Call of Juarez: Gunslinger PlayStation 3 Review
When I began my first session with Call of Juarez: Gunslinger I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Techland has been all over the proverbial scoreboard with it’s Call of Juarez series in the past. Having never played the previous installments I probably don’t have the bad taste that The Cartel left in mouths of fans. So, I had that going for me, and from what I’d seen Gunslinger exhibited real promise.
Call of Juarez: Gunslinger has you reliving the highly elaborate bounty hunting career of Silas Greaves. Along the way you’ll run into some of the West’s most legendary and volatile figures. Names like Billy the Kid, Butch Cassidy, and the James-Younger Gang (whose tirade ended in Northfield, MN – What What!) are an everyday occurrence for the skilled tracker. Silas’ colorful past is accentuated by his strong motivation to avenge the death of his brothers, who along with him, were lynched by a group of poor losing gamblers.
Techland put together a solid premise and delivered plot points in a very unique fashion. Silas’ tale begins to unfold after he walks into a saloon in Abilene, Kansas and is subsequently recognized by one of the patrons. Most of Gunslingers story unfolds during quick graphic novel like cut scenes, and I enjoyed the second method in which narrative was delivered even more. Small bits of information, anecdotes, and flat out lies are strewn about in real time during gameplay. This is effectively dispensed by slowing down the action and getting all sepia toney while Silas either fills in a minor detail, or is called out as a liar by a member of his audience (is he embellishing on purpose?). I thoroughly enjoyed this particular method of storytelling. On many occasions I’d have just mowed down a group of enemies when Silas, or one of his spectators interjected with the real account of happened on that specific occasion. In the old west, or any time before the internet really, word of mouth made stories varied and unreliable. Many times said stories were heavily exaggerated by it’s perpetuators, or the surviving participants. Silas’ bounty hunting career is no different.
Gunslinger’s visual presentation rivals most full retail priced titles. The use of a monotone color palette highlighted by contrasting vibrant tones help to emphasize settlements, forests, and mountainous environments effectively. Points of interest are highlighted yellow to stand out from static, non-interactive objects. Character models are elaborate and individual, especially when encountering high profile outlaws.
As far as un-holstering your six shooter and spitting lead goes, everything feels tight and precise. There were occasions when I had to double take thinking I’d hit someone center mass, but otherwise target tracking felt slick and weapons like the rifle had decent weight to them. The addition of ‘Concentration Mode’ made things all the better. When engaged enemies are outlined in red, and time perception is slowed to offer a real advantage to Greaves. This feature coupled with ‘Sense of Death’ (the ability to dodge an incoming bullet that would render you vulture chow) make Gunslinger shine. Duels provided slow paced, tense encounters, but the mini game was the only aspect of gunplay that didn’t feel accurate. This may have been due to loose analog sticks, or highly sensitive mechanics. Either way it was my only real frustration with Gunslinger. In some instances I found it exceedingly difficult to effectively focus and ensure proper timing prior to my enemy drawing his weapon. One particular duel late in Gunslinger’s story helped wipe away past frustrations with gusto (I won’t spoil it).
A three tier skill tree lets you focus on the aspects of combat you find advantageous. Do you prefer dual wield pistols? Long range encounters? How about splattering foes with your scattergun? You have the ability to dump skill points into each branch, or focus mostly on a specific set. I chose to assign most of my points to the pistol and rifle specialties since they complimented my play style. Hidden items called ‘Nuggets of Truth’ are scattered throughout missions to add a bit of incentive to the small amount of exploration afforded.
I didn’t experience many issues with Call of Juarez: Gunslinger. The aforementioned distaste for duels was joined only by lengthy load screens and strange AI behavior (ex. enemies repeating movements) on rare occasions.
All things considered I enjoyed my time through the eyes of a now elderly bounty hunter. The dime book stories that never take themselves too seriously coupled with fun combat and innovative storytelling tactics left me rather pleased after my near seven hour playthrough.
+ Grandiose plot that never takes itself seriously
+ Unique storytelling methods
+ Great graphics for a downloadable title
+ Engaging combat
– Duels felt less precise than general combat
– Longer load times
– Rare AI bugs
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