Call of Juarez first appeared on Xbox 360 in June 2007 and featured the rather ambiguous tale of a priest with an itchy trigger finger and an Native Indian/American on the run for a crime he didn’t commit all set to the backdrop of an unforgiving world filled with gold, a lust for power and the treasures of Juarez. The game offered a heady mix of gun-slinging action with the two characters and for fans of the wild west and shooters in general was well worth the dusty ride.
It’s 2009 and fans have waited a while for a sequel, cue Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood (pronounced wah-rez) which again features the same wild west expose, but this time featuring the three McCall brothers as the main protagonists. Set within the lawless end of the Civil War in the States and heading off into Mexico the game offers more shooting, spitting and at its heart a love story gone wrong.
Like any other shooter you’re going to get to grips with a wide range of weaponry throughout the linear but explorable game world and whilst the game starts off in the thick of the more regimental Civil War, you’ll get to learn the traits of the two controllable characters Ray and Thomas. They are very similar in that yes, both are great at shooting weapons, but some slightly different nuances separates them. For example Ray is able to use his strength to kick down doors which Thomas isn’t able to. Whereas Thomas is able to use a whip to reach areas not accessible to Ray. It’s subtle and when the game dictates means you’ll get to use these traits within the confines of the level design rather than at random.
The story is an interesting one and without spoiling it too much offers plenty of twists and turns to propel it way above average for a video game. There’s an excellent narrative from the third brother (a priest – sticking with a religious theme from the first game) who not only appears frequently in the game as a reminder to the brothers that they can be forgiven if they repent, but during loading screens he offers further insight into the story. As with many tales, there’s a woman involved and with two hot headed brothers who vie for her charms and affections is a recipe for disaster. Some of it is cheesy as you’d expect but there’s enough action to keep you well glued in between the moments where you’re exploring and killing cowboys.
There’s a lot of killing, it’s not called the wild west for nothing, and like any movie that depicts the era you’ll be joining the fray as you’d expect. That means ambushes, riding off on horseback, hijacking, jail breaks, shoot-outs and of course not forgetting the one on one duels at high noon. The game captures the elements that you’d expect very well and there’s really never a dull moment.Whilst you’re meandering around the story you’ll also get to explore a little as the game opens up to give you some momentary breathing space. Here you’re able to commandeer the nearest horse and ride around until your heart’s content. Well not exactly as the game world in these moments, whilst ‘pretty’ (and dusty) are barren bar the inclusion of a few outlaws scattered around the place. The main purpose of these moments is to undertake the odd side mission where you can earn extra gold which in turn can be used to buy better weaponry from the stores. It’s a welcome distraction but could have been used so much more to elongate the rather short experience.
The combat itself whether that be using a gun emplacement or hiding amongst cover in stand-off like shoot-outs is very satisfying and will enable you to spill plenty of blood in the most gratuitous of ways. The weapons are solid and the enemies will react realistically when shot and with the option to toss dynamite at innocent chickens you can’t really complain – and yes you’ll get an achievement for doing so. The only real issues with the combat is a rather convoluted and annoying to use cover system which to be frank isn’t very good. The game will auto place you within cover, but at times it’s sketchy and more of a hindrance than anything.
Graphically the game is vibrant and indicative of the locales it’s set in. There’s a lot of familiar elements which is a good thing, but doesn’t mean it makes for a ‘pretty’ game in terms of locale. You’re not going to see too much variation and there’s a lack of colour in general. However, with plenty of action to take your mind off things there’s really little else to complain about here as the rest of the game is smooth, satisfying and well rendered. Sadly there’s a distinct level of emptiness to the whole game world.Like bars that should be brimming with cleavage and drunk men, appear desolate and lacking in atmosphere. Sure the Civil War has been raging but some additional NPC characters would have brought the inhabited areas alive more.
The sound is of a high standard, and whilst the music is fitting, isn’t the star of the show. The voice acting has been well produced and the script offers some great moments of banter, tense dialogue and cheesy one-liners to keep you entertained. It’s all predictable sounding, but that’s to be expected from those southerners. The sound effects are as you would expect and compliment the horse riding to the crack of a pistol shot well. Gun battles are fast and furious and the sound seems to up the tempo further.
For single player only fans you’ll find around 6-8 hours gameplay if you play on normal settings, although if you’re thorough and aim to collect all the hidden items you might increase it further. For achievement hunters or those looking for more once beaten the game already, there there are several difficulties to try out offering further challenge. If you’re looking to get up close and personal with your friends then of there’s a comprehensive online multiplayer mode which offers up a wide selection of gun slinging game types to keep the most hardy of competitive players well occupied. There are some interesting spins on popular modes which suit the theme of the game very well – whether that be solo or team based battles. All in all there’s certainly enough bang for your buck here.
Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood is an enjoyable romp into the murky and dust filled world of yore. With enough high action points to keep you glued and rather than attracting monotony and boredom you’ll certainly enjoy the roller coaster ride on offer and most likely will queue up again for another turn once you’ve finished. The story is captivating for all the right reasons, the combat well solid and the diverse nature of the gameplay highly engaging. It’s seeming brevity might leave you wanting more, but this is counterbalanced by the action which never gets dull – which could have been a possibility if the game was unnecessarily elongated. If you like the old action flicks and TV shows of the period, grown some stubble and perfected the squint then this is probably the best wild west game to date. Bound in Blood is well worth checking out even if you’re just after another shooter.