Polish developer Techland’s Western shooter Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood places players into 1864 and into the entire gun-slinging outlaw hunting that it has to offer. As a prequel to 2007’s Call of Juarez, Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood is a decent first-person shooter that focuses on action centralized shoot-outs and duels that tries to make you feel as if you live for the Wild West. The cut-scenes are enjoyable with extenuated voice acting, and the visuals are decent. Unfortunately, horseback riding, gun-slinging, and other gameplay shooting aspects are far too basic with the horrible A.I. to be enjoyable. Despite all of this, Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood manages to give players a decent Western-shooting experience that is worth a try.
The McCall brothers Ray and Thomas have just returned from the Civil War, and want to protect their family land from dismay. Along the way, the mythical Call of Juarez Gold calls out greed and sets off a linear journey that players will surely find interesting. An Old West-themed first-person shooter, Call of Juarez finds itself in a genre already explored, and tries to do something new to an extent with gun-based duels and collaborative gameplay that blends quite well into the storyline and further deserter action.
Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood revolves around collaborative character gameplay. Players can choose to play between Ray and Thomas, and experience different personas that give Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood more replayability. Ray is not a preacher or a priest. Instead, he is a cold-hearted brute while Thomas is more thoughtful but remains equally violent. In terms of the action-packed Western shoot-outs, Ray is more approachable in the way he does things: he can duel-wield pistols, hold an explosive in one hand and a pistol in another, and has an unbelievable amount of sight in the special shooting mode. Thomas is an expert with all things rifles and can use a lasso to climb up trees to provide scope. While the lasso is useful, it only serves as a pointless perk for Thomas that makes him the one that players might choose less. The only reason a player will choose Thomas is because of his special shooting ability, which allows for quick strike to any enemy on the screen with the rotation movement of the analog controls. Ray is great for close wield action through rushing in with both guns blazing and blowing up any obstacle. Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood allows players to experience both the McCall brothers and their own shooting style, but it accounts an unneeded aspect to the collaborative gameplay. The enemy count seems to be only for the benefit of making the game seem challenging to make up for what it lacks in A.I. intelligence.
The primary problem that plagues Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood unfortunately is the whole gameplay experience. Shooting is relatively easy thanks to a dumb AI that presents nothing more than simple duck-and-shoot gameplay. Hide behind a barrel, shoot, hide behind a wall, shoot, slowly creep out and shoot. While Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood’s cover system adds to the feeling of tense gameplay, the enemies and their intelligence are enough to cancel out any of that. Most of the shooting challenge either comes from too many enemies on screen, to trying to pinpoint exactly where the enemies are shooting from. Unfortunately, Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood focuses on quick-draw and mass rampage modes too much, which allows it to forget to make a more important shooting experience. Segments arise when a Gatling gun is needed to destroy horsemen in a chariot, which is a pleasant change of pace from a tense open field shooting. Unfortunately, any sort of gameplay is very limited and can get quite repetitive.
The better of gun duels comes from one-on-one fights that serve as boss fights, pitting you against a tough enemy in an old-fashioned quick-draw fight to the death. The camera cinematic view is simply incredible, shifting low behind the player for these duels and focusing on the gun straddle. The objective is to match your opponent’s left and right steps to keep him in the centr of the screen, while keeping your hand close to your pistol. Duel controls are simple, but give the feeling as if you are actually in a quick-draw duel. While the timing can be off, and players will find themselves dying a few times, this is luckily one of the better aspects of Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood than most.
The multiplayer is all competitive and can accommodate up to 12 players in five different modes across eight maps. There is some depth with character classes, each with its own particular strengths, weaknesses, and gear. You can switch classes midway through matches, which adds a light layer of strategy to the game as you decide which class is the most advantageous at any given time. The modes unfortunately are generic, and come with tacky homage to Western terms. The modes include standard Deathmatch and team-based VIP modes, such as Wild West Legends, but rarely are worthwhile.
Call of Juarez: Bound In Blood is definitely much better than the stealth-based Call of Juarez that serves as a sequel to this prequel. Call of Juarez: Bound In Blood comes with quick-draw gameplay, decent visuals and cutscenes puts the game on the edge of trying for anyone that loves Westerns but it is a hit-and-miss. Sadly, basic game design, terrible A.I., linear gameplay, and a small multiplayer offering keep it from being a good Western Shooter. Maybe in 1864, but in 2009 it is very unlikely.