A guest review by: The Shadow.
There's a lot of FPS out there, there's pretty much a FPS for everything these days. Every genre has been covered from science fiction to dark horror and you have some great titles like F.E.A.R and Condemned to stack along Half Life 2 and Call of Duty 2.
So when new games come out and they're FPS' we don't often give them as much as a second glance, unless they're really something special. Now I like my FPS and I know what I like in a FPS, this new Wild West genre shooter: Call of Juarez is one of the better shooters I've played recently and it's got some nice touches.
You play as two characters in the game. Billy, a smart-mouthed young kid that gets mistaken for a murderer by the second character in the game, Reverend Ray: a smoke, fire and brimstone preacher with a pair of six-guns.
The two characters alternate through the levels of the story and one is focussed on stealth while the other is definitely brutal. God's killing machine with a smoking gun in one hand and a bible in the other. I'm not kidding, old Rev can whip out the good book and let rip with some choice passages Revelations style.
Billy is your stealth guy and the developers could have done a bit of a better job with the controls and stealth in the game, but it's not done too badly, its fun. Usually Reverend Ray is close behind Billy so when you play a level as the kid running away from the grumpy badass preacher, you'll follow with the Rev for some blood soaked baptisin' of the heathens standin' in your way.
Reverend Ray not only has his bible but he has a kind of bullet time mode that slows things down, you aim the guns and fire independently with the RMB and LMB - this makes it much more of a skill than a quick-draw killing solution.
Techland, the developers, have used their Chrome engine (I wasn't too fussed on that game) but they've made significant changes to it. Now this means you'll need a bit of a monster machine to run it since it requires a tad more horsepower than you'd expect from the look of it.
There's some nice environmental stuff used in the game though, especially when you can set something on fire and keep adding wooden objects to make it burn longer. More games should use physics and environmental features like this to bring their worlds to life.
The game has some nice dramatic moments and the storyline is homage to many of the old Spaghetti westerns of the past, they tell their tale with a good quality in the storytelling and pretty good dialogue.
The action scenes and the actual gameplay itself are crisp and they give you a rush of adrenaline, especially when you play as the Reverend, with the bad guys tasting holy smoking death around every turn. It is hard to believe these are the same developers that brought us Chrome to be honest; they've pulled out a lot of stops with this game.
So with the cool gameplay in singleplayer, that has horse riding, train robberies and loads of gun totin' action of the Wild West, you need some pretty good graphics. Thankfully the game doesn't let you down in this department, it's not the most amazing graphics engine ever but it's certainly not half bad.
The environments are great; they capture the feel of the old west perfectly and are riddled with places to have a good shoot out. The textures have a gritty feeling to them and the design of the characters, places, objects are all well done. The weapons look and most importantly seem to be based on proper designs of that time too.
It has some great special effects and some good fire effects, especially since the game allows you to use fire as something more than just set dressing. It works nicely with the physics and delivers a cool gameplay edge to the title.
The animations are also an area of the game where there's a lot of detail, the death animations and the gunfights are brutal at times.
It isn't just a single player game either it's got a fast paced multi-player feature that has Deathmatch, Skirmish and Robbery modes - Robbery being CTF (Capture the Flag) - not much invention there, but the game has no lag and it's highly addictive in these modes. I always did love a Quake-em-up.
When the MP game loads really fast and delivers this much gameplay it's something pretty good, even though it's vanilla compared to a lot of more innovative MP style games - if it's not broken, don't fix it. The map design for MP will allow you to relive some of the cooler Spaghetti Western moments and extends the life of the game beyond the cool SP story.
All in all it's a game that I liked, but with all the good has to come a bit of bad. I didn't really like the way you learn stealth with Billy, I felt the controls were a bit restrictive and the environments you start out in, the same. It looks nice but it doesn't push the boundaries of graphics and it can get a bit annoying with the narration between levels. And it did crash to the desktop a couple of times, for the most part the gameplay was silky-smooth but again there were a few moments where it jerked and I noticed a frame loss.
I liked the voice acting for the most part with some great work from the Rev and Billy, but some of the voices I felt were a little bit dry and they weren't as good as they could have been. I also liked the music, the music had just the right twang for the genre and the sound effects were likewise of good quality, they had the six-shooter 'bangs' down to a 'T'.
If you like these kinds of games and you're looking for a proper gritty Wild West genre shooter then you can consider your prayers answered with the Call of Juarez, it's a solid title that builds on solid shooter traditions and adds some nice touches and revamps of things like bullet time, it's worth checking out.