Call of Juarez: Gunslinger
Genre: First Person Shooter
Release Date (XBOX360): May 22, 2013 (EU & NA)
Release Date (PS3): May 21, 2013 (EU & NA)
Price: 14.99$ (Xbox Live Marketplace/PlayStation Store)
There are certain parts of history that seem like an endless supply of ideas for new stories and settings, and the Wild West is one of the greatest examples to prove that point. Call of Juarez Gunslinger uses that exact period in time to tell a great, believable and unexpected story using a combination of fictional stories and characters with actual events and legends from the American West. You play as Silas Greaves, one of the few fictional characters created to fill the bucket of an already enormous cast of Wild West legends, such as Billy the Kid, Jesse James or the Sundance Kid. The story unfolds as Silas Greaves tells more about his adventures to the young and old adventurers alike, listening to his stories at The Bull's Head Saloon.
His narration is part of what makes this story so unique, as things will happen and events will chance according to the story he tells you and the interaction he has with the other characters taking part in the conversation at the saloon, adding things according to how they recall it happened or approving of things that Silas says, adding more context to the story. While the story is relatively small, taking around six hours to complete, the places you visit and enemies you will fight will make each moment of it feel memorable and unique, as you will one moment go head to head against one of the Dalton brothers, only to face Jesse James himself shooting a gatling gun your way the next one. In the same manner the locations will differ, offering a new and refreshing experience with each chapter, taking you from a vast canyon to a cave, only to then end up on a moving train, being a part of one of the biggest events in the American West history.
In a crowd of modern military first person shooters, Gunslinger manages to stand out by using intuitive and easy to use mechanics that reward you based on how you play and give you the option to choose in which direction you want to go forward. This feature comes as a result of the skill tree, that allows you to unlock a new skill each time you level up, which can be done by collecting enough experience of course. Depending on how you play and manage your abilities you might earn you more or less experience, but the game never stops you from earning more, even after you get to the end of the game, as the New Game Plus mode will allow you to start a new game with a different difficulty level while carrying over all your unlocked skills and remaining experience points.
There are two main abilities that will be unlocked from the start, with the option to improve or modify how those work and how long it takes for them to charge, and using them in an efficient way will prove to be the key later the game or in arcade mode if you're going for the highest score. Bullet time will slow down time, highlighting the enemies ahead of you and giving you a better chance at scoring headshots and combos, while bullet dodge will automatically activate when you are low on health and about to get hit by a fatal bullet, allowing you to move left or right in order to avoid it. Aside from the campaign, the arcade mode works in a similar way, allowing you to choose at the beginning of each level a specific loadout and unlock more skills to use with that loadout and improve the possible outcome as you play more and earn more experience.
Call of Juarez Gunslinger might not be the best looking game out there, but its unique art style does a great job hiding that, as the game's art style comes pretty close to what you would see on the cover of a dime novel, and with Silas' constant narration of the story, the entire game feels like you were actually experiencing the wild stories of the west seen through the eyes of Silas Greaves. The visual effects, while not stunning, manage to mix in with the scenery in a way that makes them feel natural and a part of the environment, even if some times they are out of place. The highest detail was of course put into the wild west legends themselves, making characters such as Jesse James look stunning and closely to what you would imagine him to look like if you were to stand right next to him.
While it might not be as memorable and big as the soundtrack of other western themed games such as Red Dead Redemption, the tracks that are here manage to always stay in the mood with the action and when one of those rare moments of less shooting and more beauty comes along, there is always a good tune to add to the view. The voice acting is excellent and while some of the characters which are only part of Silas' story and do not actually stand with him in the saloon rarely speak, the ones that do take part in the dispute happening at the saloon over facts and how things went down are treated with a high quality voice that makes them come to life, with the honorable mention of Silas Greaves himself which is the narrator for most of the stories.
The campaign can be completed within six hours, but the fact that the story has two possible outcomes and that the New Game Plus mode which will unlock once you have completed the game for the first time allows you to start a new campaign and keep all your progress at the same time makes this experience be worth at least another replay. Aside from that you have the Duel Mode which is a recollection of all the duels throughout the story where you can improve your reaction time and compete for the highest scores, and Arcade Mode which is all about the leaderboards and the stars you can earn. There is no multiplayer mode, but with all there is to do as it is, you can easily spend around 15 hours in the game without even realizing it.
Call of Juarez Gunslinger is one of the best western experiences to date, and while it not might be as full of content as other titles on the market, it manages to tell an interesting story by using actual Wild West legends in combination with some newly created characters that have their unique personalities and role into the story. Aside from that, for the 15 bucks you pay for the game at full price, you get at least 15 hours of pure entertainment and maybe even more if you're digging the arcade mode and aim for a top position on the leaderboards.