I love a good western, though I’ve never really had the same passion for the videogame adaptation of same genre. I have been a little stung from previous titles in the past, though Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood did catch my eye, looking more up my dusty street.
I had only touched the demo of the first Call of Juarez, with titles such as Forza 2, The Darkness and Colin McRae: DIRT fighting for my game time, it sadly slipped out of my radar. Thankfully, two years on, Call of Juarez releases in a more quiet tumbleweed period of the year, with much less stellar titles releasing around it. So with no reason not to don my spurs, holster my six-shooter and see what Bound in Blood has to offer the gamer.
Bound in Blood is a prequel to the original 2007 title from the same Polish developers – Techland. Thankfully in my case, being a prequel, you don’t really need to know the story from the first title to understand and enjoy it, which was a great relief.
Throughout the game you get to play as Ray and his younger brother, Thomas, as they prepare to fight it out against native Indian tribes, local military, town sheriffs and even each other in the search for the legendary Gold of Juarez. At the start of each chapter, across the 5 Acts, you get to choose from either of the two brothers. Each brother has their own fighting style and available weapon types. With Ray being the most strongest and more explosive of the two he can carry portable Gatling guns, toss sticks of dynamite and has the special move of targeting multiple enemies with his dual pistols. Thomas, who’s armed with throwing knifes, pistols and rifles, has a more stealthy and long-range style of play, while his special move is more quick fire pistol attacks. Both brothers carry a diverse approach to how you play; though I found myself favouring Thomas’ long-range (and quite powerful) rifle attacks every time. There are times where you will have to play the other brother, so you will at least get to experience what the other has to offer in terms of weapons and gameplay.
Each Act is split into a dozen chapters. Between each chapter you are shown a short illustrative cut-scene that also helps with the rather short and welcoming loading times. Each chapter feels fresh and I never got bored of going through any levels. Each chapter has its own story to tell and it is told pretty well, so well in fact it was hard to put the pad down from to the anticipation of what is to happen in the following chapter. The gameplay is pretty linear; though expect a few instances where you are left to do what you like, however, don’t get this mixed up with any kind of sandbox freedom of gameplay. At these stages of the game you are just left to decide whether to upgrade your weapons and gather ammo (using all the cash you’ve collected off dead bodies in previous chapters), earn some more cash to pay for that upgrade with a handful of wanted missions that are pinned up on the shop walls, go for a joyride and explore the surrounding barren landscape or just walk up to your waiting brother and continue on with the next chapter.
At the end of each Act you face a boss-like situation, which resembles a quick draw against a key character in the story. This has been pulled off pretty well, although it doesn’t prove to be too much of a challenge each time you are faced with the event, which doesn’t really get much harder either in later acts in the game.
Graphically, Bound in Blood holds its own very well against other high calibre titles. The character models, through to the surrounding towns and vistas are of a very high standard, in my opinion on par with anything we’ve seen in games such as Gears of War and the like.
The same high calibre standard has also been carried through to the game’s audio. Ray, Thomas and the other characters that you encounter in the game come to life with some stereotypical, yet believable, voice acting. Pistols, shotguns, cannons and rifles all have their punchy audio weight to them, which is great when listened through your surround system. Sadly the music leaves me a little underwhelmed with its generic score. I am never a fan of music during combat, but at times it does add to the atmosphere of a gun-tooting battle, and throughout the game I didn’t come as close to diving into the options screen to switch it all off.
The 5 to 6 hours worth of gameplay in the single player game was a thoroughly enjoyable one. Achievements come thick and fast after each act and also whilst achieving specific tasks during chapters, such as blowing up 10 chickens with dynamite, or if you are more humane with your achievements – not killing the bull as it exits the barn. Once the game is complete you unlock the Very Hard difficulty and there looks to be some possible future additional chapters via the downloadable content area. Whether this becomes just multiplayer missions or not, we are yet to see, but I would like to see more DLC story missions that bridge the story of the McCall brothers, between Bound in Blood and the original title.
As hinted earlier, there is Multiplayer in Bound in Blood. The usual multiplayer setups from Quick, Ranked and Custom Matches are here. From the off you can select from a few character types with the rest locked until you earn enough cash in matches to unlock them. Each character from Gunslinger to Hombre are pretty varied and come with their own weapon, health/armour advantages and disadvantages. The modes vary from Manhunt, Wanted, Shootout, Posse and Wild West Legends; enough there to get your rotten teeth into, that is if you can find a game. At this time of writing there wasn’t any matches currently playing to try them out.
Overall, Bound in Blood is worth your attention. If you are after just the single player experience then you could easily complete this game in a matter of hours; but those hours are thoroughly enjoyable ones. After this you maybe tempted to tackle the harder skill levels to earn those precious achievements, and to be honest, it wouldn’t be too hard to max out the full 1000 GamerScore here, especially with most of them being single player achievements and only a handful aimed at online play. If you are a fan of the original or just FPS shooters in general, you will not go wrong in picking up Bound in Blood. My faith in western style shooters have been restored – YeeHa!