Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood Review

We take a call from Juarez

Review by Darren Cartledge
Published 19th July 2009

Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood

  • Developer: Techland
  • Publisher: Ubisoft
  • Release Date: 3rd July 2009

For so long the FPS genre has had us focusing on gunning down entire Nazi divisions or space faring mutants. This has obviously led to video gamers missing out on one of the most trigger happy periods in Human history! The Wild West! However, Techland noticed this absence and in 2006 brought us Call of Juarez. Now instead of a sequel comes the prequel.

Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood follows the early exploits of the McCall brothers Thomas and Ray (Reverend Ray in the first game), from their time in the American Civil War to their rise as infamous gunfighters in the old west! The games story includes key elements from a wide range of western movies, revenge, betrayal, love and mysterious ancient treasure. On the whole it’s a pretty good mix that works well although, at times it can be quite transparent!

Not having experienced the original game I approached Bound in Blood with no real expectations and for me the game delivered something of a mixed bag! There are parts about this video game that I loved and others that simply frustrated me until I could bear no more and reached for the power button!

This frustration however, doesn’t come from bad game design but from the extremely unforgiving AI characters with pin point accuracy. These grizzly looking foes are often able to get a couple of shots on you before you’ve even figured out where they’re hiding! This of course, frequently results in your death, which wouldn’t be a problem in itself except for one small fact. Checkpoints in some levels are sparse, this means you have to play through large portions of the game repeatedly! which after a couple of hours really begins to grind away at your patience.

This aside, or if you’re up to the tough challenge the game offers Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood can be a very good game. The controls have been well thought out and are intuitive. To keep things simple the game utilises a lot of context sensitive commands that only require you to stand in a highlighted area, instead of having to press a button. The excellent controls also transfer into other aspects of the game such as concentration mode which slows time down and requires you to flick the thumb stick of your controller as a gun fighter would the hammer of his pistol. This of course only applies to the console system or those playing the PC version with an Xbox 360 controller. However, the developers have included an excellent system for those playing with a mouse. You simply hold down the fire button and then pull back on the mouse to simulate the hammer flicking motion of a gunfighter, it may not sound too impressive but it works surprisingly well and really helps to immerse you into the role of a dangerous gunfighter.

The game is split into chapters, and at the beginning of each you are given the opportunity to choose which brother you wish to play as. Each, as you would expect have their own strengths and weaknesses and also access to different weapons. For instance Thomas can use a Bow and a Lasso to climb whilst Ray can dual-wield his pistols and also blow things up with Dynamite. Playing as the different brothers doesn’t really offer a vastly different playing experience it does add a little variety, especially when you take into consideration on some levels the brothers take different routes in order to achieve their objectives. Which ever brother you choose the two rarely separate as the games AI controls the other brother throughout the game. For the most part your AI controlled sibling is fairly useful and can often help get you out of a tight spot. The only gripe I had about being accompanied by this AI controlled character is the fact they tend to move forward at their own pace instead of trying to keep up with you. This of course often results in you having to wait for them to catch up!

Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood requires a more strategic approach then most shooters, one because of the aforementioned difficulty and two because your only using six shooters so have to take your shots carefully or risk getting caught out of ammo and sadly it takes quite a bit of time to reload your weapons, especially in the early stages of the game. To help out here the game implements an automatic aiming system that will lock on to a target if you aim your crosshairs near an enemy. The system works well on the console versions of the game, however on the PC playing with a mouse that allows for more accurate aiming it becomes more of a hindrance and sadly can’t be disabled!

The game also uses an automatic cover system and this too isn’t the best! It will hide you behind any object you get close to. This however, can often lead to confusion, especially when you don’t want to take cover! But mainly because the games controls invert when ever you enter cover, making the system somewhat awkward to get to grips with.

On the whole Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood serves up a pretty good wild west experience. However, this would not be complete without the good old western showdown which Techland have included in the game. These have been implemented brilliantly and require you to hold your hand near your gun, keeping your opponent in focus by stepping left or right. Once the bell sounds its time to go for you pistols and blast them down, carefully timing your shot. The system takes a while to master, especially on the PC version, but how well it works is testament to the games solid game design.

Occasionally the game will allow you to undertake some side missions, and whilst these are clearly filler, they do allow you to earn some quick cash allowing you to buy better weapons and supplies.

The multiplayer aspect of Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood includes the standard deathmatch and team deathmatch modes but also serves up some more interesting ones. In Wanted one player takes up the role of the wanted and is the only player who can score points by killing any other players. The other players have to of course try and kill the wanted man and in doing so take up the role themselves. There’s also a team variation of this mode. However, one of the more interesting modes is the Wild West Legends game type. In these matches one team has a set of objectives, such as breaching a bank and blowing up the safe, whilst the other team have to do everything in their power to stop them. All the multiplayer modes have been implemented well and offer an enjoyable playing experience. However curiously, despite employing an upgrade system for the various character classes these reset after each match. This of course makes the whole thing seem a little pointless and also makes it difficult to join a match halfway through.

Visually Call of Juarez Bound in Blood is very good; character models feature an impressive amount of detail, most notably in their faces which includes stubble, scars and wrinkles. Animation is of the highest standard and it’s nice to see AI controlled characters posturing during gun fights instead of just coming straight at you. The game environment is exactly what you would expect to see in any good spaghetti western, this ranges from rocky plains, to mountain trails and forests to a ghost town. All the settings for the game are highly believable and could have come directly out of any number of cowboy movies.

The games audio is also top notch, the script has been penned well with the voice actors performing some stereotypical accents for the various characters. This for the most part is performed solidly but does occasionally slip and become a little unconvincing..

Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood is a solid shooter that requires players to take a more tactical approach then some other recent releases. It also serves up some interesting moments straight from the classic western movies, such as showdowns which add to the variety on offer. However, it can also be an extremely frustrating experience due to the very unforgiving AI which may have the less hardcore shooter fan struggling to stick with it.

Review Score: 7/10

Please note, this review was scored using our old system. For more information please see our review policy.

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