the fantasy games like Devil May Cry and Prince Of Persia to bring the awe-inspiring visuals.

Gameplay is similar to the original, though improved. Like I said above, no more stealth. Also no more weak weapons. While the pistols can take a few hits to take enemies down early in the game, once you upgrade (through shops) to more powerful pistols most of the time you'll take an enemy out in 1-3 hits. About two-thirds of the way through the game I had the two best pistols in each hand (when playing as Ray); the most powerful in one hand, the fastest in the other, both with their own fire button so I could shoot them both at once at enemies.

I didn't spend a great deal of time playing as Thomas, he doesn't have as much health or as much power, and isn't able to dual-wield, but his weapons are longer range. I also didn't bother with quite a lot of the games weapons such as shotguns. You simply don't get that close to the enemies to feel like the shotgun is going to be effective (and you can only carry three weapons at a time).

Some complaints the game receives is that it's too linear. Yes, it's linear, that's what it's designed to be! Not every game has to be a completely open world sandbox like Fallout 3. Sometimes it's nice to know that the path you're on is what you're SUPPOSED to be doing. There are a few levels which are open and allow you to optionally take a few quests for money. I did these all for fun; the actual money you receive isn't a lot. But I suspect the levels are in here just to shut the "it's too linear" players up.

Could there be more variety in enemies or weapons? Sure, but would it make sense? Could there be more quests, more exploration? Sure, but these aren't critical flaws. I actually spent a good 8 hours on the game, so it was long enough in comparison to most shooters.

The only flaw I might point out is the quickdraw sections. I found them tedious rinse-and-repeat until you get them right. Fortunately I put dev cheats on so I skip past every one of them. I also never seemed to master the bullet time events, I'd always miss lining the targets up.

Overall, Techland made up for the average first game with a proper, high quality Western shooter. Actually, this is probably the best Western game to date, and I very nearly gave it a 8.5/10.

Plus there's a bonus; over 100 custom map single player missions. It seems Techland got a bit of a fan community following. I played through about 30 of the best ones. Unfortunately while they're all quite good looking, they're all very similar. On a few missions stand out as being different. Which suggests this is a rather easy game to design levels for, essentially just pasting entire building prefabs together.

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