Find me online!

twittergoogle plusemail

October 24, 2009

Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood

Finally finished this game this morning before heading out for lunch.  All in all, I'm quite impressed with it, except for a few niggling details that marred my enjoyment a bit.  If you're a fan of first-person shooters and of westerns as well, I think you'll get a kick out of Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood.

Fans of the first game will definitely like this one for a number of reasons.  But first, the story.

This is a prequel to the original Call of Juarez, where Reverend Ray (not a reverend in this story) and his brothers Thomas and William are on a search for gold.  The game starts you during the Civil War, where Ray & Thomas are Confederate soldiers during Sherman's march on Atlanta.  The Union forces are getting too close to the family farm, so the brothers depart the battlefield to protect their mother and William.  Their commander, Barnsby, threatens to hunt them down to the ends of the Earth for their desertion.  The brothers head west after the war and get caught up in the search for the fabled (and supposedly cursed) gold that a Mexican bandit named Juarez is looking for.  As with so many stories, though, a woman gets in the way of the two brothers, and tension continues to mount between them as both of them are in love with her.  The story takes you through a large part of the Southwest, through the tribal lands of the Apache and Navajo, to an explosive conclusion.

This game improves on the previous game in many ways.  First, there is very little sneaking around, and what there sneaking there is doesn't last long enough to get boring.  You can play each chapter (with a couple of exceptions) as either Ray or Thomas (a departure from the previous game where the plotline determined which character you played at any one time) and both have different abilities.  Much like the first game, Ray is the gunslinger with dynamite (though he's not a reverend at this point) and Thomas likes to use a rifle or bow & arrow, along with a lasso that helps get him to higher ground.  He's the only one who can climb, too.  Thus, you'll use different strategies in each chapter, depending on who you play as.

Another annoyance from the first game that's gone is the jumping puzzles.  So much of getting around in the first game involved having to jump or use Billy's whip to swing across chasms and stuff like that.  This time, there isn't anything like that (or at least not that I noticed, but I didn't play as Thomas so maybe there is when you play him).  It's very hard to do these things in first-person shooters.

Another annoying mechanic from the first game is thankfully gone.  Ray (and Thomas too, but it works differently) can enter what's called "Concentration Mode", which basically slows down time and lets you target any enemy that's on the screen.  When the timer runs out, Ray will pull out his pistols and shoot every target that you painted.  In the previous game, it didn't work like that; much worse, though, was that you had to have your pistols holstered and they had to be equipped.  In Bound in Blood, it doesn't matter what gun you actually have out and you don't have to have them holstered.  It really made the game better. 

The graphics, as in the first game, are stellar, though again only in the distance.  You'll see some beautiful western vistas, with desert scrub and cacti out there, along with rivers and canyons.  But when you get too close, things get a bit worse.  Also, the character models are the same as the previous game, but they annoyed me more than they did last time.  I had just played a little bit of Uncharted: Drake's Fortune and the characters in the cutscenes are beautifully done.  In this game, they are kind of blocky, with the mouth movements not coming anywhere near matching the dialogue (I know it can't be perfect, but it can be better than this).  The faces are quite well done, but the rest could have been a lot better.  However, since there's no real difference between the games, obviously that's a stylistic choice.  The explosions do look nice, though.

The game has just the right amount of difficulty, too.  On medium, I died plenty of times, especially during the duels, but it was never so hard that I got completely frustrated.  I did get temporarily frustrated and moved to multiplayer for the rest of the night, but the next day I loaded up the game and beat the frustrating part.

The duels are the most frustrating, but once you get the hang of them, they're fairly easy.  They're one-shot kills this time around for all of the duellists, not just the hard ones.  Once I got the mechanic down, even the final duel only took me 4-5 tries.  I still didn't care for it much, though.

I can't finish without talking about the voice work and story, though.  In my review of the first game, I said how I couldn't be bothered to sit through the credits but that I liked the guy who played Ray.  Any Star Trek fan will be pleased to know that he's voiced (as he was in the first game, so no wonder I liked him) by the wonderful Marc Alaimo, he of Gul Dukat and other Trek characters fame.  Alaimo does a wonderful job and he's got a very good southern accent as well.  Video game veteran Zach Hanks plays Thomas really well too.  Unfortunately, the voice acting falls down with the Mexican characters, with almost embarrassing accents. John Cygan does a decent job as Barnsby, though.

The story is kind of cliched, but it does have a twist here and there, and good theme about violence and redemption.  We know from the first game that Ray becomes a fire and brimstone preacher, as passionate about God as he is passionate about bringing the wrath of God down on those who would do evil, and Bound in Blood does a good job of explaining the story behind that one.  There's plenty of different things to do, too, which is always nice in a game like this.  The AI is decent, though not brilliant on Medium difficulty, making it somewhat of a challenge, but any shooter expert is going to want to play on Hard.

Finally, there's the multiplayer, which I have been playing a lot of.  First, it's nice that it's still fairly easy to get a game going, though that will probably change when Modern Warfare 2 comes out.  The servers aren't packed by any means, but you can usually get a game within 5-10 minutes.  The cool thing is that, when you join a ranked match that doesn't have enough players yet, you don't just sit in the lobby waiting.  Instead, you play against those who are already there, with the Ranked Match starting once enough players have joined.  This lets you get some practice in and also makes it so you're not bored while you're waiting.  As you rack up kills, your bounty goes up.  When you kill someone, you collect an amount of money equal to that person's bounty and your own bounty goes up.  It's a nice scoring system.

There are a few different modes:

Shootout:  Basically, Deathmatch where it's every man for himself to a certain bounty limit

Posse: Team Deathmatch

Wanted:  One person becomes "wanted" and the others have to kill him.  Only the wanted character gets points for killing anybody.  Once you've killed the wanted man, you become wanted.  I've never seen anybody playing this

Manhunt: Seemingly the most popular game, at least when I'm online, this mode has two teams.  One person on a team becomes a wanted man and he has to stay alive for 60 seconds.  If he manages to do so, then that team gets a point and somebody on the other team becomes wanted.  If somebody kills the wanted man, then somebody on that killing team becomes wanted.  There's a time limit, and also a score limit.  This mode is actually quite fun and you can rack up a lot of cash.

Wild West Legends:  One team has a bunch of objectives to achieve one at a time and the other team is trying to stop them.  These are mostly based on real-life events.  For example, one map requires a team of outlaws to rob two banks and then hightail it out of town on horseback.

There are 13 different character classes you can play in multiplayer, though you start out with only 5.  As you earn money, you can purchase another class.  Of course, the more expensive the class is, the better the weapons are, though each still has its strengths and weaknesses.  The spy, for example, has a really wimpy pistol but can move very fast and carries lots of dynamite to toss at enemies.  Once you've unlocked them all and played one round as each class (you get an achievement for that), you'll probably find a class you're most comfortable with for each game type or each map.

All in all, Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood is an excellent game with a few niggling problems that bring it down from the heights of greatness.  Now that it's price has been reduced, though, it's well worth the money.  Give it a try.


Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.