Review by Solioxrz362

Reviewed: 07/16/15

Short but sweet, Gunslinger is an incredibly satisfying journey through the Old West

I went into Call of Juarez: Gunslinger with rather low expectations. I’d never taken the Call of Juarez games to be worth much, despite never playing them, so I didn't exactly think that Gunslinger would be worth my time or money, but thanks to PS+, I got to try this one out for free, and what I found was much different than what I was expecting.

Gunslinger returns the Call of Juarez series to the American Old West, after Call of Juarez: The Cartel decided to visit an urban setting (much to the dismay of critics). You follow the fictional retired bounty hunter Silas Greaves as he recalls his time as, quite literally, a gunslinger. His story is interwoven with fictionalized and exaggerated versions of the true stories of many infamous outlaws, including Billy the Kid and Jesse James.

The story, while being short, is absolutely great, filled with tall tales only possible in the Old West and topped off with a great plot twist at the end. Some say that the twist was predictable, but I didn’t see it coming and it left a lasting impression on me. Silas Greaves is a stellar main character, and a mixture of the very impressive voice acting job by John Cygan and the excellent script allows Silas' every word to ooze with personality, emotion, and character. By the end of the game, I felt like I connected with Silas and truly understood his mindset and personal struggles.

The way that the plot is presented to you is, at the very least, unique. Everything is narrated by Silas and the bar crew in a flashback, and as the story is told, the world around you changes. Sometimes, you’ll even go through the same section twice, as two of the characters tell different sides of the story, and the scenario changes each time the story is told. This method of storytelling adds comedy, depth, and atmosphere to Gunslinger’s narrative.

However, what makes Gunslinger so great is the gameplay. Gunslinger features some of the best shooting that I’ve experienced in an FPS (or really, any game). The gunplay is much more arcade-styled than most other shooters on the market today, and you get scored based on how well you performed. Chaining your kills together for combos increases your multiplier. Each shot and each kill is so satisfying, and the kill combos encourage fast paced play, making shootouts a blast every time.

Concentration is a great mechanic where the game speed and multiplier timer slows down, and all enemies become highlighted in red. It’s very well balanced, as spamming it will never allow you to have too much of it in your meter. You have to work for your concentration meter to fill up, and then when you use it, it doesn’t last for too long. This means concentration gives you a huge advantage, but you don't get to use it very much. I love it when a game masters the balance of a "trump card" mechanic like this, so I praise Gunslinger's success in hitting that perfect balance.

The leveling system is well structured and very rewarding. You gain experience through killing enemies, while various skill factors like combos and headshots can drastically increase your EXP gains. You can't become an overpowered monster in just one playthrough, so you're forced to strategically choose what skills you want to level up. The skill required to get more EXP and the strategy involved in leveling Silas up adds a lot of depth to the gameplay, where otherwise there would just be a lot of surface style.

The story and gameplay meet when you are presented with morality choices. During duels (which I will talk about in a bit), you can choose to kill your opponent honorably or dishonorably, basically meaning you can either draw your gun before or after your opponent does. Admittedly, I am a little disappointed with the inclusion of this, because in the end, the morality choices don’t have much of an impact on the story, and they have a negligible effect on the dialogue. The only difference between the two options is that being honorable gives you a higher score and more EXP.

Outside of the story, there are two side modes to be explored in Gunslinger, one of them being the arcade mode. It's essentially the "pure gameplay" mode of the game, where you're set in various areas from the game and you're scored on a 3-star system based on how many points you get from the enemies thrown at you. Given all of the praise I've already sung about the gameplay, it's no surprise that I also loved playing arcade mode and getting all of the stars.

The third mode for Gunslinger is easily the worst, and that's the duel challenge. Dueling is a gameplay aspect that you see numerous times through the story mode, and while it's very atmospheric and there is a good system to it that takes finesse and skill to master, controlling it is a bit of a chore, and there are some moments where it becomes frustrating. That's not to say that dueling is awful, but it's a rare weak point in a solid game.

Another weak point here is that, as much fun as this game offers, there's not much content. Each story playthrough will take 4-7 hours, and the two side modes can only do so much to remedy such a short narrative. Given, this is a digital download-only title with no platinum trophy, so it's obvious that developer Techland didn't try to push this as a big or long game, but it still seems like a small amount of content.

Thankfully, this is a game that BEGS you to play it twice, or even three times. Not only will you be wanting to experience more of the fun shooting that Gunslinger offers on a second playthrough; you’ll also find much more meaning in some of the dialogue between Silas and the bar crew, and you’ll also want to see what the higher difficulties have to offer (True West difficulty is worth the extra playthrough, whether it is your second or third venture into the story). Add in the arcade mode and duel challenge, and you won't be disappointed in the bang-for-your-buck department of your purchase. Tons of replay value here.

In terms of the sound and graphics, I can't find anything to complain about. Going back to my praise for John Cygan's excellent voice acting for Silas, his performance is one in a pool of good voice acting performances. There aren't too many characters that have a big role, but those that do are performed very well. The gunshot sound effects and music not only perfectly mesh with the setting, but also enhance the gameplay. The SFX add to the satisfaction of each shot and kill, while the music keeps you engaged and immersed. The environments truly stand out and pop thanks to the cartoonish graphical style of Gunslinger, which also adds a lot of character to the western setting. When we talk presentation, Gunslinger passes with flying colors.

As with just about every game, I did have a few extra minor annoyances while playing. Most notably, the black bars on the bottom and top of the screen felt unnecessary. They take up screen space without adding anything substantial. In addition to that, there are a few small, non-gamebreaking glitches that remove a bit of the polish from Gunslinger, but do very little to actually harm the game.

Truly, what it all comes down to is that Call of Juarez: Gunslinger is not without its flaws. It’s not perfect. Yet, it is very close. I find myself being able to easily excuse many of the flaws, and the strengths are too many and too great to let a few flaws deter anyone from playing this incredible shooter. In my opinion, it succeeds in the most important areas above most other shooters out today, and fails in a small amount of rather insignificant ways. Definitely play Gunslinger, as it’s worth so much more than the minimum day or two you’ll spend playing it. It’s an experience you won’t regret embarking on; one you won’t soon forget.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Product Release: Call of Juarez: Gunslinger (US, 05/14/13)

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