Is Call of Juarez: Gunslinger a legend or cursed?

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The Call of Juarez franchise took a nose dive with The Cartel, and that stigma hit a lot of people hard including me.  You don’t see many Wild West themed video games, so when a series featuring such a unique setting crops up it becomes memorable, but when it falls flat on its face it sticks and hurts the brand.  So when I saw this on the digital markets, I wasn’t looking forward to it.  I expected the same clumsy, poorly coded, poorly voice acted, and poorly written experience that The Cartel had.

It didn't help that it moved a franchise known for it's unique old west setting into a generic modern day drug war.

It didn’t help that it moved a franchise known for it’s unique old west setting into a generic modern day drug war.

I was so wrong.  Call of Juarez: Gunslinger is an amazingly polished game with an interesting and inventive story told through an increasingly inebriated and unreliable narrator.  You play as Silas Greaves, an old bounty hunter who stumbles into a saloon in Abilene, Kansas 1910.  After being offered a beer by a young reader of “dime novels” about famous Wild West figures in exchange for stories about his adventures, the player is taken back to these events as recollected by Silas, which may or may not be true.  The story is narrated to you as you play by Silas with constant comments by the audience in the saloon, and the game takes you to famous showdowns from the era, often with various historical and mythological debates peppered in-between the action.  Half the fun derived from the story is how crazy things get as Silas gets increasingly drunk and some of the audience becomes impatient with him, or when legend, history, and Silas’ version of events collide.

Call of Juarez: Gunslinger makes great use of its historical backdrop by providing hidden “nuggets of truth” that tells the real story of the people, places, and events on display in the game.

Call of Juarez: Gunslinger makes great use of its historical backdrop by providing hidden “nuggets of truth” that tells the real story of the people, places, and events on display in the game.

The game utilizes this angle well, morphing the landscape as Silas changes his story mid-mission, sometimes playing through various potential outcomes.  The visuals are also gorgeous, using a semi-cell shaded style similar to Boarderlands, with varied environments that will often make you stop and simply take in the painted scenery, and character models are highly detailed and well animated.  Another benefit to its art direction is that it doesn’t take amazing hardware to run on the PC, and turning down a few settings won’t hurt the visual experience much.

The whole game is themed in a kind of “dime novel” comic book style, with the story being “painted” by Silas for the audience and the player.  An overall theme of Call of Juarez: Gunslinger is about how the Wild West is glorified and morphed by those who tell its stories.

The whole game is themed in a kind of “dime novel” comic book style, with the story being “painted” by Silas for the audience and the player. An overall theme of Call of Juarez: Gunslinger is about how the Wild West is glorified and morphed by those who tell its stories.

What really makes this a keeper is the gunplay.  It’s amongst the best yet in giving you the feel of shooting a revolver, going so far as to allow the option to pull both triggers independently while dual wielding guns “akimbo”.  This is doubly true if you are using an Xbox 360 controller.  The verity of firearms is also decent, with three kinds of revolvers, two rifles, and two shotgun variants, all with useful strategic properties.  The game also features a leveling up system similar to older Call of Juarez games, and the dueling system is back and greatly improved.

Going toe to toe with the West's legends is, exciting, difficult, and very fun.  Dueling even has its own dedicated mode with online leaderboards!

Going toe to toe with the West’s legends is exciting, difficult, and very fun. Dueling even has its own dedicated mode with online leaderboards!

If you are a fan of the American West, or are just looking for a shooter experience that doesn’t seem like the same brown and grey space marine trudge, then Call of Juarez: Gunslingers is an excellent choice with the right price.  It can be found on the Playstation Network, Xbox Live Arcade, and on Steam.