It must be my lucky day! -or two weeks, or whatever. I recently played through two Ubisoft-published titles which have been absolutely amazing. ($15 worth of amazing, let's not get carried away here.) The first was Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon. The impressive homage to 80's action movies greatly improved on an already solid FC3 experience. Then there's Call of Juarez: Gunslinger, which is the first CoJ game I ever played. I never really found the series that intriguing, but something about this one appealed to me.
I fired up the demo, blasted through a stage where I stood against Pat Garret's men with Billy the Kid, and immediately asked Nick if we were going to get a review code. He said we would, but he didn't know when. So I bought it right then and there. I liked it that much. I don't really know what compelled me. I didn't think it was the prettiest game, and the level was fairly simple, but something about the solid, slower shooting of Western games really appeals to me. Little did I know, Gunslinger would get much, much faster.
Developer Techland Games put out one of the most informative launch trailers I've ever seen. Most of the game's modes and features are present. As an added bonus, there's an abundance of face-shooting. The trailer's narrator really enjoys watching people getting shot in the face.
That, my friends, is Call of Juarez: Gunslinger in a four minute nutshell. Old Silas Greaves is a fantastic protagonist, spinning his tales while sipping whiskey in a saloon. As he narrates the story we become the gunslinger of his youth, fighting alongside (and against) bigger than life western figures most of you will recognize from several different films (Young Guns, The Wild Bunch, Tombstone, etc).
As he recollects his past adventures the stages will change around you. You might be stuck on a rooftop and then Silas will say he remembers seeing a ladder. A ladder will literally fall from the sky and allow you to make your escape. This style of storytelling intertwined with the solid gunplay gives Gunslinger a little something extra. I'm a huge fan of the "old gunslinger" story -a world-weary old timer who still has some fight left in him- whether it's real or imagined. This story does not disappoint.
If you don't need a reason for shooting bad guys you can blow through the arcade mode. The stages are carved right from the campaign. Build up your combos to earn more XP, use the XP to unlock more skills, kill up more bad guys. You'll need to keep your combo meter running if you want to make an impact on the leader board. Dual wielding pistols like the Quick Shooters will make you lightning fast. The other guns have a nice weight to them, and blasting people off their feet with a double barrel shotgun is mighty satisfying, Mythbusters be damned.
The campaign features three different classes (these appear as stripped down loadouts in the arcade stages) and they each have their own skills. And these are real perks, too. None of that "plus three percent" to damage nonsense. You want to be a Gunslinger? Fine, now you dual wield pistols. Want extra ammo? Guess what? The next skill doubles your capacity. That's what I'm talking about. In the story mode you can mix and match, too. So I took the dual pistols from one class, bullet time from another, and then extra dynamite from the third -because I need extra dynamite. You can max out all three skill trees and tear things up in True West mode. It's not for babies.
Personally, I spent way to much time in the duel mode. I was just good enough for it to be a challenge. Duels require you to have steady thumbs and fast reflexes. You have to maintain your hand position near your gun with the left thumbstick and keep your enemy in focus with the right stick. Draw your pistol after he makes a move. Shoot him before he shoots you and collect your bounty. You can draw first, but this is considered dishonorable and you won't collect a reward. I can't stop dueling. I don't know why, but I love it. It's kind of awkward at first, but it's probably the best way I've experienced dueling in a game without a light gun.
Call of Juarez: Gunslinger is a fine addition to the Western genre. This is one of the few single player games I will play through more than once this year. Dedicated gamers can knock out the story in a day. It took me three nights of casual play, but I still have a lot of the arcade mode to unlock. Still, I've gotten my $15 bucks out of Gunslinger and then some. It's available for download now through XBLA, PSN and Steam.
An XBLA review code was provided by the publisher.