Reviewed: August 6, 2009
Released: June 30, 2009
Western style shooters are a genre that is not touched upon very much in a sea of WWII and fictional shooters. For that reason alone, 2007ís Call of Juarez was instantly one of the greatest shooters I had ever played. Sure there was GUN and Red Dead Revolver, but the original Call of Juarez was amazing. As many would agree, a Bible wielding reverend using the power of Christ to disorient his foes while he fills them with hot lead was pure genius.
Itís now 2009 and Ubisoft and Techland give another shot of gold fever with the release of sequel/prequel Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood. This tale follows the adventures of the McCall brothers, Ray and Thomas, as they make their way from the fronts of the Civil War to the hot deserts of Arizona in search of the mother load of all treasure. The story starts off with Ray and Thomas holding the lines in the American Civil War when they are ordered to retreat to Atlanta. When word gets to them that their homestead is being attacked by Yankees they desert the army and rush home to defend their family and home. Alas, they are too late to save their dear mother, so they flee with their preacher brother to south of the border to avoid arrest for abandoning the glorious cause.
William provides the narration for the story as well as a moral compass for his brothers, who more often than not ignore his comments and attempts at salvation. While in Mexico they decide to search for the lost treasure of Juarez, a fortune in cursed Aztec gold that they could use to rebuild their home, and in the process they get mixed up with a deadly Mexican gangster, two tribes of Indians, and even some old military ďbuddiesĒ from their past come back to haunt them.
One of the story key elements of Bound in Blood is the love interest that both Ray and Thomas share, Marisa, Juarezís girl. Marisa is probably one of the hottest chicks in a video game, so I can see why the two would fight over her. From the very beginning of the game you'll see a scene that will pretty much show you that much. I wonít say much more that that as it would ruin the surprise. All I will say is that this conflict of interest shapes the events that lead up to the original Call of Juarez seamlessly.
Bound in Blood offers the same type of gameplay that the first one did, only this time itís more close knit as it revolves heavily around the family aspect of the two playable brothers. Each brother is pretty badass in their own regards, but each has their own specialized skills. Ray is the stronger of the two gunslingers that can dual wield pistols, dynamite and carry Gatling guns. He wears a Cuirass to deflect bullets and can break down doors. Thomas on the other hand is quick, stealthy and agile. He can use his lasso to climb up and get to higher ground. This is particularly useful as he is also really good with long range weapons like the bow and the rifle. His aiming with a single pistol, since he canít dual wield, is slightly better than his brother's. He can also use knives, and there is a chapter segment devoted to it.
Each also has a Concentration mode that differs between the two brothers. Upon killing enemies your concentration meter fills up and once full you can activate it for the currently character. Rayís concentration mode will allow you to paint any visible enemies with multiple targets. After the time runs out he unleashes hell upon anyone or anything targeted. While Rayís ďbullet-time eventĒ is awesome, I have to like Thomasís event even better. With Thomas you have to hold down the left mouse button while repeatedly pulling back the mouse to recreate hammer strumming. Unlike Ray, he auto locks on every bad guy in sight while you do this one by one. The only problem with concentration mode, and this seems to be the case with everyone at GCM, is that everyone around you is pretty much dead before you can even activate it which leads to you rushing to the next fight to use it before the counter expires.
Bound in Blood also features authentic weaponry from that time period including Volcano Guns, Quickshooters, Rangers, Rifles, and Shotguns. You start out with rusty versions of the various weapons but you can buy better versions later on. Each weapon has a 1 to 3 star quality level in which the damage, accuracy and reload times are better. Each weapon also has different stats which will affect how the player fights.
Two of the most brilliant aspects of the title are its level design and the cover mechanics. The world that you will traverse has some of the most beautiful landscapers that I have ever seen in a game. The various towns, farms, mountain passes, and river trips are simple amazing. Everything seems to work perfectly with one another. One of my many favorite parts of Bound in Blood is navigating through towns using the environment as Iím blowing away enemies. The cover system here is without a doubt the best Iíve seen in a game so far. Once positioned behind the cover of you choice, sometimes not, you can use the precision aiming to peak around or over cover and fire of a few shots before ducking back. It makes you feel more like youíre in the game and not just a part of it.
The one thing that breaks up the great flow of Bound in Blood are the quickdraw showdowns. The way it works is that you use the mouse to move the arm of your chosen gunslinger towards the holster in real time. While you do that you use the A/D buttons to move your character left or right and keep the opponent in focus right in front of you. When the music dies you have a few seconds before the chime sounds, where you must execute an in-and-up motion to draw your pistol and shoot the enemy as soon as the cursor turns red. Sure, this is an intricate part of the west, but the system is a bit broken. Itís a great idea, but itís almost a game of chance sometimes, or so it seems. Iíve had times where I can nail it in one or two tries whereas other times I just got downright frustrated after numerous tries.
Graphically Bound in Blood will take your breath away, especially when you are standing on a high stretch of railroad track with nothing but a canyon floor below. The towns are gorgeous in a dusty sort of way, and the countryside is serene and peaceful for about two seconds. One of my favorite visual parts of the adventure is where you are in a canoe traveling along a river. Itís so gorgeous I almost forgot to shoot. Later on there is one particular ghost town that was complete with an eerie fog that I absolutely loved. Thereís nothing like hunting down enemies in knee high fog.
Pop-up is big factor on large scale landscapes like this. The PC version handled this issue quite well compared to the console versions. The most pop-up I came across was the detail on the plants, not the plants themselves but their textures. But if you pay more attention to where youíre going itís an easy sacrifice to ignore, especially when youíre shooting people on horseback. The world is simply amazing and a sight to behold throughout the entire journey. I particularly enjoyed traveling up and down the mountains, especially when youíre escaping down the cliff via narrow scaffolding. The view looking down below was a rush.
The score for Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood is simply amazing. There were so many different melodies that made me feel like I was in the game. The upbeat music that plays when youíre in intense gun fights is perfect. The people at Techland really know how make western scores wither it be a Native American theme or the quieter melodies of a heart felt event.
The sound effects are also topnotch. The roar of the cannons to the powerful shot of a rifle to the twang of a bow to the double firing of dual revolvers is excellent and accurate. The sound of the horses as they gallop and race across the different surfaces is impeccable, especially when you move across solid rock. But the true applause goes to the voice acting which is magnificent. The bickering and interaction between the two brothers is priceless and realistic. Williamsí pleas and concerns to his two brothers are sincere and heart felt. The phrases and cursing are enough to justify the ďMĒ rating, but they are funny as well.
Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood takes place over 15 of the most enjoyable chapters of any title Iíve played recently. It took me a little over 9 hours to finish the game and I managed to find 40 of the 89 well-hidden secrets on the first play through. Beating Bound in Blood unlocks the ďVery HardĒ mode for those who want a real challenge. There is also a nice multiplayer mode complete with varied classes and match settings. I had a lot of fun playing against other real players online. The only thing that took away from the experience was the frequent dropped servers, but I hear that thereís talk of a dedicated server in the future.
Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood is without a doubt one of the best prequels Iíve ever played. Everything just clicks at the end of the adventure for those who played the first Call of Juarez. The brotherly banter, soaring beauty and awesome gunfights make this a title that I wonít soon forget. Itís easily the best game Iíve played this year. Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood retails for around $50 dollars at most retailers. I highly recommend picking up Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood whenever you can. Grab your guns and listen to the Call of Juarez.