Changing the pace of the Call of Juarez franchise was arguably essential after the poor reception to the last outing, Call of Juarez: The Cartel, and so that’s exactly what Ubisoft has done. Coming to Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC via digital channels next month, Call of Juarez: Gunslinger is a return to the wild west, but more than that it’s a return to the standout gunplay that got Techland’s series noticed in the first place.
Beginning with a cutscene introducing the characters and the intriguing narration setup for the story, Call of Juarez: Gunslinger may be a but ham-fisted in it’s delivery but it nevertheless manages to grab the player’s attention. You are a legendary gunfighter, and you’re about to tell that legend to any who will listen.
Launching into the gameplay it’s revealed that, en route back to your hideout, you were ambushed by a rival. Playing through the sequence Electronic Theatre witnessed several months ago, your first encounter is with two slow witted enemies that teach you to shoot first and ask questions later. You can earn experience points by killing enemies, an on-screen prompt offers, with gaining levels leading to new abilities. Wasting no time in ramping up the action, the player is taught that the RB button (R1 on PlayStation 3) will enable the Concentration Mode, slowing time and highlighting enemies. A meter on the top left on the screen controls the availability of Concentration Mode, filling with each kill accumulated.
And with that small gang taken down, a quick lesson in ducking and your first ‘secret’ collected, you are able to level up for the very first time. There are three skill categories available – Gunslinger, Ranger and Trapper – but with only one skill point to spend, you best choose wisely. Electronic Theatre opted for the Gunslinger category, unlocking the ability to dual wield pistols. Fighting to clear a path past a water tower and around the back of the house, upon arriving Billy the Kid and his gang are waiting inside. Safety in numbers, perhaps, but the mission wasn’t yet over. Given a shotgun and slinging the windows open, it’s a case of you-or-them. You better make sure it’s them.
Dropping enemies like flies, supporting the rear, they just keep coming. Billy the Kid comes up with a plan, and you’re the lynchpin. Outside and off to find the horses, Billy draws the enemy fire in the hope of giving you a clear run. Of course, nothing is ever that simple. Another half-dozen will fall at your hands – including an enemy with the smarts to protect himself more appropriately – before you make it to the barn and learn how to melee. Out the back, taking down yet another dozen, and finally the stables are in sight. And that’s when you met Pat Garrett.
This encounter is to be treated as a boss fight, as it uses entirely different mechanics to the bulk of the videogame. Playing on third-person, the challenge is to keep the enemy within the on-screen reticule to build your focus counter. When your opponent reaches for their gun it’s time to hit the right trigger to fire that shot, and hope that your percentage is high enough to land a deadly bullet. This isn’t the end though, there’s more to this story than meets the eye, and Electronic Theatre will bring you more details on Call of Juarez: Gunslinger in the near future.