I’ve always felt that the Western was one of the most underappreciated genres in the gaming industry. With such legendary characters like Billy the Kid, and Wild Bill Hickock -- The infamous Wild, Wild West seems to be an untapped goldmine for gritty outlaws, tense storylines and awesome gun battles. And hey, as long as we’re licensing old movies; why not give us The Searchers? What about El Dorado?
While we may have to wait a bit for those games, we do have Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood – a prequel to 2007’s Call of Juarez. While it has its quirks, Bound in Blood manages to do what few sequels do (yes, I know, it’s a prequel) – improve upon its predecessor’s flaws and create a fun, memorable and engaging experience.
Taking place both during and after the civil war – Bound in Blood takes place years before the original game and follows the McCall brothers; Ray and Thomas as they dessert the confederate army and turn into the anti-heroes we see in Call of Juarez. The story isn’t all that original – you’ve seen everything here before and you can all but telegraph the ending about halfway through the game, but what makes this game so special is just how authentic it feels.
As opposed to many games in the genre that serve its source material only as parody – Bound in Blood drips with so much Western bravado that it rivals the best moments in great movies like Unforgiven, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and The Outlaw Josey Wales. Sure, there’s a few sub-par moments but more often than not you’ll actually feel like you’re in the middle of the OK Corral.
This authentic feel is in part thanks to the game’s tension-filled shootout segments. Serving mostly as boss battles, these one on one affairs can be quite tricky (read: you’re going to fail numerous times before you get the hang of it) but when you do pull one off its incredibly rewarding. The duels in Bound in Blood are much better than any we’ve seen before because the developers take the time to craft a dramatic experience by requiring players to match their opponent’s ten paces, rather than skipping directly to the shooting. It may not sound like much, but it makes the whole thing that much more rewarding.
Throughout the game you can choose to play as either Ray or Thomas and while the gameplay changed depending on your choice in the original Call of Juarez – the changes seem minimal in Bound in Blood. The idea is that playing as Ray is more of an action oriented; shoot everything that moves experience while playing as Thomas gives players a chance to slow the game down and use your brains and stealth skills to take out enemies. Eh, not exactly. While you will get more opportunities to take down enemies from a far as Thomas – most of the game you’re just going to revert back to going into a majority of the situations guns blazing.
It’s a plus that the game’s basic mechanics are so well done and enjoyable. A shooter is only as good as its shooting mechanics – and Bound in Blood is quite exceptional. Aiming and gun control feel tight and responsive, and each weapon actually feels different enough to warrant using them. Some of the game’s larger set-piece levels allow you to do something other than normal FPS action - -and these levels are where the game really shines.
Perhaps I’ve been playing too much Gears of War, but it took me a while to get used to Bound in Blood’s cover system. Rather than relying on buttons you simply press against something to take cover behind it. On Consoles you use the control stick to lean out or duck, while the PC version requires you to use the mouse (yeah, it sucks). It seems easy enough but I found myself sticking to cover I didn’t really want to which slowed down gameplay and took me out of the experience. After a while it did become second nature, but at first it was quite infuriating.
With two playable characters – you could only assume that including a co-op campaign would be a given. Nope. Sadly all of Call of Juarez’s multiplayer offerings are competitive and the game lacks any sort of co-op experience. That’s not saying that the multiplayer isn’t fun -- there’s a mode where you’re aiming to capture Billy the Kid – but I’d absolutely love to attack the story with a buddy over Xbox Live.
Visually, Call of Juarez is a treat. The colors are bright when they need to be, but at the same time – this is the old west and everything from the stone mountains to the saloons, towns and characters look authentic. The game has a habit of slowing down when the action gets too hectic, but it corrects itself quickly enough to warrant forgiveness.
Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood is an unexpected gem that gives players a unique, exciting and thorough experience. By improving on the original’s faults, Bound in Blood has become a title that can be experienced by all. Sure, it has its fair share of problems but for a title that wasn’t on most people’s radars, Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood comes highly recommended.
CHEATS USED: Freeze Concentration Counter, Fill Meter, Health, Ammo, Money
One thing I left out of the review was the concentration meter and the special moves that go along with it. Almost like bullet time, the concentration meter builds and each brother can pull off a special move that slows down time and is extremely powerful. Having trouble clearing an area? Use the multitude of concentration meter cheats found in the trainer to get through it quickly.
The rest of the cheats in the Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood trainer are just what you’d expect from a first person shooter. You’ve got your unlimited health, unlimited ammo and unlimited money cheats – none of which are bad, and they all help...It’s just…expected.
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