Positioned as the successor to Call of Juarez Bound in Blood, Gunslinger takes you on a high stakes adventure as the ruthless bounty hunter known as Silas Greaves, a man who has killed so many men during his travels that by the time you begin nearing the end of this guns blazing tale, you might think you are shooting at ghost as there may not be anyone else to kill…….well maybe just one more person.
As a downloadable title on Playstation Network and Xbox Live, CoJ: Gunslinger features a story and arcade mode, as well as a dual mode for those players who enjoy testing their trigger skills in traditional wild-west showdown fashion. Developer Techland has completely placed players in an authentic Old West interactive world, straddling the tales of western history filled with legendary gunslinger, bank-robbers, lawmen and epic set-piece scenarios that are reminiscent of the many great western movies I grew up watching. Memorable influences from movies like Outlaw Josie Wells, Tombstone, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, Fist Full of Dollars, Wyatt Earp and many others immediately come to mind as Techland places you in the capable boots of Silas Greaves.
Arriving in Abilene, Kansas in 1910 on horseback, Silas Greaves decides to hold up at a neighborly bar called Bull’s Head. Now up in age a bit with a sinister disposition as a man who appears mighty capable with the steel strapped around his waist, one of the bar mates recognizes him as the legendary bounty hunter before offering to buy our protagonist a drink. Quite fascinated and intrigued by his presence, everyone in the bar gathers around to listen to the legend as he tells of his adventurous youth. From legendary characters such as Billy the Kid, Jesse James, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid to Johnny Ringo, The Dalton Gang, William “Curly Bill” Brocius and the hardnosed Sheriff Pat Garret, players relive 20 years of the tumultuous life of Silas Greaves as he describes his near death encounters with the aforementioned characters and many others. This is no dime novel affair as Silas Greaves plans to set the record straight.
Make no mistake, Call of Juarez Gunslinger is a bonafide shooter with progressive gunplay experienced from a first person perspective keeping players in the middle of the action at all times. Showcased in a form of cell-shaded aesthetic, the graphical fidelity of the game which is founded on the Chrome Engine 5 graphics engine, paints a wonderfully detailed canvas that is quite pleasing on the eyes. Plant life and level designs have just the right amount of pop while mountain ranges in many cases look almost real if not for the colorful art direction of the game. Adding to this impressively visual canvas, Techland has decided not to spare the blood spilled by enemies to which this writer is most grateful. From the outset Silas is equipped with a trusty revolver quickly followed by the ability to dual wield pistols in exchange for a rifle, shotgun or explosive dynamite.
Gunslinger is quite easy to get the hang of in no time as the controls are simple and intuitive. While there is no sticky cover system, players can crouch behind objects to avoid gunfire and even slow down time which allows Silas for a short period of time to distinctly identify his enemies as they are positioned as red silhouettes before placing them in his crosshair. Seeing it in action and actually chaining combination kills together is a satisfying affair that earns you various skill points and bonuses. With the body count piling up, enemies leave tons of ammo behind allowing you to simply walk over their corpse to acquire more ammo and weapons.
Every encounter follows the story narrative being told by Silas with occasional dialogue shared between those holding on to his every word. The addition of Silas’ commentary, stories and digressions make this experience unlike any other, narrating your every move and sometimes rearranging his story, right before your eyes is somewhat comical causing some in attendance to begin questioning the wild tale.
Gunslinger is a fast-paced shooter where enemies ask no questions as they quickly begin running into position to finish you off. As players progress through the story, the game enables you to level up your abilities to more effectively handle the increasingly difficult encounters. The skill tree is maintained around three play styles, Gunslinger, Ranger and Trapper. Each offers similar upgrades for each play style such as faster reloads and increased ammo with unique upgrades such as longer combos, extra damage for combos, more concentration for headshots, hints about enemies behind you and execution of nearby enemies just to name a few.
Each level within a set chapter also provides what is known as ‘Nuggets of Truth’ which are Easter eggs hidden within the level which sheds historical facts on the legendary characters of the wild west who are immortalized in the game as well as historical hideouts and locations. On my second play through I found myself making it a point to acquire every single nugget I could acquire as the information you receive certainly adds more depth to the experience. If you’re a history buff you can easily get sucked into reading all the brief and informative history nuggets on the characters Silas Greaves has encounters with in this action-packed story.
The Call of Juarez Gunslinger experience can also be prolonged thanks to the True West mode. This aptly named difficulty level is unlocked once the Story mode is completed. It’s designed to give the player a truer Wild West feel, as waves of upon waves of deadly enemies pile on for some extremely intense gunfights. In the True West mode, the player can also turn off the head-up display whenever desired, allowing for a more immersive experience, while it is a much more challenging experience, it is totally worth it. Having completed the story mode, it does prepare you to higher the stakes and test your skill.
Now available on PSN and XBLA, Call of Juarez Gunslinger is an absolute great time back in the Old West. Silas Greaves is a great character which I’m looking forward to playing as again and again. With an allegiance to his own code of life and vengeance, Silas Greaves is transformed into an unstoppable reaper of death making it absolutely fun playing in the Wild West. Here’s hoping for some great side quest as Silas Greaves with some deserving DLC.