|System: X360, PS3, 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 9, 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
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.
CCC Staff Contributor