Call of Juarez: Gunslinger review



May 4, 2013

Following Call of Juarez's ill-advised ride into a modern day setting in 2011's The Cartel - a game that was, at best, culturally insensitive, with its facetious take on the contemporary drug wars in Mexico - we're back to the stirrups and sunsets of the series' spaghetti western beginnings. Techland's series has in the past offered one of the better Call of Duty clones, but in the context of download gaming, where the emphasis is on leanness of ideas and execution, there's a fizzy pungency that was hitherto lacking.

Nevertheless, the debt owed to Infinity Ward's Modern Warfare titles remains vast. The games share an almost exact feel. Muscle memory learned in one translates to the other button for button - even if the set dressing is entirely different. Tanks are recast as station wagons, grenades are regressed to hurled sticks of dynamite, while more resourceful enemies wield heavy barn doors instead of the modern Juggernaut's polymer riot shield. Gone are the crimson smears around the screen's edges that indicate when your character is wounded, replaced by gunshot holes that temporarily rupture the glass, obscuring your view. But in the basic exchange between player input and on-screen output, Gunslinger fits the hand like a well-worn cowboy glove.

Higher tiers of ideas and systems upset the routine of this increasingly dusty first-person shooter template. As you keel enemy shooters off these sand-bruised rooftops, you earn experience points that unlock skills that can be spent on upgrading your weapons and abilities. Augments are split into three groupings, which broadly correlate to your three firearms: pistol, shotgun and rifle. The wide array of skills on offer allows you to alter the game's tempo and character in discernible ways as, for example, you learn how to dual wield shotguns, reload your guns while sprinting, steady your aim, slow time when aiming down the iron-sights, or how to shoot thrown bundles of dynamite, exploding them mid-air. Your chosen allocation of points demands changes to your tactics, meaning one playthrough can differ significantly from another.

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