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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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