Impressions – Call of Juarez: Bound In Blood

The major surprise about Call of Juarez 2 is that the “Call of” turns out to be just as important as the Western-evoking “Juarez.” For while the first game was a bold melting-pot of stealth, exploration and apocalyptic Bible-quotation, it rather seems like this wants to be Call of Duty: Cowboy Warfare.

It’s quite the tonal shift, but it’s not hard to see why developers Techland have elected to go in this direction. The public at large, after all, really likes Call of Duty, but both the World War II and modern combat themes do have a certain whiff of over-familiarity to them at times. Cowboys’n’injuns, though? Not a lot of that. With Rockstar’s recently-announced Red Dead Revolver 2 on the Arizonian horizon and Neversoft’s never-confirmed Gun 2 possibly still in development, it looks like we might be in for something of a Western trend.

Story-wise, CoJ 2 is a prequel to the first game, documenting the events that led to one of CoJ 1’s two protagonists, Ray Cooper, become an amusingly OTT fire’n’brimstone preacher. So, we’re pinged back to the American Civil War, as Cooper and his brother go AWOL from the Confederate army, only to be pursued by their vengeful former commander. Being both vengeful and a pro-slavery asshat, we can expect this fella to be quite the rotter. In the first mission, however, you’re throw into a veryCod-esque 1864 trench battle against the Yankees. It’s explosive, it’s good-looking and it’s pretty intense – a far cry from CoJ1’s rough-edged relative quietness.

The stealth character of the first game, Billy, is both gone and lacking a direct equivalent here. Instead, there’s a choice of two Coopers – the tank-like Ray, and the more agile, sniperesque Thomas. For most missions you’ll get to pick your preferred Cooper, for others a specific bro is mandatory. Sounds ideal for co-op play, but there’ll be no such mode – because, apparently, of the inherent troubles of the player’s slow-motion powers, and because Ray and Tom eventually turn on each other. Drama!

Techland claim Thomas’s grappling hook allows for some rooftop acrobatics, but we’ll have to see how that plays out – what I saw was strictly run’n’gun fare. Strictly linear too, but apparently there’ll be some greater degree of freedom (details of which they refused to share yet) later in the game.

Doubtless, this’ll be related to the horse riding – which is one of several places any COD comparison stops. You might be restricted to specific paths, but the sheer scale of the outdoor locations is startling – vast vistas, very deliberately designed to evoke classic cowboy movie scenery. Adding to this hyper-real sensibility are the aforementioned concentration powers, of which there are four, all of which involve slow-motion to some extent. The dual-pistol, dual-crosshair mode of CoJ1 returns, or you can queue up a bunch of perfect shots in advance then let ’em have it as one quickfire barrage of flawless death. A shoot-from-the-hip duel power sounds perfectly John Wayne, too. Add to that steampunk gatling guns, stagecoach heists, canoe mini-games, a mouse-waggling lasso power and refreshing colourfulness, and we’ve got something a whole lot sillier than CoD after all.

Call of Juarez 2 may all about the true grit, but it’s also knowingly cartoonish. While it’s faintly upsetting that a compellingly different series has sidestepped into the mainstream quite so much, hopefully its playfulness in the face of so many oh-so-grey Gears of War and CoD imitators will make it something special. Have a trailer to see what I mean:

50 Comments

  1. Xercies says:

    I groaned when I saw that it ould be a COD ripoff, guess I won’t be picking this one up.

  2. Fat says:

    @ Xercies : Why is any ‘on-rails’ FPS a CoD ripoff? It was done before CoD. :/

    Did you play the first CoJ? Was a refreshing change, imo.

  3. NuZZ says:

    Graphics rox my sox.

  4. amoe says:

    i’m looking forward to this game. the first CoJ sure had some big flaws but i still enjoyed it a lot.

  5. Turin Turambar says:

    Ugh, someone puked CoD all over CoJ.

  6. Ian says:

    I’d have muched preferred they just improve on the formula of the first one. I know we won’t be looking at one running from/avoiding the other initially, but it could easily have been done so that Tom is the one sneaking about and doing things quietly while Ray blasts his way through and kicks ass. Some of Billy’s sections in the first game were frustrating but whipping somebody smack dab in the middle of their face was always satisfying.

    Hopefully the general feel remains and the quick-draw gunplay is still fun, but I fear they might be taking what made the game interesting and making it considerably more average.

    Here’s to me over-reacting. :)

  7. TariqOne says:

    Don’t forget Damnation. More cowboys. The varmints are everywhere.

  8. Matt Kemp says:

    Anyone know what the music was? Sounds kinda western-funky.

  9. Pags says:

    Aren’t they the McCall brothers, not the Cooper brothers?

  10. Optimaximal says:

    Sounds ideal for co-op play, but there’ll be no such mode – because, apparently, of the inherent troubles of the player’s slow-motion powers, and because Ray and Tom eventually turn on each other. Drama!

    Worked for the original LEGO Star Wars…

  11. reiver says:

    Well at least it hasn’t aped the retarded “PRESS F TO…” grafitti that stains my screen in the recent CoD games.

    Looks quite good though. I liked the queing up shots thing, very Desperados.

  12. TwistyMcNoggins says:

    Semi-automatic cannons? Sold!

  13. Stuk says:

    +1 for the music. Anyone have any ideas?

    I think it looks quite fun! Never played the first, so don’t have any nostalgia to bring to it though.

    I just hope the “whoa, I’m slightly drunk” motion blur is turned down a bit.

  14. Koopa says:

    Needs more bible quotes.

  15. jsutcliffe says:

    Every time I read about this game, I’m reminded I have CoJ sitting in a box somewhere unplayed (Newegg were kind enough to send it to me with my video card). I really ought to dig it out.

  16. Resin says:

    man, the models and environments look great, I love the idea of a civil war series, but those voices actors just stunk and the notion of another railroad track linear game – meh, just don’t care – “how big a snake?” /facepalm
    my 3 year old could write better dialogue than that.

  17. Pavel says:

    CoJ 1 was awesome.Might pick this up.

  18. Azazel says:

    It’s about time someone tried to do Sergio Leone in game form; God knows they keep trying it in the cinema often enough…

  19. DigitalSignalX says:

    So 1864 is the new 1942? Aside from apparently never having to reload.. even cannons, it looks interesting.

  20. futage says:

    Looks powerful interesting.

  21. Fumarole says:

    What the hell does this have to do with Call of Duty? You people are weird.

  22. Jim Rossignol says:

    Fumarole: it’s far more about the scripted shooting than the original CoJ game, hence Alec’s analysis, and the association with the “Call of” prefix with Call Of Duty. DYS?

  23. Rick says:

    I’m intrigued simply because you don’t get many Western games. While it may end up being a CoD-in-the-US-Civil-War, it’s setting alone would make a change from the overdone Second World War and modern warfare setttings used by so many other games. Even with CoD-ish gameplay, it has the opportunity to develop a decent, engaging story with characters one would actually care about, something yet to be achieved by Call of Duty.

  24. Spatch says:

    It’s about time someone tried to do Sergio Leone in game form

    Well, Lucasarts had Outlaws. It was a passable attempt, wasn’t it?

  25. MrFake says:

    That was pretty risque, showing that chick’s naked, tanned, leathery ass like that.

    Oh wait. Silly me. I got a closer look at her talking, and she seems to be a marionette.

  26. unclelou says:

    Great looks, not so sure about the rest.

    Red Dead Redemption, as little as we know about it, might end up being more interesting. If only they’d announced it for less obscure systems. :)

  27. Radiant says:

    I /loved/ playing the original Call Of Juarez [thanks RPS!].
    Hopefully Call of Duty: Juarez takes the best bits of Modern Warfare and rubs some CoJ 1 into it’s shoulders.

  28. Radiant says:

    Did I just write videogame slash fic???
    kill me; kill me now.

  29. Fumarole says:

    Oh, I savvy alright. Guess I should RTFA eh?

  30. Guhndahb says:

    Wow this is a shame. While CoJ had it’s rough edges, I really liked it. It was my favorite western shooter since Lucas Arts’ Outlaws. I don’t dislike CoD or anything, and I quite enjoyed Modern Warfare, but I’d much rather see an update & new story for a more direct CoJ successor.

  31. O.DOGG says:

    I think this might be good. I enjoyed the original quite a bit. In fact, I think it was one of the few games I finished in one sitting. I enjoyed it so much. I guess I’ll give it a chance, and form my own opinion. The trailer looks good, too.

  32. amoe says:

    now that i think about it i’d somehow really love to play a world war one ‘call of duty’. those epic trench battles would be a perfect setting for an FPS… imho

  33. malkav11 says:

    They’re really not. WWI trench warfare was a looooot of sitting and waiting while being shelled, gassed, and generally murdered in place, split up by suicide charges into heavy machine gun fire.

    You could get some exciting stuff out of maybe one such charge, ending up in a crazed close-quarters battle in the enemy trenches…but I don’t think it’d have much more mileage than that.

  34. Muzman says:

    If you just did the Somme that’s probably what you’d get but you could probably have some fun with stuff like this and this
    (although they represent tactical innovations that broke the stalemate and led to the end of the war. Still; Zepplins are cool).

  35. Paul Moloney says:

    There was a WW1 mod for Half-Life that was incredibly realistic. At least, you spawned in a trench, tried to run to an enemy trench, died in a few seconds, and then respawned. (Well, obviously the respawning wasn’t so realistic.)

    P.

  36. Martin K says:

    I, too, enjoyed Call of Juarez. It was bizarre and off-kilter, but incredibly charming nonetheless.

  37. catmorbid says:

    this looked awesome =) Way more interesting than any of those call-of-duty-sorry-excuse-for-a-game ripoffs *yawns* ;)

  38. Tunips says:

    The music seems very reminiscent of Muse’s Knights of Cydonia. Enough to give the impression without breaching copyright, I’d wager.

  39. heartless_ says:

    Finally, a game in a setting where EXPLODING BARRELS and WOODEN CRATES make damn sense.

  40. J. Edgar Hoover says:

    Since there have been so many WW2 based call of duty games, they really should release one based on WW1. Anyone ever play “The Darkness”? There’s this badass level where you’re in some kind of WW1 hell, and it is truly frightening.

  41. Charlie says:

    Wouldn’t a Co-op game where you turn on each other at the end be cool though? Instead of an end boss you could just face off against each other. I would enjoy that!

    Like someone already said, Lego Star Wars did it, and it would be cool for it to be in a more serious game.

  42. Heliocentric says:

    @charlie
    Streets of rage offered that very option about 15 years ago. The big bad asks you to join him, if you both say yes he sends you back 2 levels. If you both say no you kick his ass. But if one says yes and the other no you have a 1 on 1 fight until one of you runs out of lives. And then the previous logic is inacted on the winner.

  43. Katsumoto (jvgp100) says:

    Good spot on Red Dead etc. Lou! I’ll keep a closer eye on that certainly.

    The original CoJ was one of the most underrated games in years imo, I absolutely loved it. Even the menu music got me excited in ways I didn’t think possible. So yeah, let’s hope this doesn’t stray as much as you seem to think it will. Alas, you’re probably right.

  44. Igor Hardy says:

    I played a bit of the original, but while some ideas were fun it was incredibly linear and restrictive. You had to go through every part exactly the way as the script required of you. It felt so artificial that I finally given up completely.

  45. waffles says:

    This reminds me how awesome a attack/defend map for Fistful of Frags would be.

  46. A-Scale says:

    CoJ 1 was a tremendous and underrated game. I have extremely high hopes for this title.

  47. Al3xand3r says:

    That pre-aiming then unleashing the lead looks like that Red Steel mechanic, lol.

    Game looks fun, can’t wait to try it.

  48. Aiden says:

    Gun duel please! Ah, the story is disappointing me.

  49. Frye says:

    The original had a bible as a weapon. What’s not to like? First game where you can you quote from the bible before sending your foes to damnation.

  50. Paul says:

    Shoot first read the bible latter, he already knows he’s in hell when both barrels say howdy!

    I played the first but by the looks of this i’m sencing some Good, bad and ugly linnear gameplay