Gamestyle Archive intro: the archives will be full of games that arrived and shortly afterwards vanished. Call of Juarez is such a title lost amidst the onslaught of the Xbox 360 release schedule. Eventually they say cream rises to the top but the title lacked such quality as Adam explains.
Format: Xbox 360
Published: June 2007
The good, the bad and the ugly
Words by Adam Gulliver , playing on a Microsoft Xbox 360.
There seemed to be a point a few years ago when traditional westerns were a rare thing to come across. Now you have a few games in the genre trickling out, with titles like Red Dead Revolver and Gun. Sure, they’re not going to take over World War 2 in the over-milking stakes, but it’s nice to see a new style of game coming to the forefront. It’s just a shame that very few of these titles are actually worth playing. The same could be said about the latest to hit the Xbox 360.
Call of Juarez suffers from having half a good game and half a terrible game, which comes down to the two characters you will be playing as. On the one hand you have the absolutely awful (and unfortunately named) Billy Candle. A Mexican outcast, back from his quest to find the Gold of Juarez, which didn’t turn out too well. He is universally disliked and he’s mistaken as being the murderer of his parents. Then on the other hand you have the brilliant Reverend Ray. A preacher who has to go back to his old gunslinger ways to catch Billy Candle who he believes is the killer. If Reverend Ray can be compared to Solid Snake then Billy is Raiden, yet somehow worse.
The problem comes not from the character and voice of Billy (there is some surprisingly decent voice acting on show), but from the type of gameplay his section of the story falls into. Whereas with the Reverend it’s a traditional FPS with plenty of gun slinging and duelling which is what you expect from a western. Billy Candle has stealth and platforming elements thrown into the mix, something which often spells disaster when put into an FPS. Both these elements are terribly implemented. They’re just so dull and uninspiring. The stealth has been shoehorned in because it’s the big thing with games these days and the platforming reminds us of Turok, only this time you get a whip to swing from, which does make it more bearable, but can irritate when you find yourself trying for ages to line yourself up with a particular tree branch. The only reason you’ll put up with these sections is so you can get back to shooting with the Reverend.
There are also a few niggling faults that caused quite a bit of annoyance during the story. Why, for instance, does it sometimes take six shots to kill somebody? Okay, maybe we shot them in the leg for a couple of them, but even that should drop someone even if they are rock hard Indians. And why does the same animation repeat after each shot? We haven’t seen anything as bad as this since Goldeneye.
For all its faults there are some things we quite liked. The ‘Concentration Mode’ which gives you the ability to slow down time (another name for ‘bullet time’ then?), picking your shots carefully is implemented well and graphically it’s a competent title. Character models and facial expressions won’t blow you away, but climbing on top of a mountain and looking down on your surroundings shows off how good the game looks from a distance. There is also additional online play, it certainly won’t topple the likes of Rainbow Six: Vegas and Call of Duty, but it’s a nice added extra. Particularly the ‘Wanted’ game, which sees one person become the Wanted man while everyone else must hunt him down.
Call of Juarez is an odd game that manages to mix two distinct gameplay styles, failing miserably in the process. For the majority of the time spent as Billy you’ll be praying that it ends quickly so you can get back to the good half of the story. Chances are though when you reach the section where you have to hunt rabbits with a bow and arrow (we’re not joking) you’ll throw your controller in frustration, giving up entirely.