Giant Bomb Review24 Comments
Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood Review3
by Jeff Gerstmann on
While it lacks the "Bible-as-a-weapon" innovation found in the previous game, this prequel tale merges adequate gameplay with a plot good enough to keep you focused.
For whatever reason, there's never seemed to be a great deal of games based in the Wild West. While I tend to think that's because there was nowhere to go but down after Outlaw was released on the Atari 2600, there's probably some other very good reason for the general lack of westerns in gaming. But every now and then, a game or two pops up. Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood counts as the "or two" in this case, being the second game in a series that launched back in 2007. This prequel makes for a serviceable first-person shooter, but it's the story of two brothers torn apart over money, women, and war that makes it a more worthwhile experience.
The game opens with Thomas and Ray McCall at each others' throats over a woman, then backs up to show you how it all came to a head. The game flashes back to the War Between the States. The McCalls are Georgians, fighting on the side of the Confederacy. When they decide to desert and attempt to save their family farm (and mother) from the advancing Yankees, it sets off a series of events that'll take most players around six hours to complete on the default difficulty setting. Since they deserted, the McCalls are no longer welcome back home, and are forced to break West to escape their old, still-sore commanding officer. They, along with younger brother William--a preacher who just sort of shakes his head as his older brothers go further and further to the dark side--eventually make their way to Mexico in hopes of finding a lost Aztec treasure. There are plenty of double-crosses and twists to keep things reasonably interesting, though the game drags out its conclusion.
Having the two brothers means that in most cases, you'll be able to choose which brother to control. Elder brother Ray is the strong one, so he can kick down some doors and barriers. He can also use dynamite to blow open pathways that Thomas is unable to take. For his part, Thomas is faster and uses a lasso in some situations to climb to higher ground. He also has throwing knives and can equip a bow, making him a stealth character in a game that doesn't really have very many stealth situations. Still, I think I enjoyed controlling Thomas more than Ray, as Thomas never seemed quite as sleazy as his older brother, and the bow that only Thomas can use is almost overpowered.
With the exception of two open-area sections that let you take on a handful of side missions, Bound in Blood is a straightforward shooter that leads you along a mostly linear path from one objective to the next. Your enemies are mostly outlaws, soldiers, and Indians from various tribes. While I went through the majority of the game with a rifle, you can also wield pistols, shotguns, and so on. The guns come in differing qualities, so a "prime" or "superb" version of a gun is going to have better stats than a "rusty" version of the same weapon. There are spots set up throughout the game where you can spend cash--usually earned by completing side missions or picked up from dead bodies--on better weapons. Except in cases where you're dual-wielding pistols, the game subscribes to the Call of Duty school of aiming control, with a button (the left trigger, on 360) devoted to a slight zoom that will snap to nearby targets.
It's a good thing that the story of Bound in Blood keeps things moving, because the game's largest problem is that the action is sort of bland. It breaks up its standard moving-and-shooting with a few horseback sequences that aren't very different from the regular action, and a handful of moments where you'll get on mounted Gatling guns to mow down a mess of enemies. The coolest moments are quickdraw duels, which is what the game sort of uses for boss fights. You'll have to outdraw most of your main enemies, which makes for some neat sequences, but it remains so similar from fight to fight that it, too, gets a little old before the game is finished. Also, it's disappointing that the game doesn't have cooperative play. Considering you're almost always running around with your brother by your side, it would have fit in just fine.
The game does have a full-on multiplayer mode, though, allowing up to 12 players to compete in a variety of standard modes, including takes on team deathmatch and assault. The multiplayer is class-based, which lets you choose characters with different ratings in health and speed, as well as different weapons. You earn money as you play online, and some money can be used to upgrade your classes while in-game. These upgrades aren't persistent, though, so they'll only help you out in your current match. You also leave matches with an amount of money that can be spent to unlock additional classes. The multiplayer isn't bad, but unless you're absolutely bent on playing a shooter with a western theme, it probably won't replace your current multiplayer shooter of choice.
All told, Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood makes for a good diversion. It doesn't last too long, tells a decent story, and offers enough multiplayer to give you something to mess around with when the single-player's done. It certainly isn't the most ambitious game in the world, but if you're looking for a competent western shooter, Juarez fits the bill just fine.