It feels good to be back. Hello and welcome to the final part of the Call of Juarez ranking. The dusty road ends here, with a little game called Call of Juarez: Gunslinger. And yes, the road is dusty. As always, you can find the rank here. So, let’s jump right into it.
In this game, you play as a bounty hunter named Silas Greaves. A former cowboy legend, all he carries with him now are his stories of the past. Fortunately, he found some people to share his legends with in a saloon, and the rest of the game follows Silas through his cowboy adventures.
Unlike the previous games, Gunslinger separates itself from both the Juarez story line and being able to play as playing multiple characters. Also, the story is told in the past-tense and is presented in a cartoonish comic book style, and each chapter plays a different story with the character. So, did these changes make a difference? Oh yes they did. This has easily got to be the most enjoyable story in the series as well as one of the most enjoyable FPS stories I can think of in recent memory. The story follows Silas and his various stories with cowboy legends like Jesse James, Billy the Kid, and many more. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is one of my top favorite Western films (take a guess at the first), so hearing their names come up got me incredibly excited. Fortunately, my encounter with them was just as epic as I hoped it would be. Still, the encounters with other cowboy legends were also pretty great, and hearing Silas tell his take on the various legends proved interesting.
Since this story is played in the past tense, listening to Silas talk to his listeners was a lot of fun. What made that really interesting is how the game would change based on the story. Silas is an old man, so his memory is beginning to slip on some of his stories. Because of that, he may remember something in the middle of the gameplay, which would change the level. Maybe it’s a ladder he originally forgot about that magically appears because he now remembers climbing it, or maybe it’s an entirely different enemy faction that he suddenly remembers was actually just more cowboy outlaws. The way the story changes based on the characters memory made the gameplay more interesting and interactive, and throughout the game I wondered if the stories were true or if he is nothing more than a con artist.
Despite all of that, I think the thing that is lacking in this story is how basic the whole thing turns out to be. You know throughout that Silas is moving through these gangs in search of a few certain outlaws, but it isn’t revealed until halfway through that the reasoning for this is revenge for his dead brothers. While there is a neat twist at the end, I can’t help but feel that the basic plot detracts from the rest of the game’s story elements. Still, I would say that overall the story in this game is far more interesting and engaging than the previous entries.
Gameplay, just like story, also takes an obvious change because it is now back to revolvers and lever-action rifles. As a whole though, the gameplay aspects of this game have been significantly improved, and I had a blast with the game. For starters, they now give you an option to choose your controls with dual-wielding. The previous game has each mouse button use a different gun, but they now finally give the option to have right mouse be aim and left mouse be shooting for both guns. Duels have been revamped, and now offer a challenge of what to focus on. You have a cross-hair that slowly closes in while aiming at a target, which improves aim, but you also have to control your hand to keep it near the gun, which controls speed. There are also some fun ways they play with the duels, but overall I think the duels in this game are solid and a good level of challenging. This game takes a much more arcade-y approach to the gameplay by offering various ways of getting points and boosts for a high-score, but you can also see this game’s lighthearted take on the series through its beautiful cel-shaded art and comic-book feel.
Since this is only one character, you don’t get the option at different concentration modes like you did with Bound in Blood, but this game still improves upon it in ways that I think makes it better than that game. You can now control when you want to stop it, have multiple types of concentration mode, and they even added a new bullet dodge mode where you can sometimes dodge the fatal bullet.
The Cartel added a leveling system to the game that incorporated a neat stealing mechanic with unlocking weapon. Unfortunately, the weapons, while plentiful, weren’t all that great. This game also has a leveling system, but unlike last game, they do it well. Skill points allow you to unlock skills in one of three trees, and each tree has a branching path. You can upgrade in both paths, but you generally won’t have enough points to unlock everything, so in a way you are subjected to one path. At a certain threshold, you unlock a better variant of a gun found in the game, so part of unlocking the skill tree is to obtain special versions of weapons. I really enjoyed this new skill system because it made meaningful improvements to Silas as well as allowed me to focus on my gameplay preferences. I originally had an issue with being able to only play one character because of skill tree and story issues, but I feel Gunslinger does a solid job at alleviating those issues.
Gameplay is really solid in this game, but there are places where it falters. Just like the last game, Gunslinger has no leaning mechanics. This game feels faster paced than other ones, so leaning didn’t feel as needed, but I still wish it was there. I didn’t have any technical issues with the game, except for the black border around my screen. I had this issue with the first game, but at least that game has the excuse that it is an older title. They weren’t large borders by any means, but it’s still annoying that it’s there. One thing I liked a lot in Bound in Blood were its occasional open-ended levels, which I was disappointed to not see in here. Finally, I found my time with the game to be considerably shorter than the others. I finished the campaign in three hours, and despite having a heavy gameplay emphasis with very short cutscenes (unlike the last game), I still found myself wanting a little more out of the campaign. With all of these issues in mind, I still think that this game is still a rock-solid entry into the series that I enjoyed a lot.
Gunslinger does a smart thing by replacing a multiplayer mode that would probably die faster than a duel against Silas with single player modes. The two other modes are an arcade mode and a duel mode. The arcade mode is about what you expect (playing through the campaign levels trying to get a high score), while the duel mode allows you to play through every duel in the game without dying more than five times. Unfortunately, I don’t think these modes are all that great because they rely too heavily on content from the campaign and they don’t last all that long. If getting high scores is your thing, then these modes may be for you, but other than that I don’t see these modes lasting longer than an hour or two.
In conclusion, I think Call of Juarez: Gunslinger is the opposite of The Cartel. It stands as both a really good edition to the Call of Juarez series as well as a really good game overall. Despite some small shortcomings, this game feels like what the series has been building up to, and what I think is there is great. This game easily takes the cake as the best Call of Juarez in the series, and any possible Juarez game in the future is going to have a tough time taking this spot.