Played on PS3. Released 3rd July 2009. ‘Late’ly completed 2nd October 2017. Socially behind – 8 Years & 3 Months
Stats:Played on PS3. Released 3rd July 2009. ‘Late’ly completed 2nd October 2017. Socially behind – 8 Years & 3 Months
I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had momentarily played a Juarez game previously, resembling an arcade shoot-em up with cardboard cutouts, but having seen true 3D models in the screenshots, I was intrigued. So it was a nice surprise to find myself on the frontlines of the American Civil war.
The game does fantastically crack that period in American history, covering the end of the American war, American Indians, American cowboys, American farmsteads, American weapons etc. It’s a good portal for going back into seeing how things certainly looked and behaved back then in America. If a game was made of the UK back in that same time period (asides from AC: Syndicate which I imagine dramatizes the standard life an average man who spent most of their time down the mines), it couldn’t be made to be as entertaining with the lack of wars and cowboys.
The story is of two/three brothers depending on viewpoint, consisting of two playable brothers that are battle hardened, six-shooter in hand and ready to blow anyone that threatens them away. The third brother, a pacifist, preaches the word of God, and believe his brothers are falling down a slippery slope of sin, trying to rescue their morals and souls. The story covers the brothers as they escape from the civil war, going south looking for a means to make money to rebuild their lost family home. I won’t say anymore as it helps to experience the story firsthand, but I can’t go without saying that the fatherly brother does get annoying at times, and the ending (which I’m curious as to how it’s told depending on who you play as throughout the campaign) was a bit ludicrous, but then again, only in America, which doesn’t come as much of surprise.
Throughout the campaign, you can choose which of the two main brothers you can play as, the older brother Ray who specialises in six shooters or Thomas, who can reach high heights and specialises in rifles. I played as Ray for the campaign, being an older brother myself, but Ray isn’t exactly the most relatable. Having chosen a brother, AI will control the other in the campaign, with no ability in the game for co-op which seems to be an absolute missed opportunity. The third brother, William is unplayable at all, tagging along to his brothers even in the middle of gun fights with bullets flying over head, and is for the majority of the campaign the narrator of the story. I think there is supposed to be some replayability to the game by selecting the other brother in your second playthrough, but 8 hours was enough for me and I’m not the biggest fan of replaying games for practically no benefit to story or personal respite.
The game is played from a first person perspective, with your selected weapon viewable in hand in front of you, as you shoot through linear map designs of trenches, towns and mining caves. You can select a weapon from a dial wheel, either using six-shooters, rifle or sniper, bow & arrows, knifes and depending on brother, throwable dynamite or rope & lasso. With pistols, you can have one in each hand, just spraying the screen with bullets but with barely any aim, or you can just use the one handgun and now able to zoom in when shooting opponents. Rifles I found throughout the gameplay to be the most balanced for accuracy, power and rate of fire, though reloading could take quite a while. Weapons also come ranked, ranging from feeble 1 star weapons to golden 3 star weapons that have the best stats. You might find these lying around, otherwise ensure to collect enough money during levels to purchase both brothers a full arsenal of golden weapons for the end fight.
There’s plenty of ammo littering levels, so on normal difficulty, it’s easy enough to complete levels as long as you keep an eye on health and don’t let snipers take your head off. On the subject of heads, shooting enemies is either getting instant headshots or shooting body and limbs a few times to stun them momentarily. After shooting six enemies in a row, you power up a gauge to go into a Max Payne shooter mode, in which time slows down, allowing you to pass the cursor over enemies a few times, placing markers which is where you shoot all at once when you press the initiate button. Helps when a large group of enemies rush you at once. What you definitely notice is the lack of automatic weapons which is prevalent in any modern day shooter, of course due to the era we’re playing in. It means that every one of your shots counts, as you can no longer spray an area an enemy could be taking cover in, and you also have limited ammo before having to reload, which takes a long time overwise to do, so you need to take out enemies as quickly and efficiently as possible before they manage to advance too far forward to a point where they’re going to pin you down and thus kill you. It does feel that each kill achieved though is just that slightly more gratifying seeing as you’ve definitely had to work for it.
Alongside ballistics, you can also pick up props such as chairs and lamps littered around to attack with, and as in any shooters, you might also find a few explosive barrels to shoot that are conveniently situated right next to held up enemies. Controls can feel a bit sluggish, probs due to being used to the smooth and responsive sensitivity of PS4 games and controllers. What would also tend to happen is that whilst aiming, the screen would go out of focus which required having to strafe or circle your aim around. This was quite common and would get infuriating at times not being able to see anything that was happening on screen as you were shot from 5 different directions, whilst trying to line shots up. Otherwise, when it is working fine, you’re taking cover behind walls, boxes and barrels, simply by pressing up against it, shooting at not the smartest of AI as they pop their heads out, even though they’re otherwise fully capable of shooting you from the side of cover even when they’re not looking.
The graphics in the game are mediocre, straining the PS3 to render the far draw distances alongside the many props in the local vicinity. In each chapter of the game, there is a new biome introduced, either with trenches in the middle of brown farming fields, or the rich green trees within a virtually untouched valley. As the protagonists travel to different parts of America in each chapter, the developers have done a great job of only using trees unique to those areas, so great to see they hadn’t just used one tree over and over, instead creating entire forests of many different species of trees. In the first chapter, with the trenches and cannons scattering a barren countryside, the levels are mostly of a brown hue, which can make it difficult to make far off objects out due to the restricted 720p resolution, aswell as unfortunately suffering from choppy frames. Character models do look good though, and allow for a close up on props from another time to have a gander at.
Just a quick mention of the music, the soundtrack is great, with a great western setting to it. When the action does pick up, a rock’n’roll vibe drops out of nowhere which adds great emphasis to the scene.
Throughout levels, the game would freeze at times when saving or loading up the next part which wasn’t the best of experiences in a time when developers had gotten to grips with load areas, etc, but I wonder if it’s now my PS3 that’s taking a while to just load these areas due to it’s age and the fact it’s had the same hard-drive in it now since day dot. Off the top of my head, I think my PS3 is now 6 years old! so it does deserve some love and I should really get round to buying it a new hard-drive I think atleast, but it’s just being conservative with cash as my PS4 could possibly benefit from a SSD upgrade, in which I might actually throw that old HD into the PS3, but I’m now digressing, so let me get back on topic.
During levels, there were various challenges and game modes you would play in, such as either the basic traversing through levels on foot, shooting enemies, or when trying to take out an old-skool gattling gun from afar, or on horseback, having to shoot opponent riders trying to mount your stagecoach. Essentially basic now for any shooter, but it’s good to see that all this has been included. Each level finishes with a duel against the level’s boss, in which you circle around each other, waiting for that spaghettie western bell to ring once, causing both sides to draw their pistol and shoot first. Fantastically captures the tension experienced before a draw, with the sweat running down your forehead for that death-defying moment. Having said that, I did fail at it often and had to retry a few times before winning, so it’s certainly a good thing I don’t live in those times, I doubt I would have survived long.
There are also parts of the game in which the level will expand out to a large playfield, taking 10 minutes to cross on horseback, in which you have full freedom to explore and complete a couple of varied side missions such as clearing areas of enemies or hunting down wanted men. These made for a fantastic break from the conventional linear playstyle, expanding gameplay to the point which means that the game felt great to play through, experiencing all these numerous playstyles, even though you can skip if you so desire to, but I wouldn’t advise it as it’s a good opportunity to acquire money and just experience the game as a whole.
It’s unfortunate that once again I didn’t have the means to take screenshots in the game, as there are some memorable moments and scenes I would have liked to share, but I’ll find something on the Internet. In the mean time, I have finally managed to hook up my PS3 to an elgato to an old laptop, which though it can’t record video past 720p, can atleast take absolutely fine screenshots, so I now have something for these PS3 reviews from now on.
One of the little touches I have to applaud is during a certain level when running some enemies out of a local mine, there would be blasting going on somewhere in the background as regular workers carried on with their mining, which would be seen on screen and felt in the controller via vibration, which I thought was a great effect and reminded me of the one time I felt an earthquake at school due to the local limestone quarry having an especially larger than normal blast.
Online multiplayer is absolutely dead. I gave it 5 minutes in a lobby a couple of times, but nothing. In the campaign, there are also secrets that you can collect in hidden areas, which unlock real-life photos of 19th Century America and fictitious memories from the main characters which don’t really add much to the lore or story of the game, so good effort to the voice actors for hanging around in the studio to record this non-essential pieces. The achievements in the game are easy enough to acquire, apart of course the multiplayer ones, even though I still someone managed to unlock one in regards to completing an objective… The best single player achievement is High Noon, getting 4 kills between 12 – 12:15 PM local time, which I managed to get due to getting bored one day and booting up the game luckily enough at 11:55 AM without even realizing.
I’m not the biggest fan of the story, following in some way a traditional western story, with twists and turns that don’t exactly thrill me, with two brothers at times fighting over some of the most stupidest of shit, but atleast they always come together to take the rest of the world on. The voice acting is mediocre, but the story is told well enough via the characters. Compared to Red Dead Redemption, I do find Red Dead to be the better game with much better game mechanics and story, but Call Of Juarez has a charm to it, covering the wilderness of the entire American continent during the 1800s that makes it a great one to play for history buffs and fans of first person shooters.
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