Beautiful Scenery
Let me start this ridiculously long review by saying I love Call of Juarez – but it’s starting showing its age. I’m going to make a few comparisons to Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood because that’s the order in which I have always played the games. I realize that in some cases my nit-picking may be a bit like complaining that chess has no voice acting, but I try to take into account this was six years ago.

The graphics were not jaw-droppingly impressive back in 2006 (but better than the Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion at least), but in 2012 Call of Juarez shows its crow’s feet. There were occasional glitches such as enemies getting stuck on an object but still moving and numerous clipping issues. Despite that, the scenery is still beautiful and although I’m almost certain the audio quality is not as good as the prequel’s, the music is excellent.

Right then, let’s jump into the actual playthrough. As per usual, I selected Very Hard mode so keep that in mind. In Episode I after being shot at by the Hope townspeople whom were promised a little alone time with Suzy for redecorating Billy into bullet-modern, I fled behind a building to safety as I remember doing in my previous playthroughs. I jumped out of the gap and ran out.

The Box Method

The Box Method.

A quickload later, I shrugged it off as I had half-expected to be killed with such a careless move. So, I tried the usual sneaky approach to liberty. I died again, and again. It was getting tiring and strangely I don’t remember encountering this problem in my previous playthroughs on Very Hard. Eventually I just had to swallow my pride and I grabbed a nearby box, jumped over the fence and backpedalled all the way to the cliff-face before heading down and escaping in a method I refer to as, ‘The Box Method’. I could almost hear a man shouting, “Look out men, he’s got a box!”.

I noticed right away due to my pursuers, that Call of Juarez has the same problem as Bound in Blood in that a Caucasian man will be talking like a Mexican, and vice-versa. The lines of dialogue during combat get repetitive as well.

In Episode III there is a point in which Ray jumps into a barn after escaping a fire. Quickly falling down, he then has to make his way back up on the opposite side. Just how do you do that? I won’t even call it a puzzle because it’s not, it’s a stacking-of-boxes. I honestly don’t remember many other segments like this even though I just played through the game (they’re that memorable), they really shouldn’t be there in the first place because they serve no purpose the way they are implemented. Speaking of implementation, I can’t remember how many times I fell to my death attempting to jump and grab onto a ledge, or had grabbed onto one but Billy decided he’d had enough of this cruel world and let go.

Moving on to Episode IV, Billy tries to get past outlaws and hitch a ride on the nearby train (presumably so the wind will give him a flashy new hairstyle). I approached a fireplace where three or four bandits sat. Preparing for an Old West bow-versus-guns firefight, I assassinated one of them with an arrow and… no reaction from the others. They just sat there. I’d decided not to rag on the AI since as this was six years ago, but that’s a bit hard to ignore even for back then.
Funny Story

Being my clever self, I thought I could sneak up on these guys. You can guess how this turned out.

Now it’s time for a confession… I have never once finished Episode IX since the very first time I played through Call of Juarez (I found savegames online and started on the next episode). Why? I get lost, every darn time I climb Eagle Mountain; I get stuck with no clue where to jump or whip my way to next. This time though, I decided things were going to be different.

After getting stuck in the usual spot, I looked up someone playing through said episode on Youtube. Why didn’t I do that years ago? I don’t know! Actually, I think I did but I lost my patience for jumping and climbing around. This time I finally found where to go, and completed the episode triumphantly. It was fun climbing the mountain, but the finicky climbing mechanics ensured I fell to my death several times. I really would have liked to have had another episode with Calm Water, it would have been beneficial to the story if we got to see Billy wrestling with the lessons Calm Water was attempting to teach him, which in my perfect Call of Juarez would have taken place before climbing Eagle Mountain.

Return of the Box Method

Return of the Box Method.

Let’s move on though, we’ve heard of Billy dying plenty enough. Let’s talk about Ray. Weapon degradation sucks, and as Ray you tend to shoot the most making this an annoyance. It’s another mechanic, like the “puzzles” that really has no place in this game. Another thing that sucks is the dueling mechanic which IS Ray-exclusive. Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood is far superior in this regard despite the McCalls’ finger-shaking dance move. Leaning is a concept which has been long abandoned by the games industry and for good reason: it’s more bloody buttons to keep track of! The dueling mechanic just isn’t particularly fun, I’d much rather be having a real-time firefight like with Manson in Episode XIV instead of this.

Here’s another confession, I always get lost in Episode VI, the level with the train. The Army guy tells Ray go shoot the bar off the train car’s door with his Scope Rifle. Every time, I wander around the level trying to find where to go for twenty minutes before finding that path behind the Gatling gun. I’m not going to say I have a bad sense of direction but I’m not going to claim I have an excellent sense of direction either.

Enough of Ray, back to Billy. As you might recall from my Call of Juarez: The Cartel Review, there is an episode in which Billy must get a horse to cross a gap (which I observed, and am 100% sure athletic, 17 year-old Billy Candle could easily jump even with his supposedly sprained ankle). You steal a horse and saddle and escape, jump the gap, and shortly thereafter have to abandon this fast ride to… You guessed it! Whip, jump and climb! After going through all that trouble I have to abandon the horse right after I got it? There’s just no excuse for this.
The Man from Snowy River

The Man from Snowy River

On the subject of horses, they handle poorly. Try sprinting with one and steering at the same time. It doesn’t work well, you end up having to stop sprinting, redirect yourself and then sprint, over and over again. Bound in Blood’s horses of course handle much better. There is a point in the game where Ray is chasing a carriage on horseback, and must traverse a ridiculously steep incline while on the horse (Someone at Techland had watched The Man from Snowy River). This segment is very questionable as to if the horse would trust Ray enough to attempt that feat, and it’s highly unlikely either one would have survived in reality.

With how many times I’ve died in this playthrough, I have realized that death is more realistic at most times than in Bound in Blood and it’s a nice touch that enemies continue to shoot your corpse for a while to make sure you’re dead. While I certainly have nothing against the old-school traditional health system (Half-Life series, Halo: Combat Evolved) in Call of Juarez it’s annoying on Very Hard mode when a single shot usually means you lose most your health. This requires constant quicksaving and quickloading, and anyone whom has ever used the quicksave feature on the PC version is well-aware how it freezes the game for a few seconds before resuming play. That’s a minor gripe but it does interrupt the flow of the game.

Wolf attacks make no sense. They run at Billy or Ray, most often in groups of three (though once or twice there were about seven or eight) in a straight line. Real wolves work in a pack, and though I’m no wolf expert I’d assume they surround the prey from all sides and probably not in the daytime. Don’t laugh, but tarantulas work the same way in Episode XII. They run at Billy in groups in a straight line. I’m certainly not going to claim I’m an expert on spiders, but they do not charge like Garfield headed for his food dish.

Billy Candle and the Raiders of the Lost Ark

Billy Candle and the Raiders of the Lost Ark

Episode XII then. This Episode reeks of Indiana Jones, what with Billy’s use of a whip, the tarantulas (remember that scene?), the trap with stepping on the right tiles and the trap that triggers several huge boulders falling in an attempt to change our hero’s name to “Billy Pancake”. In Episode XIV I found myself hiding behind boxes on a ledge in Juarez’s Alcazar, hiding from snipers and a particularly annoying Mexican bandit down below. All my attempts to take out the snipers failed and I died repeatedly. Realizing my only option,
Billy Candle and the Last Crusade

Billy Candle and the Last Crusade

having only about half my health and this being Very Hard mode, I swallowed my pride and yes, I grabbed a box and proceeded to run forward with it using it as cover.

These hombres were not nearly as afraid as I imagined the ones in Episode I were. They mocked me, called me ‘yella-belly’ and ‘coward’ and shot me dead five or six times but I pressed on and eventually made it to the corner after killing the bandit down below and one sniper, where I dropped the box and pulled out my pistols, filling the last sniper full of holes.

Now that I’ve covered that it’s time for the big one… “In this game we do not allow the harming of innocent civilians, horses or corpses. Breaking this rule will cause the game to end”. When you aim at an innocent civilian, horse or corpse a big red “X” appears and clicking the Fire button will cause the character to turn the weapon away and say something about what a horrible person you are it.

I suspect that one of the developers’ grandmother came to visit and in sitcom fashion he quickly shoehorned this rule into the game so she wouldn’t get riled up (little did he know, Grandma is the one throwing dynamite at the previous innocent civilians to break this rule!).

Die Dog
Or more likely, with this ambitious project for a small developer like Techland they didn’t want any bad press, because you know that some ******* ‘gaming journalist’ is going to write something about how they’re all going to burn in hell and Call of Juarez is a bad game because players can shoot a character in a videogame. You know, a digital program which isn’t real. I think I would lose my sanity if I couldn’t stab the minstrels in the necks when they swarm me and assault me with their bad music in Assassin’s Creed II. Picture that, bad-ass Asasssin Ezio Auditore Da Firenze, lying in an alley crying.

Still, this is something that Bound in Blood is far superior in. I have died several times trying to shoot a cluster of enemies and after the first one goes down, Ray or Billy say they cannot (In finger-waving dance move fashion of course) and then get shot to death by the corpse’s buddies.

Techland: Stop trying to govern our gameplay, telling us what we can and can’t do. If you don’t want us to harm civilians fine, make it so that it’s literally impossible to do so (As they did in Bound in Blood, where nothing you do can injure them and you have no reason to even bother). When you make rules like Techland’s Fifth Commandment, you make people WANT to break said rule just for the heck of it whereas usually they wouldn’t even bother with such a thing.

Arrow Midflight
Whatever you do Techland, listening to me or not
, just promise me you will never have minstrels gang up on us singing horrible songs like in Assassin’s Creed II. Despite all these complaints, I love this game. The story is quite good, though in comparison I have to say Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood is the better game, better story and the better Old West.
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