Call of Juarez: The Gunslinger First Look Preview – Way Out West
Written Monday, September 10, 2012 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
Forget Call of Juarez: The Cartel. It's done. It's in the past. Techland is leaving behind the 'gritty' modern day setting and returning to the wild west for Call of Juarez: The Gunslinger, releasing the game on the Xbox Live Arcade with all of the rootin' tootin' gunplay you'd hope for. And it has a new cel-shaded art style to boot. A comic book-style yarn spun by the enigmatic narrator – the mysterious, eponymous Gunslinger – the latest Call of Juarez is going back to basics, which means six-shooters, Winchester rifles and more real-life wild west legends than you can shake a stick at.
At the centre of Call of Juarez: The Gunslinger's story is the narrator, who you'll find sat in the saloon, regaling his riveted audience with tales of his bounty hunting days either running with or hunting down a variety of western icons like Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, Butch Cassidy and, as seen in our first look hands-off demo, Pat Garret and Billy the Kid. Set in the real-life location of Stinking Springs (truth), our presentation kicks off with Episode 1 of the story, which sees Mr. Narrator on a mission to pick up supplies for Billy the Kid. Trouble is, Billy finds himself holed up in a homestead, besieged by Garret and his men. Time for a rescue mission, pardner.
The Gunslinger adopts an appropriately arcadey style this time around, which sees a scoring system being introduced that rewards your style and skills with a gun, so headshots, slow-motion kills, near death kills, melee kills and so on, all shower you with XP. Any XP you earn then goes towards unlocking new skills in The Gunslinger's skill trees. There are three skill trees in The Gunslinger, with the Gunslinger class being the main one (obviously), granting abilities like dual-wielded pistols or faster reloading by quickly tapping X, for instance. The Ranger and Trapper skill trees also enable you to unlock a whole range of upgrades, none of which were touched upon during our gameplay demo, sadly.
Suffice it to say, there are plenty of skills to purchase with your XP, which should ensure a nice bit of replay value for Call of Juarez: The Gunslinger, especially when you take into account the opportunity to play through every episode in the game a second time in Arcade Mode. Arcade Mode is a fast-paced score attack, and upon completing each of the game's episodes, it'll be unlocked to replay in said mode. Wringing out all of the possible skill kills ought to help keep things fresh, with what looks to be a fair amount of different XP rewards. And abilities that enable you to shoot your way through dozens of enemies with dual-wielded pistols in a matter of seconds are exactly the kind of thing that should make The Gunslinger a blast.
During the action, your listening audience will chime in with questions and the narrating protagonist will embellish his tale with all sorts of derring do and heroic feats, which in this instance involves gunning down a whole gang of bandits, before holing up in the homestead with Billy the Kid and defending it from Garret and his men. Concentration Mode returns too, so you can temporarily slow time and gun down enemies – who are marked in red - with style to rack up that all-important XP, once you've filled up the adrenaline meter in the top left of the screen. Billy throws the narrator a Winchester rifle, freeze-framing on the wild west legend with a visual overlay of stylised comic book panels. The art direction is a massive step forward for Call of Juarez, and lends the game a pulpy vibe that's definitely welcome. A customised version of the Dead Island Chrome Engine 5, the game's cel-shaded style is something akin to Borderlands too, though slightly more subdued and subtle to look at in comparison to Gearbox's FPS opus. The screenshots released thus far don't do it any justice whatsoever.
'Defend your ass and fellas', reads the objective description as Garret's men close in and the narrator lets rip with his newly acquired Winchester rifle. Heading outside, the Winchester is effective at close-range, and switching back to his good ol' six-shooters, the narrator is able to dodge incoming bullets. Time slows at certain, apparently unscripted moments, giving you a small window of opportunity to use the left stick to lean around bullets and shoot back at enemies. This is of course incredibly stylish and so rewards you with a nice bit of XP when you successfully pull it off. Like Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood, you'll also perform some slow-motion breaching action, as you kick through a door and blast anyone behind it. You can even shoot the chickens scurrying around the farmyard if you're feeling somewhat sadistic towards fowl or just farm animals in general.
Stumbling upon a psychotic henchman with an axe and an outhouse door for a shield (there's ten different enemy types in the game so far), you're able to blast through the small window in the wooden slats to take him down, before finally confronting Pat Garret himself. The camera sinks to the narrator's holster in the foreground, framing his twitching hand and Garret in the background. Expecting a quick draw event, we're disappointed to instead see the episode draw to a close. Could it be that Techland is holding back that feature for now or will it not make it into the game? Our bet is on the former. This being Call of Juarez returning to its wild west roots, it's fairly safe to assume that there'll be some pistols at dawn, quick draw shooting action. Hopefully.
Call of Juarez: The Gunslinger looks like something of a return to form for the series after the embarrassment that was The Cartel, providing irrefutable evidence that the franchise most definitely belongs in the wild west. Unlike The Cartel, The Gunslinger also looks like a game that might actually be worth playing, and billing the game as an XBLA title should serve in winning back fans who were put off by the previous, widely unloved game. Welcome back to the wild wild west, Call of Juarez...
Call of Juarez: The Gunslinger is slated for release on the Xbox Live Arcade in 2013.