Call of Juarez
|a game by||Techland|
|Platforms:||XBox 360, PC|
|User Rating:||9.3/10 - 3 votes|
|Rate this game:|
|See also:||Action Adventure Games, Call of Juarez Games|
It Took The Italian Sergio Leone to shoot films in the Spanish desert to make decent films about American cowboys. Mel Brooks and Ang Lee have since jostled the genre around a bit to include prolonged fart jokes and bumming, but Clint Eastwood was the best cowboy ever, and he never lifted a leg and blamed it on his horse. And - not that he had anything against that sort of thing, I'm sure - I just don't think Clint's gay.
Reverend Ray certainly wouldn't approve of that sort of thing. He's an old-school brimstone preacher, the doomsaying old curmudgeon who you'd dismiss as a harmless lunatic if he didn't have a Bible in his hand. And he does have that Bible in his hand; just tap five and fire to launch one of his favourite Old Testament passages. This scares a few of your opponents, but more importantly - with your other hand free to fire a gun - it's way f***iri cool.
Between Ray's levels, you play Billy - the young man Ray's chasing for the murder of his brother. A murder we suspect he didn't commit but evidence has never been that much of a problem for the fundamentalists. Billy's return from a hunt for the mythical treasure of Juarez has ended without success, and he's come home to a town that's hardly happy to see him. You can't claim Billy's an innocent - ten minutes into the game and you've already stolen two guns and nearly gotten a free gob job from a friendly whore. The idea of chasing yourself around the American landscape seems odd, but it works. The levels touch upon - but avoid repeating - each other. Occasionally you see the same encounter from both characters' perspectives. Simple but effective, there's talent in the storytelling. Script and voiceacting is my personal bugbear, but it's genuinely important here; Call Of Juarez is a homage to cowboy films. Decent Western games are few and far between, so getting the voices and script wrong would have been a tragedy. Fret not - it's all excellent.
I Shoot Dead People
The boasted 'specific gameplay style and abilities' can be summarised thusly: Billy can jump higher and has a whip for swinging around on, and Ray uses TNT and a Bible, as well as a bullet-time ability that's activated when drawing his guns from their holsters. As Billy, you'll skulk in the shadows, learning to hide from lightning and using thunder to cover your noisier actions. As Ray -just shoot everything you see.
Only, not quite everything. I did what comes naturally, and tried being an arsehole in the saloon. When I threw a chair at a poker player, I was confronted with the warning 'attempts to injure innocent civilians, horses or corpses will cause the game to end'. Although the threat was never carried out (despite my serious efforts), there was a slight discomfort as my suspension of disbelief crawled out of my navel. Game? I've never wanted to shoot a horse so much in my life, and believe me - I've spent most of my life wanting to shoot horses.
Sad to say, combat lets Juarez down. Ray's concentration mode (bullet-time) is nearly constantly available, and the bandits seem to flit between a couple of set attackpoints, giving you the chance to pop in, slow down, shoot and pop out while the enemy are paralysed by time tricks and stupidity. The start points, scripts, triggers and all that supposedly behind-the-scenes stuff is just too transparent. It's still a good game, but with more attention paid to the Al, it could have been a lot better.
Billy's levels, which are more stealth and platform-based, are entertaining in a different way, but it's still a matter of repetition. At one point, I crept - like a Mexican Bugs Bunny - around the back of a man as he performed his patrol. If he'd turned around, I would have kissed him full on the lips and ran off, but I can't work out if that's Warner Bros or Ang Lee's influence.
Creeping around, you'll overhear some great bandit conversations; discussing a piss-stench problem, one man's fear of a 'coyote biting off his nutsack'. It's here, and in the 'Wanted' posters (featuring the developers) where you see the team's sense of humour, which is a strange relief in such an earnest game. I like Call Of Juarez. It has numerous problems, most notably the Al. But there's something beneath all its faults I can forgive; a Western game that has Reverends, shows reverence and even features the occasional smear of puerile humour. The insult 'peckerhead' has, for a while at least, re-entered my active vocabulary.
Hats off to Jesus
Stetson, Stets-off and rest
When the boys from 93 Games came into the office to give us a sneaky-peek at Call Of Juarez some months ago, the first question that crossed our minds wasn't about the game's earnest dedication to decades-old Westerns. It wasn't about the inspiration for Reverend Ray, one of the most pleasingly evil Christians ever to have delusions of being god's sword. We wanted to know if you could shoot people's hats off. Seconds after asking, a slo-mo headshot sent a Stetson wheeling into a horse's flank. To say I cheered would be telling the truth, without understatement Shooting people's hats off is the best.