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May 29 2013
Call of Juarez: Gunslinger - PS3 Review
Release Launch Price Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
Media HDD Space Resolution Move Controls Tilt Controls OFLC Rating

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Stagecoach ambush in the canyon.
The Call of Juarez series has been genuinely up and down. Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood, was the first title in the franchise to make it to the PS3 and it was thoroughly entertaining. 2011's follow-up title, Call of Juarez: The Cartel, moved away from the Wild West and was extremely disappointing, failing to build on Bound in Blood in any meaningful way. The good news then is that Gunslinger moves the series back to its Wild West roots, and is much more Bound in Blood than it is The Cartel. Is it worth checking out? Read on...

A man walks into a bar... and is immediately recognized as the famed bounty hunter Silas Greaves. (This is not the joke you were looking for :jedi wave:). The bar's occupants surround Silas and hopefully ask him to regale them with stories of his exploits. Silas is only too happy to oblige and the stories he tells make up the levels you play through in Gunslinger's Story mode.

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Gunslinger is an impressive downloadable game.
Including Story mode there are three game modes to choose from, with the other two being Arcade and Dueling. Let's focus on Story mode first. The controls will be familiar to anyone who has played a first-person shooter in the past few years; there's not much else to worry about other than targeting with L1 and shooting with R1.

As you navigate your way through the largely linear levels you'll hear Silas' voice as he sets the scene for the patrons in the bar. Most of the time Silas gives background information on whichever gang he was up against, but it's also used playfully, for example a non-existent path might open up after wiping out a bunch of enemies with Silas adding in a comment like ‘and then a path I never saw opened up before me', or something similar. Sometimes one of the over-eager bar patrons will take over the story, only for Silas to have to re-tell it the way it really was. It's a neat little feature that's used well, if a little too often.

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Wielding dual pistols into battle.
Before you go very far you'll be introduced to a couple of important game mechanics. First off you get experience for every kill, with bonuses for things like headshots, picking off running enemies or taking down enemies at great distance. Stringing together multiple kills in a short time starts a combo counter, which boosts the experience earned.

Unlike previous games in the series you don't have multiple characters to choose from, but the experience you earn is used to unlock skills to specialize Silas. There are three skill-trees – Gunslinger (for dual-wielding), Ranger (who specializes in rifles) and Trapper (the shot-gunner). Once you unlock enough skills in a particular tree you'll be rewarded with an enhanced weapon for your specialization, boosting things like range, damage and aim speed, or reducing recoil.

Two other game mechanics are Concentration, which is Call of Juarez's version of bullet-time, and Sense of Death, which gives you the opportunity to dodge a killing shot from an enemy. The Concentration meter builds up as you kill enemies, while Sense of Death fills up over time. You can use Concentration any time, but Sense of Death can only be used when the meter is full.

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Detail in this gold mine is impressive.
Let's move away from Story mode and discuss the Arcade and Duel modes. Arcade mode is set in the same environments as the story, but the goal here is to score as many points as possible by stringing together combos and finishing the level as quickly as possible. Arcade mode levels are extremely short, with par times being as little as three minutes, and as much as six. They are fast and furious fun, and a couple of them are genuinely challenging.

The final mode is Duel, which pits you mano-a-mano against some of the toughest outlaws in the Wild West. Winning a duel isn't just a matter of being the fastest draw, though that is important. When a duel begins your opponent will walk around, while you try to focus a target over him with the right-analog, and bring your left hand as close to your gun as you can with the left-analog.

After a few seconds you'll hear a heartbeat, at which time you can gun down your opponent dishonourably, or if you prefer to do things the honourable way you can wait for your opponent to move for their gun. The latter way is harder but earns you a higher score. There are fifteen duels to win and you're given five lives to do it. Once again the idea is to get as high a score as possible, with your score going up against everyone else on a worldwide leaderboard.

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Nice explosion in Call of Juarez: Gunslinger.
Considering Gunslinger is a downloadable title it's surprisingly light on issues. The biggest issue is the long load times between levels, which is especially noticeable in Arcade mode where the loading takes almost as long as the levels themselves at times. Once a level is loaded everything runs smoothly and you restart quickly after dying, so it's not all bad.

Another issue is that duels aren't much fun and there are times you're positive you reacted faster than Silas moves onscreen. The good news is that winning a duel dishonourably is easy enough if you just want to advance the story. The final little niggle I have is that targeting is occasionally very fussy, meaning you miss your target even when you're sure they're aligned, but that might be a lack of skill on my part (Dave, stop nodding agreement!).

The visuals are very good, particularly for a downloadable title. Honestly there wouldn't be much between this and Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood. Environments look authentic and levels are well-designed. There are enough objects around that enemies can blend into their surroundings, and they're adept at hiding behind walls, barrels, wagons or whatever else is nearby. There is some occasional slowdown, but on the whole this is a decent-looking game.

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Walking into the local township.
As far as the sound goes, Gunslinger is solid but not spectacular. Silas Greaves is well-acted, but he doesn't quite have the personality of the McCall brothers in previous Call of Juarez games. The sound effects are surprisingly beefy, with all of the weapons providing satisfyingly loud sounds when shot. Explosions are similarly loud and gratifying. There is some music in the game, and it suits well enough, but to be honest I didn't notice it much, being too intent on the action.

Call of Juarez: Gunslinger is a surprisingly fun, fast and entertaining game. Despite being a first-person shooter it doesn't attempt to compete with the big boys, rather it focuses on tight gameplay and a story that references a ton of the Wild West's most recognizable names (Billy the Kid, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid to name a few). If you're remotely interested in the setting then Gunslinger comes recommended despite a couple of minor issues.

Review By: Mike Allison

GRAPHICSNothing amazing, but above competent which is surprising enough in a downloadable title.
SOUNDThe music suits the setting but it will be lost underneath all the pleasingly powerful shooting and explosions.
GAMEPLAYThe shooting is tight and both Story and Arcade are a lot of fun. Duels aren't up to the same standard though.
VALUEThe story isn't overly long but it's long enough to provide value for money. Arcade mode is enough fun to bring you back for a while, as is Story mode's New Game+.
OVERALLCall of Juarez: Gunslinger is a genuine surprise after The Cartel, and is a welcome return to form from Techland. Well worth checking out at a bargain price.

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