Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Review: Call of Juarez

Will you answer? - Over the last few weeks the movie “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” (starring Lucas Black and kid rapper Bow Wow) has been on HBO about 379 times. At first, I didn’t pay attention to it knowing that it’s a part of the underwhelming “Fast and Furious” trilogy. But after catching parts of it here and there I started watching it, sometimes even TiVoing it, and suddenly it’s a decent movie. Or maybe I’m just bored.
The new shoot’em up western “Call of Juarez” is a lot like “Tokyo Drift.” It starts off disappointing; just another lame summer release to kill some time with while waiting for “Madden” and “Mass Effect.” But after working through it and getting used to it, a decent game is unveiled. Or maybe I’m just bored.
In “Call of Juarez” gamers take turns playing as Billy Candle, a screw up trying to clear his name, and Reverend Ray, Billy’s preacher uncle and a one time gunfighter ala Clint Eastwood in “Pale Rider”. Each character has their own unique skills and abilities. Ray is stronger and can kick and carry heavy objects. He wears armor, usually packs two six-shooters and has a bullet time-like feature called Concentration Mode. He can also blast bad guys with a gun in one hand while quoting scripture from a Bible in the other. Cool!
Then there’s the other guy. Billy can hide in bushes so he can’t be seen and can climb onto rocks and crates. He also uses a bow and arrow. Wow! Its like summer camp! Billy has no armor, which means he can’t take much punishment and has the effect of killing him if he falls five feet. In other words, he’s a wimp. Billyboy does have a whip that he uses to smack wolves and swing from branches onto ledges. This sounds like a cool Indian Jones-type feature but unless you nail your landing like an Olympic gymnast, prepare to fall to your death again and again. Not cool, and the games glaring flaw.
The uneven characters create off-kilter game play. For Ray life consists of running around the attractive looking environments, shooting the hats off bad guys and then finishing them off with a verse from the Book of Revelations. At the end of each level, there’s a quick draw duel with a boss. The Ray levels are fast paced and full of action. Since Billy isn’t as strong or as well armed, gamers spend most of their time skulking around, doing odd jobs like sneaking into his girlfriend’s house undetected or “permanently borrowing” some poor guys horse and not getting caught. There are the occasional fights and horseback rides (camp again!) but poor Billy just isn’t suited for it. While I appreciate a change of pace as much as the next gamer, the difference between the two characters is too great and slows the action, and fun, to a halt.
Despite the Dr. Jekyl/Mr. Boring game play, “Juarez” has a lot of other things to offer. The graphics are solid, the audio has nice sound effects and cheesy dialogue, there’s a lot to do when the single player is over (an enjoyable multi-player mode, a number of gun duels and extra non-story related missions) and the game has a unique game play setting – the old west.
“Call of Juarez” doesn’t reinvent the genre of the western first person shooter but it is a fun, goofy game with plenty to keep you busy. Better yet, its a good way to spend some time while waiting for the big guns this fall.
Call of Juarez
Cost: $49.99 - $59.99
Players: One (16 Online)
Formats: Xbox 360, PC
Category: First Person Shooter (FPS)
Rating: Mature (17+)
You take the good: Plenty to do, fun genre, Reverend Ray
You take the bad: Uneven game play, poor whip targeting system, Billy
And then you have – The Grade: B-

1 comment:

Eli the Mad Man said...

I reviewed the European PC version of this game about 6 months ago. Although I can't find the damn thing on GameDaily now.(sigh) I loved it. Think I gave it an 8 or 9.

I tried contacting Techland (makers of the very underrated game Chrome from a few years back) about why they released it over there that far in advance and not here in the US - home of "Cowboys and Indians." Never got a reply.

One of our console gurus (who lives up in Denver) liked the 360 version even less than you. He only gave it a 6/10.

And I suspect there's two reasons why. First, the port sucked. PC gamers have been "enjoying" uber sucktastic shoddy pieces of crap port jobs for years. YOUR TURN! ;) Second, shooters and gamepads go together about as well as Rosie O'fatty and Donald Combover. They just don't work. They're not nearly as accurate as a PC's mouse and keyboard. No,this is not an opinion but a long established stone cold fact. Period. Dot. Exclamation point. ;)

The whip problem you experienced was not an issue in the PC version, and the character swaps were perfectly fluid - not at all jarring.

Like I said, I absolutely loved CoJ on the PC. Waiting to get the US version to see what (if any) the differences are.

Too bad they didn't make this GFW LIVE compatible. ;)