|System: PC, X360, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Techland||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Ubisoft||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: June 30, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-12||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Adam Brown
The battle for a great current generation Western-themed shooter has been going on for quite a few years now. Early offerings such as Gun and the original Call of Juarez were good but ultimately had too many flaws that kept them from greatness. Because of this, it has been incredibly difficult to come across a game that both plays well and accurately captures the old West feeling so many gamers have been waiting so long for. Luckily, Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood delivers where other Western-themed shooters have failed, combining a beautiful and authentic-feeling Western backdrop with solid action-packed gunslinging gameplay.
Being a prequel to the original Call of Juarez, Bound in Bloods story focuses on filling in the backstory of the McCall family. Starting off fighting for the Confederate Army, Ray (a younger, less religious Reverend Ray) and his brother Thomas are quickly forced to desert their posts in order to attempt to save their home and family from the advancing Union Army. This earns them their first long-term adversary, as their commanding officer, strangely enough, didnt take too kindly to their desertion and continues to pursue them relentlessly. Of course, this man isnt their only antagonist as they also come to odds with lawmen, Apache, and bandits throughout the course of their travels.
Unfortunately for them, the brothers wind up returning home too late to save their homestead and are forced to formulate a new plan. In order to rebuild their home and take back their land, they go in search of the fabled Juarez treasure. The rest of the story Ill leave for you to discover on your own, but know that it is a well done tale of greed, betrayal, and vengeance that will continue to keep your interest and compel you to see the game through to its conclusion.
While much of the insight into the minds of Ray and Thomas is conveyed through a third, whinier McCall brother, William, the game is definitely focused on making the player feel like a gruff, overpowered, and bad man in the old West. This is the case no matter which brother you ultimately choose to control. Except for a few levels at the beginning and end of the game, players are given their choice of brother with which to gun down foes.
Ray is a very strong character who can kick down doors, take more bullets before going down, always keeps a handful of dynamite at the ready, and likes to get up close and personal with his dual pistols. Thomas on the other hand is a bit weaker, quicker on the draw, more agile, and is a skilled marksman with a rifle. Although there are these two options, most of the decision behind your choice will come from which play style you prefer because, for the most part, both characters will play through the same levels taking the same path. Every so often the brothers will be forced to split up, compelling some players to go through the title a second time to see everything, but a majority of the time theyll traverse the levels side by side.
This actually brings me to my only major gripe about Bound in Blood. Since there are two characters that are almost always next to each other and helping one another out, it seems like a huge oversight not to include a cooperative mode. Sure, the A.I. that controls your brother is usually very competent and actually pulls his weight during gun battles, but it would have been great to be able to play split-screen or online co-op with a buddy as well.
Still, the gameplay is very well paced and almost always interesting. Normal gun battles, which are quite fun to begin with, are spruced up with the addition of a concentration mode. Once an onscreen revolver fills from killing enemies, a player can activate this mode which has Ray directing a reticule over any visible foes (Panzer Dragoon style) and unleashing a hail of gunfire and Thomas rapid firing his pistol as quickly as the player can pull down and release the right analog stick as though it were the guns firing hammer. However, until you charge up these attacks, youll likely need to make use of Bound in Bloods cover system in order to stay protected while taking down enemies. Although it doesnt always work perfectly, pressing up against an object will have your character stick to it, giving you the ability to peek around or above it in order to snap off a few quick shots without getting hit yourself.