dimsey's Call of Juarez: The Cartel (Xbox 360) review

Some interesting ideas brought down by the flawed game surrounding them.

The Rad

  • Conceptually interesting interweaving of cooperative and competitive gameplay.

The Bad

  • Not much in the way of objective variety.
  • Dumb enemy AI.
  • A myriad of other technical issues.

I don’t really have any history with the Call of Juarez franchise.
I know the previous two entries were Westerns.
And this shares at least some aesthetic similarity in that regard.
But they bring it to the modern era. Which I’m unsure about.

I have to imagine that if you were a fan of the series one of the reasons why would be because of the Old West setting. Not a lot of games of that ilk out there, so modernizing it seems like it’d be a bit alienating.

But that’s not relevant for me I suppose.
I went in fresh and had an okay time with it.
The sort of okay time that makes me glad I picked it up in a bargain bin though.

To get the good out of the way… The game is definitely co-op focused.

There are three playable characters, allowing three people to play through the campaign together. And you’ll shoot guys and have an okay time with it that way, but the thing that makes it stand out is that they inject an interesting competitive aspect into the co-operative game.

Each of the characters has their own agenda and as you play through the games various levels you’ll often recieve phone calls or text messages. Private, for your eyes only - none of the other players are getting what you are. And they will pertain to your own special agenda - which usually revolves around collecting something in the level without the other players seeing you and arousing the suspicion of the other characters.

If you’re caught in the act of taking something there’s not much penalty to it aside from not getting the bonus xp at the end of a chapter - I feel like they could have done more with the idea, but at the very least it’s an idea with potential and it’s not something I’ve really seen done elsewhere.

I won’t spoil how the events play out EXACTLY - but the finale of the game has the players in a Mexican standoff. You will choose whether or not you’ll want to fight to the death with your fellow players. And I did fight my bro and “won” so the ending revolved around my character.

Assume if he or the AI had managed to win we’d have seen something different or if none of us had opted to fight we’d have seen something different still.

The only other game I can think of that does anything similar is Double Dragon - where at the end of the game both players are to fight for the affections of Marian. And I always thought THAT was cool, so it’s neat to have a similar idea applied to a more modern style of game.

Sadly all the good ideas in the world can’t save it from being a rather mediocre affair. The shooting doesn’t have a good, satisfying feel to it.

There isn’t much in the way of enemy variety and the foes you do face are dumb as rocks.

The game isn’t a visual powerhouse, but it looks fine enough.

Somewhat hampered by technical issues - such as clipping through the environment almost every time you revive a fallen comrade.

I hold a fair amount of appreciation for this game, but I appreciate it more for what it set out to do than for what it actually did. It was conceptually sound, but the execution left a fair bit do be desired.

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