Hands On: Call Of Juarez – Gunslinger

By Craig Pearson on April 22nd, 2013 at 5:00 pm.

How to win a duel: use giant bullets.

Sometimes this is what happens when you ask a Craig to play a preview version of Call Of Juarez: Gunslinger.

*spit*

WaaaaaWaaaaaWaaaaaa Wah Wah Wahhhhhh WaaaaaWaaaaaWaaaaaa Wah Wah Wahhhhhh WaaaaaWaaaaaWaaaaaa Wah WhuWhuWahhhhh WaaaaaWaaaaaWaaaaaa Wah Waaaaaaaaah.

*clang*

Hello, varmints! I’m usually a lot classier than that, but I’ve just spent an hour-and-a-half with the new Call Of Juarez game, Gunslinger, and it’s turned me a bit olde tyme. Just be glad I’ve not been watching Deadwood, or you wouldn’t be be comfortable showing this preview to grandmothers or children.

Gunslinger is a revisionist take on Techland’s shooter series. The previous games were sprawling and a bit oddball, provisioning you with whips and bibles as well as guns, and spreading the story over multiple characters. Gunslinger is about the guns and how well they sling. So far I’ve not seen a hint of the characterful strangeness that’s been a hallmark of the series. That’s not to say it doesn’t play about with the format, but there’s only one character, no bibles, and I didn’t hear as single crack of a rolled piece of leather. I only played the first three levels, but it didn’t feel like any further oddnesss would be forthcoming later, either.

What I did play was as linear as a gunshot, but pretty satisfying. I adopted the bandy-legged gait of Silas Greaves, a bounty hunter reliving his life story with some whippersnappers. He’s met with Billy The Kid and Pat Garret, so you know his life is going to be interesting. Just how interesting is up to how forthcoming he is about it. He deals with both the myth and the reality of the situation in the narration, and at least once a level will take the time to correct something about his past he feels has been a tale told tall.

Like towards the end of the opening level of Stinkin’ Springs. It’s a one-horse town that Billy The Kid’s holed up in. I had to fight my way through to team up with him. Even this early in the game, there are more bullets than oxygen in the air, but plenty of cover to dip in behind. I’m given a quick course in the vagaries of the combat, and aside from the click-to-make-bangs, there’s the series’ usual slow-motion, built up by gaining XP as you play and deployed in tight spots. There’s a new tech tree with three sections to build your own cowboy: Gunslinger (dual-wield skills), Ranger (long range), and Trapper (close combat). I wasn’t with the character for long enough to see a huge difference over time, but my first buff was the dual-wielding six shooters. Even though the AI is kind of easy to pop off from the prodigious amount of cover on offer, it doesn’t take away from the clicky, smoky goodness that the guns have been imbued with. They are good guns.

.

Stinkin’ Springs circles in towards a central house, the action mostly inching forward from cover, to where Billy is. Getting there sets up a last stand between the gang assaulting the place and the people inside. So, yes, I fought my way in, blasting heavily and happily, fought from the inside out to thin out the gang, then fought my way back out again, when Billy decided it was time to flee. It’s here the narration impacts on the game. According to the game’s mythology, I meet up with Pat Garret and we duel, which is a little event in itself. We wander around each other, I have to keep the drifting crosshair over his body and react just after he goes for his gun.

Kablammmoooo!

But, wait. According to the narration, that’s not what happened. The game rewinds

!oooommmalbaK.

Instead I’m arrested and thrown in jail, but now I at least know how to duel. It’s pretty neat to see the story be rewritten live, and there are some interesting implementations later on.

The next level, a town called Lincoln, is where the jail lives. I escape with Billy’s help—though he’s using me to distract the others and make his own escape—and grab a gun. It’s hilarious: the gun is a shotgun grabbed from a character named Bob Ollinger. It’s introduced with a cut-scene that details everything that is sexy about the gun. The narrator goes on at length about how powerful and devastating it is. I take it and blast my way to the rooftops, as per the narrator’s excited storytellin’. When I get there he explains he escaped via planks between the rooftops, and they drop into existence, allowing me to run and get into cover. It’s an interesting comment on the linearity of the game: I was definitely playing to the beat of the game’s drum. The rest of the level is just shooting, lots and lots of shooting, but with big six shooters thumping bullets into people and Bob Ollinger’s Shotgun blasting bigger holes.

It’s the next level that I think might just be a little bit too contrived. It begins with a post-escape Silas looking for work. I come across a hijacking, and it’s explained in the narration that I’m ambushed ‘Apache-style’, so the surrounding canyon walls are suddenly topped with rifle-firing Native Americans. I fire back at them, but it doesn’t seem to be doing much good. There are too many, and there’s not enough cover or ammo. Then the narrator starts to explain that it wasn’t Apaches, but just that the ambush was in the style of them. All the people I’m fighting wibble and turn into cowboys, doubling the number of killers up there. Then the narration points out that it there were too many people to fight, so he ran. So I have to run, sprinting through a cave system, the narration explaining how I kept going and going and didn’t turn back. Which is what I do. I run until the end of the cave system gives way to an opening where a few prospectors have perished and left their guns and dynamite. It’s the dynamite that turns the tide, sending the chasers fleeing back through the caves, and chasing them leads me to a boss fight.

Old Man Clanton is perched with a big machine gun on top of a hill. His bullets are shreddier than a shredded wheat made from confetti and then kicked through a fan while Slash plays the fast bit from Paradise City. They shred. Luckily there are covering rocks, and the space between the cover takes roughly the same amount of time time to run across as it takes him to reload his big gun. Imagine that? If he had ten more bullets, I’d be dead.

.

All this is done entertainingly, but there’s still little of my own agency in it. I dodge and shoot and reach him and kill him without too much trouble. It was also the last story level I was allowed to play.

If the story seems like it’s in the way, there’s arcade mode. It sets up a playthrough for each level, letting you fiddle with the tech tree before pushing you into it and telling everyone things you drunkenly said about their mother. There’s no narration to get in the way of the gun play. It was here I noticed the combos. When you pop into slow motion, if you kill enough people and boost your XP, you can more quickly move back into the concentration state that slow-mo’s simulates. While I enjoyed the way they used the narrator to mess with the game, there were times when it felt the story was pressing on me. Not so in arcade mode, where all I had were guns and time. I discovered a few extra areas off to the side in the Lincoln escape level that I’d previously missed. They weren’t more than room sized extra areas peeling off from the main drag, but they were filled with enemies and ammo.

I’m still surprised. This wasn’t a game anyone expected to happen. Not after The Cartel. I’d imagine it’s a small apology to the small group of people that grew to love the Call Of Juarez series, only to see it launch itself a good fifty feet over the shark. I was pleasantly surprised.

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42 Comments »

  1. Premium User Badge

    Stellar Duck says:

    This is funny, just after the previous post about a Techland game.

  2. SirKicksalot says:

    No Bible quotes, no sale.
    It’s like they don’t even know what makes these games good.

  3. drvoke says:

    “Duel.” Also, good review of a mediocre-seeming game. With no whips and no Bibles, is it even Call of Juarez?

  4. Premium User Badge

    Earl-Grey says:

    There are two kinds of people in the world, my friend:
    Those with a keyboard and a mouse in their hands, and those who have the mission of labeling games as the root of all evil.

  5. ZIGS says:

    How awesome would it be if you could throw your guns using an actual sling?

  6. Premium User Badge

    Wisq says:

    Wilhelm scream at 1:03. SOLD.

  7. staberas says:

    1.01 Wilhelm scream

    nice one

  8. Michael Fogg says:

    >>>I’ve not been watching Deadwood

    C’mon Craig, don’t start this crap again!
    ;)

    • Kobest says:

      Damn it, Pearson, you went too far! You’re off the case!

    • Premium User Badge

      Craig Pearson says:

      I have watched Deadwood at least twice! Thptptptpt!

    • Ross Angus says:

      I’ve had it up to here with your … what’s that? Oh. Too late.

    • Kobest says:

      Oh…you’re back on the case then! I want a long report of what you and your partner Himenez did during that mayhem in the mall!

  9. EvilG says:

    So, is this a game about guns or something?

  10. Zenicetus says:

    Wow, I had no idea they used jacketed hollow point ammo in the Wild West.

    And yeah, I know this isn’t the game to nitpick for realism, but I think I’ll pass on it anyway, in spite of loving the Western setting. From the description, it sounds like it’s even more on-rails scripting than Bound in Blood. That game was very linear, but it had at least a few places where you were allowed to get off the rails and look around, soak up the atmosphere. This one doesn’t sound like much fun.

    • Leosaurus says:

      Those aren’t JHP. Old west bullets were soft lead, and often had a flat tip or indentation caused by the bullet mould. That bullet is fairly accurate in appearance to some types of old west loads.

      • Zenicetus says:

        Eh, I don’t think so. The hollow center is a different color than the outside. The outside is shiny; not dark grey like soft lead, and that looks like a machine-stamped fragmentation cut on the side. I could be wrong, but that sure looks like modern commercial ammo to me.

        I think they probably just used an off-the-shelf 3D model. Or else they did it this way because it looks more weapon-sexy, like the red-hot glow on the Gatling barrels. Yeah, they got hot, but that would be a non-functional gun at that point in real life.

      • Daedalus207 says:

        I believe you are correct. I shoot an 1851 Colt Navy replica, and while I normally fire round balls from it, cast bullets look pretty much exactly like the one in the graphic, down to the lube grooves in the rear that no modern jacketed bullet would have. The different colored indentation in my case is caused by the loading lever “cramming” the bullet into the chamber.

        This type of bullet was also used in early black powder cartridges, which would have been fired by the cartridge conversion pistols shown in the trailer and other commonly used cowboy revolvers such as the Colt Single Action Army.

        Of course, after being fired, the bullet would have some deformation from the soft lead being jammed through the forcing cone and the rifling.

  11. Freud says:

    Bound in Blood was terrible and monotone. I had to stop playing it a few hours in because it was whack-a-mole Western version. Add that for some insane reason the mouse sensitivity that worked in the game was completely useless for all the duels so I had to change it every time one came up.

    • honky mcgee says:

      Sure the game play was average at best. But no points for theme, voice-acting, setting, spaghetti western story? I can’t help but think the developers intended this as a ‘B’ movie and nobody got the joke.

      Tangent: I suppose if you fall into the ‘all games can and should be art category’ than it’s only natural that you judge them as such. /end rant.

  12. honky mcgee says:

    Every time I see a western on PC my mind drifts to thoughts of Red Dead Redemption and what could have been. Then I curse the name Walker and his merry band of pirates for taking this dream away from me.

    Then again, I’m sure it wasn’t piracy that prevented Rockstar from paying for a RDR port. They probably just figured there wasn’t a market on the PC for a critically acclaimed, multiple GOTY award winning western.

    • Zenicetus says:

      Someone will do a game like that for the PC, one of these days. It’s too rich a vein to tap for story-telling along with the gun play. I’m actually glad this new one looks so much *not* like what many of us are looking for, because it leaves that niche open. Hopefully…

      Then again, I keep hoping other forgotten genres will get resurrected too, like submarine games….

    • Mattressi says:

      Of course – it was the piracy that kept them away from the PC. That’s why Mojang won’t make any more PC games, why Blizzard’s going to make SC3 and D4 Xbox 2160 exclusives, why Bethesda will stop releasing construction kits for their games, etc, etc.

      Perhaps it’s the ghost of piracy that keeps some devs away, but it sure as hell isn’t any logical reason relating to the problem of piracy.

      • honky mcgee says:

        (sigh) kids these days and what passes as logic…oh well.

  13. McDan says:

    Well this sounds thoroughly excellent, that is all. Unless you want to know that I had spaghetti bolognase for dinner. It was quite good thanks.

  14. Fred S. says:

    Oh dear, all that gun violence. I hope those weapons have only seven round magazines. And did all those guys get background checks before they got their weapons? I ask only for information, of course. ;)

    • Premium User Badge

      darkChozo says:

      I was idly prompted to Google “old west crime statistics” based on this, and according to who you talk to, the west in ~1870 either had stricter gun control laws than present day, therefore proving how our standards have lapsed, or had much less violent crime then nowadays, proving how widespread gun use curbs violence.

      So, I dunno, food for thought. Also something about the interpretation of statistics and historical evidence.

      • Fred S. says:

        It depended a lot on where you looked. The more settled parts were building up territorial governments and high level corruption was taking over from low-level gunslinging.

      • Mattressi says:

        I would say it was neither of those options:

        Everything (statistical – not biased Brady Campaign emotional-plea crap and not inane NRA crap) I’ve read has suggested that gun laws have a negligible effect on murder rates (though some studies seemed to suggest it may lower other crime rates). The main thing which affects murder rates is culture. Almost all cities have a higher murder rate than almost all rural areas. Murder rates vary across racial groups, by gender, socio-economic status, and many other areas. If gun ownership had such a large effect on murder rates, Massachusetts and Montana would not have roughly the same murder rate (MA has around 10% gun ownership, while MT has around 60%), just as an example.
        I think the biggest problem in the whole debate is that pro-’gun control’ people consistently cite gun death statistics, rather than murder rates. This is a big issue for two reasons – firstly, “deaths” does not take into account rightful self defence cases; secondly, obviously in places with more guns people are more likely to use a gun when they are murdering someone. I imagine knife deaths and fist deaths are high in states with low gun ownership, but no one tries to ban kni…well, no one has yet tried to ban fists (I think…).

        Sorry for the rant – I like to get my foot in the door before the many anti-gun RPS commenters jump on this.

        • cawt says:

          This all good and well, but you forgot to mention one thing: Guns are infinitely more easy to use and efficient killing tools than knives or fists.

          obviously in places with more guns people are more likely to use a gun when they are murdering someone.

          I contend that, in the absence of a gun, most of the “murdering people” would reconsider their plan.

          Anyway, wouldn’t you agree that making it harder for people to kill each other is a good thing?

          Edit: quote fail success!

          • Mattressi says:

            Wouldn’t you agree that statistics regarding the murder rate are more reliable than your own feelings on the matter of murder?

            I shouldn’t get snarky, I guess. Why do you see an issue with people having access to guns if it can be shown that wider access to guns does not increase the murder rate?
            I also don’t know why guns are seen to make murdering someone easier? A bomb will kill more people more easily (and with less chance of the bomber being caught/shot), a knife will kill a single person just as easily as a gun (if you’re going to “spur of the moment” kill someone, surprising them with a knife to the chest will kill them as fast and easily as a bullet to the chest). Honestly, guns are better for self defence, in my opinion, than offence. In offence, you have the element of surprise and a gun does not give you much benefit in a civilian situation (that is, where people let you get close to them) since you don’t need the range provided, nor the capacity (even then, people have gone on knifing sprees and killed and injured many, usually killing less only because they were purposely trying to slice ears off and other horrible things like that). Besides that, a gun is more difficult to use in a tense situation (and for the average person, it is probably more difficult to aim and operate than stabbing with a knife), it can jam and it will very clearly tell everyone in a 0.5 kilometre radius (or more) that something is going down once it goes off.

            Don’t get me wrong, guns have many benefits over knives for killers, but not for the (as I see it, extremely rare) person who would not normally murder someone except that the opportunity presents itself. I imagine that if your theory were true (that most murderers wouldn’t murder if they had no guns), the statistics would reflect this in a big way – yet they show nothing of the sort.

          • cawt says:

            I would agree, but the MA/MT stats comparison doesn’t change the fact that you can’t kill anyone with a gun if you don’t have one :)

            I also don’t know why guns are seen to make murdering someone easier?

            Surely, you jest.

            Edit: usual quote fail pyrrhic victory.

          • Mattressi says:

            That’s my point, really – the main argument I hear from anti-gun people is that they want to take guns from people so that people won’t kill each other with guns. To them (and, apparently, you), murder rates do not matter. It seems that murders by gun are seen as being worse than murders by other means. Which confuses the hell out of me, because I’d rather be shot dead than beaten to death. Why are the guns your fixation, rather than the murders? Why is it that you desire to convert those murders by firearm into murders by knife/fists?

            And no, I surely do not jest. If you would take the time to read everything I wrote after that, you would see why. Perhaps you just enjoy picking out quotes to make “witty” remarks about them? I’m clearly talking about guns relative to knives. Please, explain to me why a gun makes it easier to murder one person than if you were to use a knife. The only advantage it provides for the average person is range, which is mostly unnecessary in regular civilian situations. It has the disadvantages of a limited number of uses (bullet capacity), extremely loud noise (you won’t be able to hear anything after you pull the trigger, and everyone within half a kilometre will hear the shot), inherently less reliable (knife has less moving parts and is less likely to malfunction so long as it isn’t a thin steak knife), blinding flash at night and it’s more complicated to use. Again, these are all disadvantages to the everyday murdering man (who I still insist is extremely rare). Please, for once, give me some kind of reason, rather than just a witty remark. Explain to me why guns are “infinitely more easy to use and efficient killing tools than knives or fists”. Hell, explain to me what makes them even just twice as good, if “infinitely” better is too difficult to justify.

          • cawt says:

            I have read everything you wrote, I happen not to agree with it.

            I didn’t feel the need to engage in the details for the simple reason that your premise is absurd. Are you seriously trying to prove that guns are no more dangerous than knives?

            Anyway that’s my stop, have a nice day :)

  15. int says:

    The gore is proper gorge!

  16. RuzzT says:

    The inclusion of the over-used “Wilhelm scream” causes me to immediately dislike this game. That stupid sound has been ruining movies for 60 years and now it’s tarnishing games? It’s ridiculous noise takes me completely out of the suspension of disbelief every damn time. I’m glad they included it in the trailer, because now I know to wait and not buy until enough reviews have been made confirming whether it’s in the game or not. If it is, then I’ll have nothing to do with it.

  17. orange says:

    I’m getting a Django Unchained vibe from that trailer. Love the gore and it looks like a genuinely fun game.
    Oh and I had no idea this game was supposed to have cartoony/cel shaded graphics. I just noticed, lol.

  18. MacTheGeek says:

    Call of Cowboy: Old-Timey Warfare.

  19. phastings says:

    (Invading another world as a black phantom)
    http://i81.servimg.com/u/f81/18/26/04/69/invade11.jpg
    this is a design made for the dark souls 2 shield contest. help get this original design some votes!. dark souls fans: i need your help, click link right mya and vote… http://i81.servimg.com/u/f81/18/26/04/69/invade11.jpg