Call of Juarez Reader Review
Hello everyone, I wrote a review of this game earlier this year. I was excited about finishing the game, and wanted to let you all know that its a great game. I hope those of you who buy it, enjoy it as much as me.
With hindsight, my original review wasn't objective enough, and I wanted to address a few extra things. So I am re-writing the review here, and hopefully it will mention everything you would want to know about this game.
QUICK NOTE: I played the game on a very good computer, so performance was not an issue for me. I wish I could comment on the performance but I can't, unless I remove some RAM or something... and I'm not doing that :) Ok on to the game:
The Good The Bad & The Ugly
1) This game is very cinematic. During the first few chapters of the game, I kept feeling like Indiana Jones. I was running around using my whip, and theres a part with a little coal cart that runs on rail tracks. Its all very Indy, and I loved it. But besides feeling like Indiana Jones, the game really is a very cinematic game. Shooting people is more realistic than most games. Theres no exploding heads, and there is blood when there needs to be blood. You shoot a guy and his cowboy hat flys off, he clutches his wound and falls the ground. Its very realistic and it made the game VERY immersive for me.
2) The enemy behaviour is good. Enemies hide behind anything they can find, they sometimes run at you guns blazing, and they sometimes run away and try to hide. I found that they behaved as well, or better than in most of the other FPS's available today.
3) The graphics are VERY good. As with a lot of games, they seem to vary a bit, and sometimes they don't look that great depending on where you are and what you are looking at. But overall, I found the graphics to be outstanding. Its maybe not the same league as Crysis, but its not too far off. After playing through "S.T.A.L.K.E.R", which was basically just a mixture of brown and green.... Call of Juarez was a real joy on the eyes. The animations are great, theres the realistic enemy behaviour, and with great graphics like these, it makes the game.... yes..... just so cinematic and immersive.
4) Story. I liked the story because it was fairly simple. There aren't many twists and turns, and its never going to be made into a film... but even a simple story well done can draw you in enough to actually care about what you are doing. And thats how I felt about this game. Its a good ole fashioned story of good guys and bad guys etc, with a couple of twists along the way. I liked it.
Features The game has a quite a lot of "features". Some of them are new, and some of them have been used before, but are still nice to see in a shooter. Heres a quick list of the features and a brief description of them in this game:
1) Running & Gunning: Yes, the bulk of the game is running around shooting stuff. So it offers the same thing all the other first person shooters offer. As mentioned above though, its more cinematic and realistic than most other FPS's though. Its also more fun than a lot of them. NOTE: The enemies have the proper body locations by the way. So a headshot kills them instantly, and it takes a few hits in the body to kill a guy.
2) Fist Fighting: Unlike (all?) other FPS's, this game has real fist fighting. Duke Nukem etc.. may have let you press a key, and your leg appears and kicks your enemy... but in this game, they have spent more time on the fist fighting. When you select your fists, they appear infront of your face and you adopt a boxer's stance. When fist fighting, the left and right leaning (for peaking around corners when shooting at people), acts as dodging. So when someone throws a punch at you, you can quickly lean left and right if you are quick. Then you have the left mouse button which is a left punch, right mouse button is a right hook, and "left right left" ends with an uppercut. Its nice, and I found it to be VERY realistic. You bloody up the face of your opponents, and their hat goes flying off when you land a good punch. It really is so satisfying to smack someone in the face in this game... Unfortunately, its not used enough, which I'll mention in a minute.
3) Dueling: At a few points in the game, you face a special bad guy (like a boss etc...). Instead of just shooting him as usual, a duel starts. Pistols at dawn, take 10 paces kind of thing... You both have your guns holstered, and a clock ticks down. When it hits zero, you have to move your cursor quickly to the bottom of the screen to draw the gun, and then quickly back into the centre of the screen to shoot the guy. Like the fist fighting, the left and right leaning can be used to help you dodge a bullet if he gets the shot off first. Its pretty well done, and its very unique (I've never seen that done in a game before). But, it could have been done better, and in my opinion... it should have either been used more, or not at all. Currently, its an almost forgettable "feature" that didn't really seem to achieve anything.
4) Stealth: Like many FPS's nowdays, the game lets you walk around stealthily. If you crouch and walk, the enemies can't hear you. If you crouch or hide behind something, they can't see you. You can also control your walk speed to find the perfect ballance between getting somewhere quickly.. and not making any noise. Its maybe not as advanced as something like "Splinter Cell", but I actually found the stealth parts to be very good. There was also a couple of new ideas used. There is a nighttime mission which makes it much harder for the enemies to see you. There happens to be a storm, and occasionally there is a bolt of lightning which you can use to mask the sound of your whip. Unfortunately though, I don't think this feature was used as well as it could have been. But it was still good, and its still there as another feature in a feature packed game.
5) Two Weapon Shooting: I saved the best until last. This is probably my favourate part of the game. When you have a hand gun in each hand, you can shoot normally like in other FPS's. Actually, you can even go into Quickfire Mode, where he holds his hand above a single gun, and reloads it really fast - Wild West style, so you can fire really fast. But when you have a gun in each hand, you can holster the weapons. After a moment, a little concentration icon appears, and you can then draw both weapons and it goes into slow motion mode (like bullet time from The Matrix / Max Payne / etc). Although thats not very original, its done very well. But what is original, is that you get 2 cursors representing both weapons, and you can basically take out different targets with each weapon. It takes a little practice, but its a lot of fun when you figure it out, and its just a really nice feature in this game.
The Bad & The Ugly
1) The whip could have been done better. You CAN whip onto lots of objects in the game. Tree branches to swing across a valley etc. But its not really a "real time" kind of experience because you can't just run up to a tree and whip and swing straight across. You have STOP... then aim your crosshair at the tree, and find the right location where the whip can attach... then an icon appears, and then you can whip the tree branch and swing across. Its fine and it serves its purpose, but it could have been much better. Perhaps if there is a sequel which gets a bigger budget... they will make better use out of the whip.
2) The fist fighting was very cool, but theres about 1 minutes worth of fighting in the entire game. What a terrible waste! It baffles me why they would spend the time adding a feature like this, and yet only using it for about 0.00001% of the game. Yes, it could have been better (its not exactly Mortal Kombat), but I found it very good and VERY satisfying, and it was a nice change of pace. I thought it was great and they should have used it much more in the game.
3) I found the climbing parts to be slightly over used. Most people might not notice it, especially when playing it for the first time. But playing it a second time around, I was surprised that it didn't annoy me more. When playing as Billy, you have to climb a lot. Its no big deal really, but when you think that they made an entire climbing level basically.. where you have to climb a mountain... I definitely think they over-did it. Being able to climb in a FPS is a really nice feature, but over using it like that is just silly. Its not FUN at all, so why they would opt for a strange puzzle based climbing level, rather than an action packed shooting level... I just find baffling.
4) The bullet-time//concentration when playing as the preacher man, should have a longer re-use time. It refreshes so quickly, you can pretty much go into every single fire fight, using the slow motion concentration mode. The game would have been much more challenging if they just limited its use very slightly.
5) There was not enough explosives. This is a HUGE crime in FPS gaming in my opinion :P If you make a FPS..... you HAVE to have explosives. Grenades, TNT, whatever. And if you make an FPS with explosives..... atleast make good use of them! In COJ, I don't think they where used enough. It was almost a token use of TNT. Give a stick or two of TNT on every level, and then just add a couple of extra bad guys. Etc.
6) The Billy levels could have been done a bit better. First off, the game has a decent stealth system, but it wasn't used as well as it should have been really. Also, I would have liked him to have a bit more action. He does have a fair amount, but sometimes I felt like his role was slightly anti-climatic compared to the preacher. Even if they re-used the same locations a bit more, I would have preferred that if it allowed for some more action with Billy.
7) The first level wasn't great. I actually found it to be ok, but I think a lot of people will find it a bit of a chore, and it might scare off a lot of people. And to do that for the first level (and the demo?!?!) is silly. Luckily, if you can play past that, it all gets better.
Overall, I loved this game. I tend to only write reviews here for something that was great, or terrible. So I am writing this because I thought it was great. I see it getting quite mediocre reviews in a lot of places, and that annoys me because its a good game. This seems a bit like one of those games that not many people here about, not many people play... and then 5-10 years later, everyone is talking about it as an old classic. Well the game is available now (and soon in the US?), and I recommend it. Its not an adrenaline pumped FPS. It doesn't have tanks and huge explosions. Its not Sci-Fi, and basically, its not a big budget extravaganza. But it still manages to stand up to most of those types of games and be very enjoyable. The graphics are great, and the gameplay I just found to be really enjoyable and a fair bit different to other games.
For parts of the game, I think the developers might have lacked a bit of focus - just very slightly. At the end of the day, its a first person shooter.... so it should have been a bit more action based. The whip was just a bonus, and the concentration/bullet-time/slow motion, has been used in other games before so thats not a new feature. The only real NEW stuff, is the fist fighting etc. But my point is that these new features shouldn't have distracted them from making an action packed wild west adventure. And I think it did slightly.
But having said all this negative stuff nearer the end, I loved this game. Its memorable and fun. I was in awe of the graphics more than a few times. I was in awe at how cool a few of the fire fights where. I felt like I was Indiana Jones for a good part of the game... And I felt like I was Clint Eastwood for the rest of the time.
Its well worth an 8 out of 10. Unfortunately with it only going up to 10.... a 9 would be too generous considering it could have done quite a few things better, and it could have been longer. But a 7 would be unfair considering how entertaining the game is.
8 / 10