Ubisoft Call of Juarez
- Interesting setting and characters, period-specific weapons are a blast to use.
- The game is poor on a nuts-and-bolts level, platforming sequences are awful.
Call of Juarez will entertain anyone who is tired of identikit FPS clones. However, the uneven gameplay often resembles a ghost town -- one for cowboy fans only.
Price$ 109.95 (AUD)
The biggest complaint lodged against the FPS genre is that there is little diversity amongst the themes and settings used in the games: distant planets, WWII and modern cities clearly dominate the landscape.
Sure, these settings have been put to good use but there's always room for another interesting motif. That's why it's strange that the Wild West hasn't been properly represented: after all, the mysterious gunslinger archetype is a natural fit for the genre. In fact, aside from a handful of titles--the best of which is still, in my opinion, LucasArts' decade old Outlaws--the dusty trails haven't been mined for all their worth.
We're Not In Kansas Anymore
So it's refreshing to see a developer--in this case, the Poland based Techland--venture into this rich and fascinating time period. Call of Juarez is noteworthy simply because it doesn't rely upon every tired genre convention. It isn't a great game by any stretch, but it is a welcome break from laser pistols and M1-Garands. It has its moments but it's deeply flawed, and truth be told, the game is best as a weekend rental worth checking out. Call of Juarez' story revolves around standard plot conventions revenge, murder, greed, redemption but moves along nicely. It rotates between the two main characters and there's some interesting crossover in the two narratives, but it doesn't reinvent the Western genre. However, the voice acting is done incredibly well and the characters, whose personalities fall into expected cliches, are still interesting. The gunplay is also fun, and again, most of the joy derives from using period-specific weapons. Six shooters and rifles dominate, and though there isn't much variety in your arsenal, popping the cowboy hat off some hombre's head at a thousand paces is pretty satisfying.
But beyond that, the game is rather poor. The action is sporadic and unevenly paced; you'll spend more time roaming around on foot or horseback than trading lead with scummy desperadoes. Also, the developers seem to think that complex platforming sequences have a place in an FPS game. Guess what, guys? They don't. Leave the jumping and climbing alone and focus on the gunplay next time.
At its best, the game is a fun and interesting diversion, but it's rarely at its best. It's a good first effort and I personally hope it's a sign of more to come. And here's a bold prediction: once developers get tired of beating the WWII horse to death, it's a sure bet that the Wild West will be the next bold frontier they explore. Or at least, it should be.
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