Monday, 12 August 2013

Review: Call of Juarez: Gunslinger

I don't like cowboys; I don't see why people would be attracted to a period of time where dirty, sweaty, gruff men were glorified for being criminals. I may not understand the time; I just thought that I'd say that because, despite this, I warmed to the game in a way I didn't think I would. Gunslinger is a third person shooter, set in the wild west, with a very an arcade feel - as enemies come quick and die fast. Most levels consist of you fighting through waves of enemies and end in either a boss fight or a duel. Skilled shooting results in XP that lets you level up and fills up a bullet time meter that let you slow everything down. The game features a comprehensive, if somewhat short, story mode, as well as an arcade and a duel mode.
Gunslinger is an arcade style shooter where the player takes on the role of a bounty hunter, Silas Greaves, as he recounts the story of his past dealings with many of history's most infamous cowboys, and their bands of outlaws, to a few patrons in a saloon. The majority of the story is told whilst you are playing the game through conversations the characters in the saloon are having, though there are also some multiple picture cut-scenes that, whilst artistic, I found to be lacking. Over the course of the game you discover how Greave’s life intersects those of such figures as Billy the Kid, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
Gunslinger runs with the idea of an unreliable narrator and executes it brilliantly, as Greaves tells his tale he embellishes it along the way – rewriting the environment and events as you play through, changing how things happened as he remembers things differently, or corrects a discrepancy that someone else points out. The level that most successfully showcases this is about half way through the game; you play through two different versions of a bank heist, told by someone who was there and someone who read about the heist, before Greaves tells them how it actually happened. The unreliable narrator motif and arcade shooter mechanics are a perfect combination as it finally makes sense for one man to guns down hundreds.

The game mechanics are fun, but without the narration the game wouldn't be nearly as enjoyable, as the game often gets quite repetitive - especially if you don't change what weapons you use. There are three different tech trees that let you focus on either duel wielding, close-quarters combat or long range combat, however I found this tied me down, rather than giving me more choice.  The boss fights are dull, as they either consist of you filling a guy with bullets, or running between cover and blowing someone up with dynamite. I found that the final twist was way too predictable, from less than a third of the way through the game I knew how it would end - though the story doesn't have to be that interesting, as the way it is told is.

Overall I was impressed by the whole presentation of the game, the graphics and voice acting were done to a much higher level than I was expecting from a budget game. Gunslinger mixes familiarity and innovation in an interesting way, though struggles with repetitive combat and tired mechanics. The story mode only took me about 4 hours to complete and, whilst this is relatively short for a game, I was satisfied with where it ended.   

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