I did not like the first Call Of Juarez. I thought that the gameplay was too clunky and that the single player experience was marred by weak stealth sections and dumb climbing portions with the whiny Billy Candle. So imagine my surprise when I fired up Call Of Juarez: Bound In Blood and discovered that it is the game the first one should have been. The gameplay has been drastically improved in all the right ways. The story is more interesting, the shooting makes the game feel like a complete product rather than an early version, and the multiplayer is addicting and a blast.
Probably the most notable flaw with Bound In Blood is its linear nature and the fact that most missions will play out in similar ways. There are some cool setpieces that you might want to experience again after you've beaten the game, but most of the time you'll be going from point A to point B and shooting a lot of bandits, soliders, and Indians along the way. There are two chapters where the game sort of opens up and you can take on side quests (three each), but none of them are long enough to really count as missions and you can probably clear all the side quests in both of the chapters in about the same time it would take to complete a normal mission. There aren't a whole lot of weapons in the game; most of the variety is in the pistols, of which there are several different kinds. Each gun comes in three conditions: rusty, prime, and superb. By collecting money off of dead enemies you can not only buy ammo at gun stores/vendors you might come across but you can buy the upgraded versions to be more effective in combat.
Bound In Blood also has boss fights, but they come in the form of quickdraw duels. These are really intense and fun to do. The camera positions itself in a way that allows you to see the lower right half of your body, and from here you control where your hand goes using the right stick (Xbox 360). You use the other analog stick to strafe left and right, which is vital because you need to keep your opponent in front of you at all times. The trick is to keep your hand as close to your gun as possible, but if you reach for it too soon (you must wait for the sound of a bell to draw) your hand will reset back to the normal position. These duels got more and more challenging as they went on, which is a good thing because they are a nice break from the constant shooting of dudes in the face.
Each brother has a form of what is called Concentration Mode that you can enter once you've killed enough enemies (it only lasts for 60 seconds and when the time is up you must recharge it again). When playing as Ray, going into Concentration Mode will slow down time (same thing with Thomas) and you must sweep the crosshair over the bodies of every enemy in view. Wherever the crosshair lands, that's where Ray will shoot, and you can put multiple targets on the same enemy. When you are done, you'll get to watch as Ray goes on a short rampage and quickly fires off rounds at the enemies. For Thomas, the game automatically targets enemies for you and you shoot them by flicking the right stick down. The game also uses what's called Coop Concentration Mode several times. This is where both brothers will (usually) bust open a door into an area full of enemies and you'll have to take them out when time slows down. It's a lot of fun to do, and one that occurs on a later level will probably have you laughing.
What may surprise people (that don't already know) is that Bound In Blood has a first person cover system. To go into cover, you just walk up to the object you want to take cover behind and you automatically go into cover mode. For example, if you go behind a box you will automatically duck now and you can lean over the box to shoot people without being seen. If you go up to a wall you can lean out to pick off enemies without taking damage. It may sound troublesome, but once you figure out how it works and get some practice in it's a lot of fun to use and comes in handy.
What surprised me most about this game was how good the multiplayer was. The game modes are pretty basic, but the whole thing is class based. What I found interesting is that you don't unlock new classes by being promoted; rather, you get to buy whichever class you want to unlock using the money you earn in game (basically like experience points). You can also upgrades classes during the game to increase your health with that class, but the upgrades only last for that match. Because Modern Warfare 2 exists, there aren't a TON of people playing, but there was enough for me to get into good matches almost every time I searched, and I didn't encounter lag once (save for some connection issues that occur every so often).
Visually, Bound In Blood is quite an awesome looking game. Textures throughout the environment look really nice, and my favorite levels were probably the ones that took place in an open desert area where everything just looks so nice. I should also mention that there is a really great depth of field when aiming with rifles. It is unfortunate however that the character models don't look so hot and the lip synching isn't good at all. It is good though that the voice work is absolutely fantastic, especially for Ray.
Call Of Juarez: Bound In Blood is what the first Call Of Juarez should have been. It's an intense shooter with a much more interesting storyline that will get you to look past the flaws and enjoy the game, even if it is a little too short.