Call Of Juarez

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.

Writer: AG

Format: Xbox 360

Published: June 2007

callofjurez

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.

5/10

Advertisements

Bioshock

Gamestyle Archive intro: fond memories of the first Bioshock title and the experience it delivered. Biggest surprise is that it arrived in 2007. Rapture lives on strongly in the memory for those who visited it.

Writer: AG

Format: Xbox 360

Published: August 2007

bioshock

It’s almost that time of year again. We are of course talking about the ‘holiday season’, a time when the big games of the year are all saved and thrown at an eager audience, destroying their wallets in the process.
Words by Adam Gulliver , playing on a Microsoft Xbox 360.

The first big game of this period is here in the form of Bioshock, a game much anticipated amongst Xbox 360 owners – and, surprisingly, it actually delivers.Though we don’t really like to jump into the whole “are games art?” argument, if there was one game that really should be showcased as art, it’s Bioshock.

Built in the 50s, the underwater city of Rapture is gloriously detailed, and the first moment you set your sights on its majesty you’ll be dumbstruck. The architecture of the buildings, the neon lights, the water, everything looks wonderful. It’s not just the look and feel of the city that make you feel deeply involved in the adventure of your nameless hero, but also the hidden meaning in it all. Okay, it’s not so much hidden as it is a swift sledgehammer to the face, but it’s the whole Garden of Eden style story.First of all, Rapture was built as a utopia which went horribly wrong, similar to the Garden of Eden story and subtly implying that there is no such thing as a perfect world.

Then come the more obvious references: the main power in Rapture is called ADAM, and can be used to upgrade your Plasmids (more on these later). Then you have the EVE which is used to power these Plasmids which you obtain at the start of the game. Bioshock is definitely a game that makes you think. The gameplay isn’t half bad either.On the surface it looks like a first person shooter, and it certainly is; however, the twist that it brings to the genre is the use of Plasmids as mentioned earlier. These allow you to control various powers that can be unlocked (or bought with ADAM) as the game progresses. Starting with the basic electric attack, you will soon find the powers to freeze, burn and even perform a bit of telekinesis. It brings with it a fresh way of approaching each enemy encounter.

The most common foes in the game are called Splicers; these genetic mutants can be killed with some simple gun work, or you could be a bit clever – find them hanging out in the water and whip out your electric Plasmid power and you can shock them causing an instant kill. It also helps showcase some impressive AI: set a Splicer on fire and, if you’re close to some water, he’ll jump into it, dousing the flames. But the Splicers aren’t your biggest threat – that would be the Big Daddies.Wearing what can only be described as an enormous retro diving suit, these Big Daddies walk around the levels aimlessly. Not having a particular set pattern, you’ll often come across them when you least expect it. On higher difficulties, they’re a force to be reckoned with.

Luckily they only ever attack once provoked so they can be avoided if you wish. But this is not recommended – you see, Big Daddies are guardians of the Little Sisters who follow them around, creepy little girls protected by the walking behemoths. They all contain ADAM (the source of all power in Rapture) and, by killing the Big Daddy, you get the option to either rescue or ‘harvest’ the Little Sister. It’s a big choice; each option brings with it a worthy reward, and the choice you make determines which ending you get to the story, and the story is certainly something worth thinking about.

Aside from the religious elements, the story is also pieced together with little diary recordings you find spread across Rapture. These give a far more in-depth history of the underwater city, a layer of depth to the plot which throughout the game is fantastic. You could say there are a couple of things wrong with the story, but rather than being plot holes, they’re just things that aren’t properly explained. Though we do like that sort of thing, as it makes us think long after the game is finished, a much better way of telling you a story than lengthy exposition scenes.

Bioshock is certainly a superb experience, but it’s by no means perfect. One notable complaint is with the system of hacking. Everything, from vending machines (the source of ammo and health in the game) to turrets and security cameras, can be hacked. The problem comes from the mechanic that is used to do so: you’re presented with a grid of question-marked squares; flipping over each question mark unveils a pipe that is pointing in a particular direction. The idea is to piece together a route from the start to the end quickly, before the flow of electricity works its way through the pipe and catches up with you. It’s a pleasant diversion, but that’s just the problem – it takes you out of the action. You could be fighting four splicers in some brilliant action-packed moment and, as soon as you enter the hacking mini-game, the action completely stops. In the end, we started to use the auto-hack items that can be made at U-Invent stations scattered through the city; it’s far simpler and gets you straight back into the game in seconds.

Bioshock unfortunately just misses out on that special 10/10 score, but still manages to engulf us in a world like no other. Rapture is a beautifully stylised city that provides plenty of mystery and intrigue. Definitely a game of the year contender.

9/10