Call of Juarez Review
We had the pleasure of playing the preview version of Call of Juarez (COJ) - Juarez pronounced with a Y - a month or so back. But for the last couple of days we have been playing the full version and all we have to say is "At last we have a Wild West shooter that not only looks amazing, but plays well to"!
Techland the team behind the game have gone all out with authenticity. All the buildings, outside views and weapons are based around a number of Western movie hits from the seventies and eighties.
Players get to play as two different characters: Billy, a young fugitive accused of murder or the Reverend Ray, whose voice over is played by "Gul Dukat" aka "Marc Alaimo" of "Star Trek Deep Space Nine" fame - an ex-outlaw who turned to religion, believing that God Himself has chosen Ray to be the instrument of His wrath.
The paths of the two characters meet regularly in the game and it adds greatly to the depth of the storyline. Think of the expansion packs from Half-life and you will understand how the character system works. Billy is first accused of murder and is seen fleeing from the scene of the crime, though he is innocent the reverend only sees him flee, then you start to play the game as the reverend character whos aim is to hunt Billy down and so the game switches to his point of view and vice versa - you need to play the game to appreciate it.
Both characters also have their strengths and weaknesses, when you play as Billy you get to solve a lot more puzzles and creep around places, avoiding guards and swinging on tress - yep you need to reach hard to get places with your lasso. The reverend is more of a, in your face kind of guy and has a lot of fire power, plus a metal plate to protect him from several shots to the chest. The break between styles is a welcome aspect of the game. Later on you even get to explore one of the characters spiritual side.
As mentioned your weapons are authentic to the time period, you holster your gun(s) just like "Clint Eastwood". You can also hold two guns or mix and match them, a gun in one hand and a sawn off shotgun in the other and you can even fire the pistols in multiple ways!
The developers have introduced a matrix style mode where if you hold both pistol weapons and then quickly holster and draw them you can slow the action down, allowing you to target more than one enemy at the same time - a handy way to combat the many bad guys you encounter.
Just like the Westerns of old you can use rifles, bows and arrows, sawn of shot guns and riffles with scopes. The other cool aspects of COJ is the total freedom you have to explore and there is much fun to be had camping in buildings - to ambush bad guys - blasting your way through trains and having a good old Western shoot out - whilst dodging gatlin gun style emplacements, armed bandits, snakes, wolves and spiders! (later levels).
Certain elements of the game will see you walk face to face with enemies in a quick draw contest, where you need to move your mouse down and then up to draw your weapon to fire on your opponent.
At times you can even ride horses, which takes a while to get used to - but is great fun nonetheless. One such mission involves you chasing after a horse drawn carriage as your enemy try and shoot you out of the carriage windows. Whilst this is going on you have to avoid being hit by their horse ridding buddies, but you can blast them off their horses and watch as their lifeless bodies dangle from their stirrups.
The graphics and sound effects are some of the best we have seen since Farcry. The Western towns are right out of the movies, the NPC (Non Player Characters) facial features are excellently drawn, the detail of the outdoors is superb, with cactus plants and heat blur coming off the floors of the desert and the music and sound effects are spot on. Characters will also talk to themselves in Western accents and the voice-overs are first class. Credit must go to Marc Alaimo who's voice talent adds greatly to the atmosphere and aura created by the presence of the reverend, with this character you feel like you can kick some righteous ass.
You also get some cool Multiplayer modes which allows players to compete in Counter-Strike-like style team play. A large number of the game’s maps are based on classics of the movie genre. Players will have the chance to walk in the shoes of important figures of that time such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and play out famous events like the Wilcox Train Robbery.
To give you an idea of how long the game lasts we reckon you will get about 8-10 hours out of the medium difficulty setting, so we advise playing it on hard level to prolong its life.
We can definitely say we enjoyed playing COJ, it is one of the best Western games since Outlaws - from Lucasarts. The Wild West has never looked so good!
*UPDATE* We forgot to add that in certain stages of the game, we found the loading times pretty long, but it seemed to be a hit and miss affair. We are hoping that this was due to our Review version and will be resolved by the time the game gets released. To be honest the loading times did not bother us to much and it did not spoil the game.