Call of Juarez: Gunslinger (PC)

By Matthew Winchester-Arlow

Published on Thursday, May 23, 2013

‘Evening strangers. Toss me a beer and I’ll tell you a tail of a true badass. A man who lost everything. Who committed himself to vengeance and went toe to toe with the baddest of the bad in the wild west and came out on top. A man with a hide of iron and balls of steel. GET DOWN -BLAM- don’t mind the bandits (slide whistle). Who is that dangerous man that I speak of you might ask? That man is me; Silas Greaves, professional bounty hunter.

Call of Juarez: Gunslinger is the fourth game in the Call of Juarez series, and has absolutely nothing to do with previous three games. You play as Silas Greaves, a bounty hunter out for revenge after the murder of his brothers. During this surprisingly well told tale of a roaring rampage of revenge, Silas indulges in just about every spaghetti western trope in existence while shooting every man from Kansas to Mexico stupid enough to wear a bandana, long coat, top hat or fedora. Sometimes while on a train, generally while stuff is exploding. Yes. It is both awesome and fun.

Gunslinger features some pretty standard first person gunplay mixed with a Bulletstorm-esque score attack mechanic that rewards the player for killing large numbers of enemies as quickly as possible. While Gunslinger lacks Bulletstorm’s insane number of ways to kill enemies with the environment, it more than makes up for that deficiency with a unique gameplay twist necessitated by the “Wild West” setting: no hand held automatic weapons. That one, seemingly minor change completely upends the conventional rhythm of gunplay found in most first person shooters. Accuracy is a lot more important when you only have six shots in your gun. You’re on a rampage, but it’s a controlled one; you always have to think about balancing shooting, reloading, and desperately running for cover in the rotting remnants of that mountain cabin before that crazy sumbitch with the gatling gun takes your head off.

The gameplay is fun, tight, and rewards care and precision. Every time I died it was because I did something stupid like blow through all of the bullets in my revolvers while standing out in the open. There were one or two fights where enemies attacked from every direction that were rather frustrating, as well as a few QTE’s that seemingly demanded Lone Ranger level reflexes to not fail on the first attempt. There is also a showdown mechanic used when fighting some of the bosses in the game that, while occasionally frustrating (I had to retry some of the showdowns more than I would like to admit), do a remarkable job of capturing the “feel” of the classic western showdown (and eventually the Mexican Standoff). There is also a skill tree (that’s pretty basic) and a “sense of death” mechanic that allows you to occasionally dodge what would otherwise be a fatal bullet. Checkpoints are very generously spaced, and I rarely felt frustrated after dying due to the fact that I rarely lost more than a minute of progress. When all is said and done, I really have very little to complain about in the gameplay department.

The art design of Gunslinger is interesting. It’s not completely abstract or cel-shaded like Borderlands, but it isn’t all that realistic either. If anything the art style most reminded me of a fully colored version of the classic “Wanted: Dead or Alive” posters seen in so many westerns. The cutscenes further serve to reinforce that aesthetic by consisting entirely of hand-drawn stills. Think the original Max Payne, only a bit more static. Lighting and shadows look reasonably nice, and I would rate the explosions to be at “better than average.” Performance was pretty smooth at medium to high settings at 1080p on my laptop, and I didn’t notice any dips in framerate even when there were a lot of enemies and explosions on screen. Occasionally the game did try to wow me with visual spectacle and for the most part it succeeded (then again, it’s pretty hard to not make a massive gun battle on a moving train look spectacular). The visuals are slightly above average, nicely stylized, and don’t get in the way.

Gunslinger sounds amazing. It has some of the best sound design I have heard in a game in a good long time. The voice acting is universally excellent, with well written dialogue and enthusiastic performances. The soundtrack fits the setting perfectly and is just a pleasure to listen to. The best part however, is the guns. They sound meaty, and just feel satisfying to fire. Just pulling the trigger on a shotgun makes you feel like you just got punched in the face. The guns don’t sound quite as good as those from the god of guns sounds, RAGE, but they come pretty gorram close.

This is the point where I usually unleash my hornet-like swarm of nitpicks, but aside from my previously-mentioned complaint, about quick-time events, I have very little to go on. The Gunslinger does very little wrong, and many things right. It’s Bulletstorm directed by Sergio Leone, only with the dissonance between story and gameplay. It’s a genuinely fun experience that is executed at a high level of polish. I did not notice a single bug or laddergoat during the five hours it took me to finish the game, and at the end of the day I am really impressed. This is the second bite size AAA title that Ubisoft has released as part of what is beginning to look like an excellent new business strategy. First Blood Dragon, and now this. A few months ago an Ubisoft executive mentioned that he thought the future of games lay in smaller, cheaper AAA titles sold at lower prices but still sporting AAA production values. If games like Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon and Call of Juarez: Gunslinger are what he had in mind, I am very excited for what Ubisoft has in mind for the future. Call of Juarez: Gunslinger is available now for the extremely reasonable price of $15. Like Blood Dragon, it offers a lot of entertainment for its budget price point, and doesn’t outstay its welcome. And neither will I. See you ’round, pardner.
Call of Juarez: Gunslinger on Green Man Gaming

System Requirements:

OS:Windows® XP (SP3) / Windows Vista® (SP2) / Windows® 7 (SP1) / Windows® 8
Processor:2 GHz Intel® Core™2 Duo or 2 GHz AMD Athlon™ 64 X2
Memory:2 GB RAM
Graphics:512 MB DirectX® 9.0c–compliant
Hard Drive:5 GB HD space
Sound:DirectX 9.0c–compliant
Additional:Peripherals Supported: Windows-compatible keyboard, mouse, optional controller (Xbox 360 Controller for Windows recommended)

OS:Windows® 7 (SP1)
Processor:3 GHz Intel® Core™2 Duo or 3 GHz AMD Athlon™ 64 X2 or better
Memory:4 GB RAM
Graphics:1024 MB DirectX 10–compliant or higher
Hard Drive:5 GB HD space
Sound:5.1 surround sound
Additional:Peripherals Supported: Windows-compatible keyboard, mouse, optional controller (Xbox 360 Controller for Windows recommended)


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