McCalling All Bandits and Lawmen
May 19, 2009 – Every fan of the original Call of Juarez probably already knows what to expect from Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood’s single player experience (if not check out our previous preview). Of course, but what will folks who purchase the game have left to play once they’ve already run through the campaign a few times? It looks like the answer to this question is going to be a pretty solid and interesting online offering. We recently had a chance to check out Bound in Blood at a multiplayer event held by Ubisoft and what we played was definitely enjoyable and left us pining for more.
The first mode we were able to try out was called Wild West Legends. This mode pits a team of bandits against a team of lawmen in a variety of situations, each with their own sets of objectives to complete in order to achieve victory. We started out on the bandit side needing to break into a bank, blow up the safe, dynamite our way into the town’s horse stables, and then quickly gallop our way out of town. However, the lawmen had other ideas as they attempted to best us at every turn by defending the sites that needed bombed, covering the streets between objectives for easy kills, and even blowing holes in us or our horses as we tried to hightail it out of town with our pilfered cash. Each objective comes with its own time limit, so things can get pretty hectic as the seconds tick away while trying to complete a task in order to get more time.
Conversely, while on the lawmen side of these matches, all you need to do to win is stop the bandits long enough for their timer to expire. We got our chance to be on the right side of the law during the next match, which was played on a map that directly contrasted the city backdrop used in the previous round. Here, in the middle of the woods with a lake at the center, we were tasked with defending safes located in several different buildings scattered about the map. There were a couple close calls, but for the most part things went well for our team, at least until the showers of dynamite began to rain down upon us.
Potentially, one of the best things about Bound in Blood’s multiplayer offering is the slew of different character classes the player will be able to choose from. The game will start out with five selectable classes including gunslinger, miner, rifleman, sniper, and native. As you play, you’ll be able to unlock eight more classes consisting of scout, trapper, gunsmith, hombre, spy, officer, duelist, and veteran. Each class has its own strengths, weaknesses, and weapon load-outs. For example, natives are incredibly fast and can kill any enemy with one well-placed arrow from their bow, but it takes awhile to reload and you have no other weapons. Similarly, miners have very limited weaponry but spawn with a satchel full of dynamite, with the entire team spawning as this class creating the dynamite showers I previously referred to.
Each of the five unlocked classes seemed to be well balanced, with none feeling inherently more powerful than the others. Instead, it just seemed as though they all catered to different play styles. Whenever you die in Bound in Blood’s multiplayer you’ll have the chance to switch between classes, allowing for an element of strategy, since you can pick the best class for each situation. This lull between spawns will also allow for players to upgrade their favorite classes. Each kill and completed objective will net you some cash that can be used to improve your characters, although these upgrades will only be permanent if purchased while playing in ranked matches. Any and all upgrades earned outside of ranked matches will only last until the end of the match during which they were purchased.
While at this event, we were also able to try out a couple other team-based multiplayer modes which were called Posse and Manhunt. Posse mode closely resembles your standard team deathmatch mode but with a unique twist. Instead of winning when your team hits a certain number of kills, your team will need to attain a high enough bounty. This mode makes use of the game’s bounty system, which rewards players for getting multiple kills in a row before dying and for killing other players with a high bounty. Manhunt mode was fairly interesting and played like a variant of a VIP mode. In Manhunt, a player on one team is randomly selected to become wanted. This wanted character needs to survive sixty seconds in order to score a point for their team, but if killed, he’ll transfer the wanted mantle to someone on the opposing team. We were a part of several interesting situations where we were charging in to try to finish the other team’s wanted character, only to become wanted the moment we showed up to the gunfight and then quickly turning and running for cover.
The other two modes that round out Bound in Blood’s multiplayer offering weren’t playable at this event, as they aren’t team-focused. Shootout is exactly like Posse, although you will be on your own without the aid of teammates’ bounty scores. Similarly, Wanted is just like Manhunt except that it becomes the wanted character against the world with no one to help protect them from adversaries.
All the modes we had a chance to play were fun and felt natural to the setting. We would have liked a chance to try the other two modes, but since they are essentially just non-team versions of the modes we already checked out, we’re pretty confident they’ll be just as enjoyable as the other three. It’ll certainly be interesting to see how the class-unlocking and upgrading works when the game is released at the end of June, but it seems like a great way to cater to several different play styles while also adding longevity to the multiplayer experience.
Ray’s Old Testament
April 23, 2009 – If there is one thing that never fails to impress, it’s a prequel. Taking an already appreciated story and then filling in its back-story has always been a guaranteed recipe for success. I mean, look at how great the new prequel Star Wars trilogy was… oh, oops, never mind. While that may not be a very good example to, there actually is a realistic chance for greatness when making a prequel to an interesting property. Hopefully, Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood will be a better example of this when it is released in June.
Sure, the original Call of Juarez had its share of problems, but this prequel looks to focus on the previous game’s more successful and enjoyable elements while discarding its more annoying and unsatisfying aspects. Did anybody actually have fun playing as Billy Candle through Call of Juarez’s platforming or stealth-focused portions? Not likely. The game was clearly at its best when dealing out judgment as Reverend Ray from behind the barrels of his trusty pistols. Luckily, this time around action and gunplay will be taking center stage, as will everyone’s favorite, unstable scripture-quoting gunslinger.
As a prequel, the events of Bound in Blood are set to transpire twenty years prior to those of the original game. This timing places the backdrop for the game in one of the most volatile and interesting times in U.S. history, taking place during the American Civil War and its subsequent aftermath. With all of the historical violence and unrest that pit brother against brother, it should come as no surprise that Bound in Blood will not include a story entirely devoted to just Ray but will also greatly involve his brother Thomas.
Complete details about Bound in Blood’s story have yet to be released, but here’s what we know so far. The game will start off with the McCall brothers fighting on the side of the Confederate army. For some reason or another, these good ol’ boys decide to become deserters, no doubt turning the tide of the entire war and determining its eventual outcome. So, instead of sticking around and finishing the fight, these brothers decide to go on a quest to find the legendary Gold of Juarez, which doesn’t sit particularly well with their now ex-commanding officer. Beyond this, not much is known besides a small, potential spoiler that has a chance to cause some problems for the game, but more on that in a bit.
Much like the original Call of Juarez, Bound in Blood will have players controlling one of two characters: Ray or Thomas. Again, similar to the original, these two characters will embody somewhat different play styles. Ray is a much stronger character who is better at close range conflicts, while Thomas has a definite speed advantage and is more attuned to long-ranged sniping. The concentration mode makes a return as well, and both included characters will have differing ways to utilize it. Ray can temporarily stop time, allowing him to mark targets with his onscreen reticule and dispatch them all in lightning-fast succession once time restarts. Thomas will be able to temporarily slow time and precisely blow enemies away by aiming two onscreen reticules utilizing both sets of analog sticks and triggers on the controller.
While the two character approach found in Bound in Blood may seem somewhat familiar, the biggest difference between the way it is implemented in the first title and this prequel is that players will actually get to choose who they want to control. Before almost every chapter, players are able to decide whether to go in as the bruiser or to perhaps employ a little more finesse and strike from a distance with Thomas. ( Begin spoiler alert ) However, as the game progresses and the story begins to solidify, these choices can become less about play style and more about which character you agree with.
With a setting like the Civil War as a backdrop, it almost seems like a given to have these brothers begin to disagree and be at odds with one another. That being said, letting something like this slip before the game comes out has the potential to detract from much of the impact that this could have on an unsuspecting player. Not only could being given this information take away from the story, but this direction also seems like it may have negatively impacted the game itself. Because of this eventual split between brothers, a game that would otherwise seem like a perfect fit for two player co-op, as both characters will almost constantly need to be working together, won’t include the option. While this may make sense from a story standpoint and seeing many of the game’s chapters from two different perspectives could be great, the lack of a co-op mode is fairly disappointing. ( End spoiler alert )
Whichever character you happen to prefer, Bound in Blood certainly looks like it will be an interesting and entertaining addition to the series when it is released in June. The more deliberate focus on action is definitely a welcomed change, as is the ability to choose between the two main characters. Players should also expect to find a useful, new cover mechanic that will help to avoid absorbing unnecessary slugs and a tweaked dueling mechanic that focuses on your character’s stance and placement as well as the speed at which your pistol is drawn. Even the graphics appear to be greatly improved upon, with the game’s characters and environments looking much more realistic and polished than in the previous installment. Be sure to check back post-release for our reviews to see which western shooter ultimately comes out on top this summer between the two major contenders, Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood and Red Dead Redemption.