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Call of Juarez: Gunslinger on PC, XBLA, PSN

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If I had to describe Call of Juarez: Gunslinger in a single word, it’d have to be “fun.” Only if that single word was bold, underlined, italicized, glittered and the size of a billboard. Quite honestly, I may over-appreciate the game because it my expectations were set incredibly low by the horrible mess that was Call of Juarez: The Cartel, but that doesn't make the game any less fun nor any less addictive.

Everything about the game is geared toward having fun, which really makes the game really stand out in the shooter market - most shooters being about creating samey “realistic,” modern, grey-brown, cinematic “interactive experiences.” Silas, the main character, playfully cracks jokes in the middle of and between fire fights. Overall, the feeling of the game is light-hearted.

Similar to the Assassin’s Creed series, Gunslinger’s story takes you through real events that occurred in the Wild West, letting you have a part in some of the most outrageous gun fights, meet historical outlaws, and kill a bunch of them along the way. The story mode is composed of about a dozen chapters, each of which is fairly short. That isn’t the criticism it sounds like though; even though they are short, each mission is intense (think quality v. quantity). The story is narrated by a drunken Silas in a bar as you actively play through his tall tales. This is a very interesting and entertaining way to experience the story. Some objects will only appear when Silas remembers to mention that they exist. Some of your objectives will be explained to you as Silas explains them to his audience. More than once, Silas will miscommunicate his story and will have to go back to explain exactly what happened, taking you back with him to play through the last bit of the level, but the correct version this time.

The gunplay is phenomenal is Gunslinger, and as mentioned before, it is incredibly fun. The game has an “easy to learn, difficult to master” element to it, so it relishes in simplicity. The guns are limited, but varied enough that you can play your own way. The skill trees which you upgrade separately in arcade and story mode provide incredibly useful boosts to your weapons and bullet-time ability, but are not overpowering to the point that you can kill every enemy on the map by simply sneezing. In fact, I found that the abilities actually balanced the gameplay very well. As you progress, the enemies get more challenging and I kept finding myself getting out of hairy situations by only the skin of my teeth, if at all, despite having completed a whole tree.

The only real problem I encountered was that in being linear shooter, sometimes the abundant invisible walls, which I couldn't see for reasons that I hope are apparent, would block my shots if I tried to take the shot from around the corner before I was “supposed” to. Also, the duels were extremely annoying when I used a mouse and keyboard, but the problem was swiftly fixed by using a gamepad.

After completing the story, there is an arcade mode which lets you play through the same levels as the story, but with more baddies to shoot and no duels to break up the flow. This is where the game becomes particularly addicting. I kept replaying each level trying to rack up better combos or get all headshots in a single go. It has the simple appeal of always wanting to better your own record.

Summary
I loved this game for its brilliantly simply mechanics and the interesting way that it delivers its story. The few problems that I ran into are easily drowned out by the sounds of me having fun while topping another high score.

- 90% recommended



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