Giant Bomb Review

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Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood Review

3
  • PC
  • X360

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.


This cornfield is one of the few spots where using stealth pays off. 
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.

Ray and Thomas don't trust anyone... not even each other. 
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. Jeff Gerstmann on Google+
24 Comments
Posted by JJOR64

This might be a game I get when it hits the budget bin.

Posted by RHCPfan24

If I find this game for around $20, I am definitely picking it up. Good review, Jeff.

Posted by RagingLion

Hmm, based on other reviews I was expecting this to get a 4/5.  Seemed like others found the gameplay a little bit more varied and the story a bit stronger than you did Jeff, but fair enough.  Seems pretty good but I'm fairly selective so I think I'll leave this one.

Edited by supercubedude

I love how well Jeff's three star picture sums up reviews like this. "Meh"

Posted by MeatSim

Maybe I will pick this up when it hits the bargain bin.

Posted by ImperiousRix

Just got this alongside some other stuff for my birthday (see the blog post).  I just finished the first act and am really enjoying it.  I think the setting and story are strong points, and the wild west shootout gameplay is pretty entertaining from my point of view.

Posted by GeekDown

I was hoping that this game would be better...but I might still pick it up once the price goes down.

Posted by Walreese55

There's a mistake in the review. The third brother's name is William. I have no idea where the fuck Jeff got Michael from.

Edited by Death_Burnout

Whoa...Blasphemey!

I Will say this game is an amazing prequel and is far better enjoyed if you played the original, there are SO MANY things story wise related to the "first" game, even returning levels.

Gameplay wise the first game did more interesting things, but story wise, Bound in Blood takes the fucking cake. That alone makes me think it deserves a 4...but if you haven't played the orginal, 3 isn't surprising at all.

I highly reccommend this game to people.

Ray McCall = One of my favourite game characters in recent years.

Posted by Oni

Uh the youngest brother's name is William, Jeff.

Also very disappointed to see this get only 3 stars. It has amazing atmosphere and environments and the story is the best I've seen in any FPS game for a very long time. I'd seriously just gawk at the massive-feeling locales from time to time, especially the unsettled parts. The gunplay is satisfying and fun. Easily 4 stars for me, I mean fair enough if you didn't dig it that much, but just shallowly looking at the gameplay mechanics isn't doing this game justice. It brings the period to life like no other game I know and for that alone it deserves a recommendation. Hell, the multiplayer is even pretty fun.

I seriously am never one to bitch about review scores, but it, and the review itself, did not do this game justice in my opinion. But hey, that's what reviews are, opinions, I'm just posting this to provide a different take, I might write a review for it myself, too.

Edited by Duckbutter

Jeffrey forgot to mention how awesome the graphics are. how come reviewers barely mention graphics and voice-over talent and musical scores in video games these days? lame.
the game is better when you turn off the auto-aim. not as easy an boring. the motion-capture or animation or whatever the hell they were tryin to do in the cutscenes made me throw up a little.

Posted by marlow83

Given Jeff's proclaimed bias against historical shooters, I'm still gonna check this game out regardless of this review.

Posted by raidingkvatch

The review leaves my opinions about this unchanged, I'll CoJ: BiB in the back of my head when I'm looking for cut prive games in 6 months or so

Posted by corgorav

I'd give it 3 or 4 (make that 3.5). In my books: +++=Story, characters (and voice-acting though I'm not American so I can't really tell how authentic the accents are but yeah I enjoyed them) , visuals, atmosphere, ---=repetitive gameplay, boring side missions, pretty much empty and uninteresting "open" world(sequences), (imho) too powerful weapons later in the game. I really feel the devs just quickly put together the bland side missions and areas dedicated to them to make the game a little longer and that was a mistake as they don't really add anything essential to the game.

Posted by OneKillWonder_

Really? Just a 3? It's easily a 4, at the very least. CoJ: BiB has one of the best told narratives in gaming I've seen, not to mention Ray McCall being an excellently developed and deep character. I'd give it a 4 for the story alone. The gameplay is solid and smooth, though nothing out of the ordinary. There are plenty of great set-piece gun battles that have a very authentic Wild West feel. There's something very satisfying about the shooting in this game. All of the guns sound and feel perfect and make the experience that much more enjoyable. The environment graphics are stunningly beautiful at times. However, the facial animations are very stiff and are really the only thing holding the emotion of the story back. The campaign isn't particularly long, but MP is good fun. It has a few bugs that need to be worked out, but otherwise serves as a strong component to the game.

Posted by Death_Burnout
@OneKillWonder said:
" Really? Just a 3? It's easily a 4, at the very least. CoJ: BiB has one of the best told narratives in gaming I've seen, not to mention Ray McCall being an excellently developed and deep character. I'd give it a 4 for the story alone. The gameplay is solid and smooth, though nothing out of the ordinary. There are plenty of great set-piece gun battles that have a very authentic Wild West feel. There's something very satisfying about the shooting in this game. All of the guns sound and feel perfect and make the experience that much more enjoyable. The environment graphics are stunningly beautiful at times. However, the facial animations are very stiff and are really the only thing holding the emotion of the story back. The campaign isn't particularly long, but MP is good fun. It has a few bugs that need to be worked out, but otherwise serves as a strong component to the game. "
We should be friends, now!
Posted by twillfast

It fully boggles my mind why everyone likes Ray so much. I thought he was annoying in the first game and building on in in this one, so I played Thomas as much as I could.
I'm also surprised that people liked the pistol duels so much.. I started to dislike them after the second one and then they just kept coming.

Though, I have to agree it's a well told story.
"Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood - the wild west has never had so many church bells before."

Posted by JeffGoldblum

I just rented this. I hope its pretty good.

Edited by Renegade

THREE? THREE?!?!?? JEFF THIS IS A 5! MAN YOU'RE SO WRONG HOLY CRAP!!!

/end sarcasm

You know, I've posted something similar before, and I guess I'll post it again until people read it and stop with these nonsensical "Well (so and so site) gave it a 80% Jeff, I expected the same from you" or "I played this game Jeff. I don't know if you played the same game, but this is a 4/5. Such bias against it". Well then, I guess, according to this logic, reviews are irrelevant and should all be identical, or reviews should all be based upon how you personally feel about a game, and not how the person reviewing it feels about it.

Man, it's his opinion, and on top of it all, STOP LOOKING AT THE FUCKING STARS. Read the review, take what you will from it, and that's that. Opinions shouldn't have numbers assigned to them in the first place.

DONE.

Posted by Media_Master

Still, the game is a solid western

Posted by egads

"Indians"? Seriously?  I understand that they refer to aboriginals as Indians in the game quite a bit, but that surely doesn't justify using the term in a review that is being written in 2009.  This is the second time I have seen game journalists use the word "Indians" to refer (wrongly, I might add, as Indians are from India) to aboriginals (or native americans etc.) when talking about this game.  Not only is the term racist, but it also just reinforces negative stereotypes about gamers.

Posted by Oni
@Renegade: I don't know who you're talking to, because no one did that. Everyone 'complaining' (actually just disagreeing civilly) voiced their arguments pretty eloquently without simply harping on the score. Lay off the righteous indignation, man.
Edited by Tuco_Ramires

This Game rocks, when multi will be fixed,more and more ppl will join.
I love everything about this Game;except for the female character:
I 'm not saying she's ugly,I'm not saying she's annoying eitheir...
She's both.

Edited by Roger778

I just finished playing it today, and it had been a year since I last played it. The shooting is good, and the graphics are lovely, pretty realistic looking, but the story is the real star. The two lead heroes, Ray and Thomas McCall, are great, likable characters and the random banter they have when they're gunning down enemies was awesome, and sometimes funny to listen, too. They're just fully developed characters, and that's a big plus in my book. Finally, the ending movie sequence was wonderful, and satisfying to watch, and it feels rare these days to actually get a good ending.

I'm sorry, Jeff, but I have to disagree with you. This game deserves a 4 out of 5 rating, in my opinion.