The Wild West according to Silas Greaves and a whole lot of bullets.
A grisly old cowboy walks into a saloon and is soon convinced to tell the tale of his life by the regulars who obviously have nothing better to do. This is the tale of Silas Greaves as told, and probably embellished, by the man himself. During this Wild West first-person shooter, in which the player will take on the role of Silas Greaves at various stages of his life as he shares his tale, the player will find themselves hearing how Silas befriended or faced off against almost every famous cowboy from the history books, from Billy the Kid and Jesse James to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
And while those gamers out there who were brought up on tales of cowboys may get a thrill from the famous gunslingers that can be found in this game and how they integrate themselves into Silas Greaves tale, it is the way that the game plays that is the real star of the show. Don’t get me wrong, it is an interesting story in a “history got that wrong” kind of way, but it is the brilliant gameplay that will have players coming back for more.
Call of Juarez: Gunslinger is a tale told from the point of view of the hero Silas Greaves, and sometimes Silas will change the path that the story takes. This introduces some very well executed transitions into the game, such as time rewinding to tell the story how it is now remembered, of things appearing as they come back into the teller’s memory. With the arcade simplicity of the gameplay, this mechanic makes for a very immersive experience that will have the player continuing for far longer than they would have originally intended.
The gameplay is incredibly tight and offers an impressive arcade shooting experience. Things like exploring or strategy fall to the wayside as the player makes their way through the relatively linear levels, simply shooting anything that moves in an incredibly satisfying way. The player is encouraged through increased score to build chains or pull off brutal headshots.
The weapons in the game are few, but feel appropriate to the era, and players are able to tailor their experience to their chosen playstyle. This is mirrored within the skill trees that the player gets to spend points in, with an emphasis on little tweaks that can improve the players’ skills when shooting from a distance or getting up close and personal, for example. The skills don’t make a huge difference as the player unlocks them, but they offer a sense of progression and improvement.
Besides shooting the various Rifles, Shotguns and Pistols in the game, the player will also have access to dynamite for those explosive moments. There is also a concentration mode which slows down time allowing for some impressive chaining of shots.
Dueling plays its part in the main game, along with having its own mode which can be accessed for some quick-draw practice. Offering a well-earned break from the quick-paced action of running from cover to cover and shooting nameless cowboys, Dueling is a much more tense and thoughtful experience. The player will find themselves having to move an ever decreasing reticule over their opponent to increase focus, whilst making sure their hand is close to their gun and watching for the opponent to make their move. It is possible to draw first, but that will leave the player with a lower score. Wait for them to make their move and then, in slow motion, draw the gun, aim and fire. It is really intense and quite good fun.
Besides the games’ relatively short story mode (which comes in around six or seven hours) and the Duel mode, the player can get some more action in the highly entertaining Arcade mode. Here, it is all about increasing the score across each level and moving up the leaderboards. It’s compelling cowboy stuff.
Visually, the game packs in a fashionable cel-shaded look and, with the occasional paneled pictures, manages to have a comic book style. Even the violence carries this comic book feel, being graphic and suitably over the top. There is nothing really to complain about with the way the game looks – the character models are detailed and move well, and the environments are varied and atmospheric.
Call of Juarez: Gunslinger is a short game with triple-A production values. Whilst it may not be the most in depth Wild West game available, it does manage to hit the nail on the head when it comes to the gameplay. Don’t think too hard and if it moves, shoot it. Simple entertainment with a six-shooter.