Hands-on with Call of Juarez: Gunslinger
The last time we ran across the Call of Juarez franchise, we had the unfortunate mistake of dealing with The Cartel, a lame modern-day shooter that didn't go quite as well as Ubisoft had planned. Maybe if it had done away with the lame AI partners and even lamer game mechanics, that game would've gotten somewhere. Eh, then again…
But at least Ubisoft is somewhat learning from its mistakes, as its return to Call of Juarez territory once again takes place in the Wild West with Gunslinger. But this time around, the publisher is skipping the retail route in favor of a downloadable release for Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network. Is it a move for the better? Perhaps, though there are still minor parts of the game that needs work. We recently gave the game a hands-on run at Ubisoft's PAX East booth.
The game features actor John Cygan portraying the gun-packing Silas Greaves, who has a habit of talking up a storm as he attempts to hunt down varmints throughout a canyon, following the wreckage of a train. He's got his six shooter by his side, although he can also do up-close damage if the situation may call for it. You'll then venture through the game, shooting every villain in sight while keeping yourself from succumbing to lead poisoning. It's pretty cut and dry in terms of mechanics, but at least Ubisoft avoids the same lame route that the Cartel took.
In the game, you'll pursue legendary lawless characters like Billy the Kidd and Jesse James, though the demo didn't quite go into extent as to your connection with them. No matter, the gunplay is the star here, and it's favorable for the most part, though some items within the game still need a minor bit of work.
The graphics have an unfiltered effect to them, which is both good and bad. The good comes from emulating a gritty Wild West-esque shooter, complete with lots of blood and some dusty terrain that you'd find in any given Sergio Leone effort. But there were also some noticeable camera problems with spotting certain enemies, and sometimes you don't have a clear indication where you need to go next in the stage. (We assume this will be fixed well by the time the final game releases.)
Along the way, you'll be able to earn experience points with your rootin' and shootin', which you can use to improve your character's skill and accuracy. And like most good shooters nowadays, you can slow down the action at times, in case things get a wee bit too heated. You can also use this slo-mo capability to avoid otherwise lethal bullets when the time calls for it. These are knee-jerk situations, though, and require a lot more timing than you might normally expect. That's hardly a dealbreaker, but Ubisoft might want to address it before the final release, to make things more fair. (The same could be said with dueling, which uses a ridiculous system where you try to keep someone in your sights while shooting at them.)
There are notable improvements to the formula with Gunslinger, but still some work to be done to get it near the Red Dead Redemption level that Ubisoft is trying for. Thankfully, it's still got time to dust off the ol' hat and complete the work that needs to be done before this game makes its bow around fall 2013. We'll see how it fares in the months ahead, pardner.