It’s high noon.
The wind blows from the east, howling softly in your ears as tumbleweeds roll across the dusty empty streets. You see your enemy in the distance, his eyes fixed on you, his hand getting ever so close to his holster and the six-shooter in it. You keep your hand close, but not too close to your own. Sweat trickles across your brow as you hear your heartbeat getting louder and stronger with every beat. The bell could chime any moment now and you realise that a split-second will be the difference between who walks away on his feet this day.
[singlepic id=1161 w=450 float=center]
Adrenaline kicks in, everything else becomes a blur. It’s just you, your enemy and your trusty six-shooter. The bell chimes, time comes to a standstill, and in one swift movement you draw your gun and pull the trigger. The gunshot echoes through the town while you pray it was your gun that made it. Slowly time starts moving again and your vision begins to clear. You’re still standing.
You were quick and your enemy is dead.
Congratulations, you’ve just survived one of the many boss fights in Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood, the new western-themed first-person shooter from developer Techland and Ubisoft. And now I would like apologise for the rather cheesy opening paragraph, but the game is so drenched in its spaghetti western atmosphere that starting the review any other way just wouldn’t have been fair.
[singlepic id=1160 w=450 float=center]
Bound in Blood is essentially a prequel to the 2006 shooter Call of Juarez, a game which, despite being a pretty damn good title, went mostly under the radar. Those who played it loved it but unfortunately it was never able to rise amongst the many mediocre shooters that get released every year thanks to some rather frustrating issues with the gameplay.
However, fans of the first game will be happy to know that the prequel is a huge improvement on pretty much everything in the first game. For starters, the stealth-based levels which almost everyone hated are nowhere to be seen this time around. Instead, the levels are designed in a way that stealth can be an option, but is generally not required. The shooting mechanics have been improved a lot and the guns feel a lot more powerful and different from each other.
[singlepic id=1162 w=450 float=center]
The game tells the story of the McCall Brothers – Thomas and Ray (who was also one of the main protagonists in the first game) and their younger brother William who happens to be a priest and becomes an unwilling ally during the course of the game. The story is told from William’s point of view through various in-game cutscenes and voice-overs during loading screens between missions. Thomas and Ray are both playable in the single-player mode and pretty much all missions give you a choice to play as either character at the start.
The game starts with the brothers fighting alongside the Confederate Army during the American Civil War. This section of the game also doubles as the tutorial. However they are forced to abandon their military duties when they learn of the Union Army invading their home town. I wouldn’t like to spoil the plot beyond that as the story is one of the highlights of the game. It’s not terribly original and, like most western movies, it becomes quite predictable at times, but it’s entertaining nevertheless. The brilliant voice acting and well written dialog really adds a lot and keeps driving you forward. By the end, the game will take you through almost every single western movie cliché and set pieces ranging from stagecoach chases, daring jailbreaks, Apache raids and numerous quick-draw gunfights with villains, among others. There are some very memorable sections in the game which I’m sure you will want to go through more than once.
[singlepic id=1163 w=450 float=center]
Call of Juarez: Bound In Blood may be categorised as a first-person shooter, but don’t let that fool you. Yes, pumping enemies full of lead forms a large part of the gameplay, but it also has some other neat tricks up its sleeve that separate it from the usual mediocre FPS ilk. As I mentioned before, the game gives you can option to play as either Thomas or Ray. The way these two characters play is vastly different from each other. Thomas is the more stealthy and agile of the two brothers and can use his lasso to reach places that Ray cannot. The use of the lasso is mostly scripted, but it still does add some variety. Thomas is also better at using long range weapons such as various rifles and the bow as well as knives for some quick stealthy kills. However, he is also the weaker of the two and is more vulnerable to enemy fire than Ray is. So if you’re looking for a little more than just running around guns-blazing capping enemies left, right and centre, then Thomas is your man.
As you might have guessed, Ray plays exactly the opposite of Thomas and prefers engaging enemies up close usually with various types of handguns and shotguns. He can also dual-wield handguns and use dynamite, which Thomas cannot. This doesn’t make too much sense, since using dynamite isn’t really rocket science as evident from Looney Tunes, and it’s clearly done simply to compensate for Thomas’ lasso ability.
[singlepic id=1158 w=450 float=center]
Still, giving you an option to play as either character is a noteworthy addition to the game, which brings me to a rather obvious omission – co-op. The game literally begs for an option to play it co-operatively with the another player. The levels are designed around that; the story is about two brothers and almost every mission features both of them. So the lack of a co-op option is a rather glaring omission. With that said, playing solo through the story is quite a rewarding experience in itself thanks to the varied missions and a well-written plot.
Next page: The verdict