By Steve Wright
The first problem that gamers will have with Call of Juarez: Gunslinger is that it’s a Call of Juarez game. Of late, that particular franchise has become synonymous with mediocrity; in fact, its last game, The Cartel, decided to mess with things so badly that the title was brought into modern day. Thankfully, Ubisoft have learnt from past mistakes and have delivered an authentic and highly enjoyable experience with Gunslinger. All you need to do is forgive, forget, and give it a try.
Ditching the retail model as Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon did, Gunslinger is a downloadable experience that delivers wave after wave of action. Its pacing is perfectly suited for that of a downloadable title; you could just tell you'd have boring, padded-out bits in the middle of Gunslinger if it shipped on a retail disc. Playing as Silas Greaves, the game revolves around the grizzled ol' gunslinger revisiting his past exploits.
Because the game is a story told by Greaves after potentially thousands of whiskeys too many, the game takes twists, turns and rewinds because of his unreliable narration. Like in "Tiny Tina's Assult on Dragon Keep," Silas' recounting of events means that landscapes will literally change in front of your eyes. Enemies will pop up behind boulders, planks will shift in to place to create cover or new pathways to objectives and more. It's great looking just for that, but the game's cel-shaded style makes everything look that much cooler to boot. The mechanics provide an action-packed game that's constantly shifting to keep you on your toes -- and thankfully, is filled with equal helpings of humour.
As you'd expect from the game's subtitle, there is a focus on gunshootery (that's totally a thing) in Gunslinger. As you chain kills, the game goes into slow-down to show off your bad-assery (that's DEFINITELY a thing). As you level Silas up, you'll also get skill points to spend over three paths of a skill tree, which cater to different styles of gameplay. If you're eagle-eyed, you might just want to perfect Silas' aim, or if you're like me -- a bad shot) -- you can call in Max Payne-style bullet time to help pick off baddies.
It can't all be perfect; duels are hard to get used to, requiring you to focus on your opponent while also getting your hand on your sidearm for a quick draw. Thankfully, those duels feel quite rewarding once you get the hang of them. In the same vein, enemies have an uncanny ability to blend into backgrounds, making them hard to identify at times, yet have the best aim I have ever seen. It can get frustrating when you're popping out to try to find a baddie, only to have them pepper you with perfect aim, effortlessly. Protip: use RB, and use it often; it'll make enemies glow red. Easy-to-spot red.
The fast-paced nature of this game, alongside a proper western setting, really bring this franchise back to its enjoyable roots. Ubisoft is kicking goals of late with short, punchy and highly addictive downloadable titles. Other publishers, take note: Call of Juarez: Gunslinger and Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon are what downloadable titles should be.