Where to begin? Call of Juarez, by Techland was an interesting first person shooter that took place in the Wild West and had a few issues. Bound in Blood, the sequel took place in the Wild West and was markedly better. I had a soft spot for Ray MCall the outlaw, and when he became a fire and brimstone preacher. Now the third instalment of Call of Juarez is back and Techland has taken it into the modern era, a strange but kind-of fitting move that some might find jarring.Story
You can see the story of one of three characters, Ben MCall, the descendant of Ray MCall and an LAPD cop with a taste for hookers. Eddie Guerra, a DEA agent and Kim Evans an FBI agent. Each of the characters story plays out through similar cut-scenes but the in-game text messages and phone calls, snippets of story as the game loads the next level, are all different.
The actual game story is one of well...youíll have to play to find out.Gameplay
Techland has refined the Chrome engine somewhat, itís now in iteration 5 and seems to handle the moment-to-moment gunplay pretty well. The game is broken up into quite a few large levels that have you engaged in various shootouts and a few protracted chase-scenes that fit well into the overall feel of the story as well as the setting. These are levels that arenít going to be over in a blink of an eye and theyíll throw a ton of bad guys your way as you battle towards your overall goal. You are updated by a small white waypoint marker that often pops up on screen to give you a helping guide to the next objective.
Many of the levels have a free roam aspect to them, now thatís not to say you can go all Ďsandboxí and visit every corner of the area youíre in, because the game will warn you if youíre going far off the beaten path. You can however use the large environments to set up ambushes with your partner AI (it does its own thing and doesnít need to be babysat) and co-op partners, we shall come to that part later.
There are also vehicles, and whilst the vehicle physics are a little on the jittery side, theyíre not terrible bar far. Vehicles are basically SUVís and thereís usually a player car for you to get into and you canít miss it since many of the interactive objects have glowing parts, like door handles on the car for instance to let you know you can use it.
As you progress in the first mission, youíll get a call on your phone, opening up the secret agenda and steal items portion of the game. This could have been better implemented since all of the special items you have to take are in the same place (and you can play levels again). This isnít too much of a problem when it comes to single player since the AI can be tricked allowing you to run back and nick the item that you want, or accomplish the secret agenda objective (talking to an important NPC, taking a special item or something else).
When you play it co-operatively though, it can lead to object camping and so on...which might be what the developers intended.
You are rewarded with experience and you can level up to 21. The game unlocks various weapons at certain levels, and points in the story, so playing through single player first to attempt to get all of the secret items is a valid strategy. This allows you access to the cool toys for co-op play sessions and so on. Grenades cause splash damage and can knock you prone, as can exploding cars and other objects.
Gunplay is straight forwards, the weapons feel a little weak at times and there are no real differences in the arsenal that stand out. Itís a bit bland really, but modern guns tend to be like that. You earn concentration for shooting enemies and pulling off head shots, once the bar is charged you can let rip for some slow-mo fun action until the bar drains.
Then there are set moments where you enter a room, team based slow-motion shooting like in Bound in Blood. There are also some fist fighting moments but the fist fighting melee is terrible and itís pretty tricky to get used to. It needed a lot more polish in that particular facet of gameplay.
If thereís one word Iíd use to describe the action of CoJ: The Cartel it would be generic, itís fun enough though and thatís what counts. It just doesnít push any Ďawesomeí buttons for me in that regard. The game gets much better when you play it with friends cooperatively though, but weíll discuss that element later on.
The game has checkpoint based saves, regenerating health and you can pick up weapons and ammo from dead enemies.Graphics
The game features some nice vistas and the Chrome Engine 5 has certainly improved upon the visual aspect. Itís still not quite there yet to match up with some of the triple A titles but it doesnít slouch too badly in the graphics department. The wide open areas are definitely some of the best Iíve seen on the Chrome Engine to date and the interiors all have a certain charm to them. Lighting and special effects are decent.