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Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Review: Call of Juarez Gunslinger (PC)

The best thing about the PC platform is that games are cheap. I picked up Call of Juarez Gunslinger as part of an Origin sale. I'd picked it up for a different game, but ended up playing Gunslinger instead and finding it surprisingly fun. It's a pretty old game, so I could turn up all the settings on my old PC and still get excellent frame rates. As a budget game there's no full motion video so it's really light on resources.

The game is a first person shooter with a few gimmicks: you have the "bullet time" equivalent, where time stand still while you shoot. The "bullet time" bars are earned by chaining combos or performing head shots. There's a skill tree where you can unlock abilities. There are varying weapon types and upgrades though you're encouraged to specialized by the skill tree. There's also a "dice with death" mechanic where a shot that would otherwise kill you could be dodged, and then you'll get your health restored so you can keep playing instead of dying. Finally, nearly every boss in the game is dispatched with a shoot out, with its own mini game and mechanics. You can even be dishonorable and draw early.

Ignoring the mechanics, however, the main reason to play the game is that it's narrative is very well constructed. That seems like an odd reason to play an FPS so let me elaborate. The framing story is a grizzled gunslinger telling tall tales in a bar to admirers. The admirers, however, are true geeky fanboys of the cowboy world, and they continually probe and question the narrator of the story, forcing him to back-track and retract pieces of his story. While this happens during game play, the set you're playing on shifts and even sometimes resets as the narrator re-tells the story. This is hilarious but very well done and a lot of fun.

As a shooter, the game's relatively straightforward. It's not something that you'd want to play for more than an hour at a time, or it'd get repetitive, but spread out over multiple sessions over multiple days, it's entertaining enough that the narrative is all that's needed to keep you coming back.

At the end, we return to the framing story and all the names of the admirers are revealed and we get to resolve the story. I disliked the resolution, as if you pick one option over the other you get more game play vs less, which I thought was sucky and questionable.

But other than that, it's a surprisingly fun game and playable on even creaky old PCs. It doesn't have any insane difficulty spikes and the pacing was just right. Recommended.

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