Another day, another Call of Juarez game. Wait, when did Call of Juarez have cars? Hello and welcome third game being ranked into the Call of Juarez series: Call of Juarez: The Cartel. As always, you can find the rank here. Without further ado, let’s get into it.
The third Juarez game breaks the mold of the other two and takes place in the modern day. After a DEA building got bomb, an Assistant Deputy Director brings in a member of the LAPD, a member of the FBI, and a member of the DEA into a group to work together and fight the Cartel while protecting the daughter of a victim of the bombing. Just like every other game that involves the modern-day government and an illegal entity though, things get complicated and the three are caught in the middle of all of it.
Before I get into it, I want to start with one simple thing that automatically puts this game at last for me: it isn’t a Western game. Am I glad for the change of time period because I don’t want to get worn down on the Western vibe? Sure. But at the end of the day, I go to this series for a Western experience, just like I can go to the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare series for a modern-day shooting experience. I don’t know why the developers would want to make a modern-day iteration for their Western series, but they did, and I think it failed. Because of that, I put this last. Still, there are some more things to talk about, so stick around if you want to read more.
When it comes to the story aspects, I found them to be rather poor. The game tries to tell some convoluted story about how organizations and people you normally think would be clean are dirty and all that, but in order for a convoluted plot to work, I have to care. The thing is, I didn’t really care that much about the story because of how predictable the whole thing felt. Hey look, you’re fighting the Cartel! What’s that? Someone in the government has ties to the Cartel? Who would’ve guessed?
What doesn’t help story-wise are the rather bland set of characters, cutscenes that feel long enough to want to gouge your eyes out, bad voice acting, occasional voice audio that is borderline funny at how bad it sounds, the multiple endings feel tacked on and all-but-one of them are not even worth doing, the lack story differences between each character which doesn’t give enough incentive for me to play the game two more times with the other two characters, and more. The story overall is rather poor, but there is one bright side to it.
You get to play as three different characters, and each one is from a different branch of government. One FBI, one DEA, and one LAPD. Despite the three working together, they each have their own agenda, and watching the push-and-pull between these characters was neat. There is a really cool way this push-and-pull is tied into the gameplay, but I will talk about it a little later. I think the positions of the characters makes the story a bit interesting, but it doesn’t fix its issues.
Just like the story, the gameplay makes some bigger changes because of its time change. You are now using modern guns, in modern buildings, with modern cars, and you get the point. There are some things that return from the previous games as well as some pretty cool new mechanics, but in large part this is a generic modern shooter.
Just like in the second game, there are different characters to choose from and each have their own set of skills. Each of the three characters have their own specialties with certain kinds of weapon as well as an ability like being able to dual-wield an SMG. The coolest thing by far with the characters (as well as the game in general) is the thing I talked about earlier. Remember when I talked about how each character has their own agenda? Well, that blends into the gameplay. Throughout the game, you get calls from someone (depends on the character you’re playing), and they ask you to do secret missions. This could be finding somebody, bugging a room, or even just picking up things for them. The objectives are different from person-to-person, but the one commonality between all of them is that these tasks must be done discreetly. Essentially, it’s like stealth but with your allies. I love this mechanic because it fleshes out just how uncertain this crew is and it is something I have never done before in any game. Unfortunately, it kind of goes downhill from here.
The purpose of doing these secret objectives is to unlock weapons. While the amount of weapons in this game are plentiful, I found a lot of them to be mere stat changes. The only difference I felt from a beginning level AK and a late level UMP is how powerful the gun feels. Also, revolvers are completely useless because there are pistols that you get early on that punch just as well. Speaking of pistols and revolvers, this game requires that you carry three guns at all times: a primary and two secondaries. The game, just like the previous ones, allow you to dual-wield weapons, which is the reasoning behind two secondaries. The only issue is I think dual-wielding sucks in this game, which leaves me with an extra pistol. I would rather carry only two weapons or carry two primaries and a secondary, but nope. Also, shooting feels clunky in this game, and shotguns are an absolute joke. For a game about shooting, I don’t think they did shooting well.
The previous two games had leaning. The first one has buttons tied to leaning, and the second one has a neat auto-lean. This game has no leaning, which is a shame because I feel this game is the one that needs leaning the most. Something this game does have, however, is concentration mode. Just like the last game, you build it up by getting kills, and release a flurry of slow-mo hell. The last game had a great concentration mode that was different between the two characters, but this one feels uninspired. The mode is the same between characters, and all it consists of is faster shooting and slowed down time. What doesn’t help is that the characters say some of the cringiest garbage known to man before the start of the mode, which really discouraged me from doing it over and over again.
Don’t worry though. If you don’t like the shooting part of the game, then this game has got you covered. Almost every single level has a terrible driving portion. There was so much driving in this game to the point where I would just sigh whenever they happened. What’s so bad about them? You’re the driver. Instead of shooting out of the side of the window, you just drive the car and get shot at. You can’t even bump into other cars because they are always faster than you. The whole thing is meant for co-op play and whatnot, but to make the single player default to driving is questionable. Oh, and did I mention the audio used for cars is the same exact audio used for cars in Dead Island? Speaking of vehicles, you occasionally fight helicopters, which is somehow even more painful than driving. A mixture of explosions knocking you down for a solid five seconds, terrible locations to throw a helicopter at you, and how fast they can kill made this blend of crap that made me frustrated like few games ever have.
This game also has a lot of breaching. Enough breaching to make Call of Duty blush. While they aren’t terrible, they are about as generic as they get. This leads to another thing I have with the game: it’s generic as hell. I guess you can say the previous two games are also generic, but at least they are a genre that isn’t used a whole lot in the video game industry. Here, it just feels dull and uninspired. It’s a lot of basic shooting moments, some occasional cool moments like flanking the enemy or picking up secret items, a lot of generic moments like breaching doors, and a lot of bad moments like car chases. They don’t even try to do cool things like the last game did with its occasional open-ended levels. The whole game ultimately sums up to be a bland experience that is more bad than good.
Before I conclude, I always talk about the multiplayer mode I don’t play. I will say this one seems cool considering the lobby is a building you start in and the premise almost seems like a bank robbing situation. Also, an account isn’t needed, which is nice. Unfortunately, I don’t know how the multiplayer works because, unsurprisingly, it was dead. This game does offer the ability to play through the game co-op though. This was something I thought would be cool in the last game, so it being here is nice. Unsurprisingly, again, it was dead, but I was still glad it was there.
In conclusion, I think Call of Juarez: The Cartel is both a bad edition to the series as well as a bad game in general. Changing the theme to modern alone killed it for me, but plenty of other decisions made in the game made it that much worse. While there are some neat ideas in this game like the secret objectives, I couldn’t find myself caring about anything but finishing the game by the end. This game easily ranks at last place, and I am almost certain it is going to stay there.