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Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood Review

Gameplay

One of the most touted and supposedly cool features of the first Call of Juarez was that it was a story you played from the perspective of both the unlikely hero and the villain. Each level the point of view would alternate so that while you might be on the run from the law at one point, the next level would be all about the chase.

It was an interesting idea (though one utilised more effectively by Fahrenheit), but where it suffered was it made the switch between characters mandatory. If you didn’t like playing as Ray then…well, that’s tough luck, cowboy. Thankfully, that’s something that Techland has fixed in Bound in Blood, though the story is still told from two different viewpoints; Ray and Thomas’.

At the start of each level players now have a chance to choose who they want to play as – the relaxed and go-easy Thomas who favours rifles, knives and bows or the confrontational Ray who can withstand more punishment thanks to his armoured breastplate. Ray can handle more weapons too, wielding akimbo pistols and even carrying a gatling gun if needed, but he isn’t as manoeuvrable as Thomas and lacks the lasso skill which helps you to scale buildings and cliffs. On the other hand though he can kick down locked doors, so it’s swings and roundabouts.

Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood Review Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood - Gameplay
Concentration Mode lets you rack up easy kills once you've charged it up

Which brother you favour playing as doesn’t have a huge effect on the story, but it will change the way you play the game and what tactics you favour – especially in the occasional free-roaming sections of the game where you’re given access to optional missions. The missions themselves, which give cash rewards you can use to upgrade your weapons, are mostly pretty samey and generally involve tracking and killing bandits. Which brother you choose will determine whether you go in guns blazing or sit on a hilltop sniping with a rifle. There are a few times that the brothers are forced to go separate ways within a level too, but for the most part Ray and Thomas are shoulder-to-shoulder.

That’s especially true in some areas of the game too, where the brothers team up to unleash combined attacks and storm into a room together in slow-motion, guns drawn. You’ve then got a matter of seconds, controlling each gun independently as the crosshairs come to the middle of the screen, to kill every dirty low-life in the room. It’s just one of Bound in Bloods many concentration modes that have been introduced to make the McCall brothers more of a threat to the many thousands of enemies rallied against them.

The other focus modes however are pretty standard stuff and you power them up by killing strings of enemies, though you only have a brief window to unleash your focus-attacks and how they work exactly depends on whether you’re playing as Ray or Thomas.

Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood Review Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood - Gameplay
Ray and Steve decided there was only one way to settle the argument of whether or not dogs could look up

There’s a bunch of other new and returning features in Call of Juarez, like having to swing the mouse in a circle to whip Tommy’s lasso or the surprisingly effective dynamic cover system that kicks in whenever you crouch by a crate or stand by a corner. While dynamic cover in an FPS does sound weird it’s actually incredibly intuitive and easy to use. Simply moving the mouse forwards and back lets you peek round corners, though you can turn the system off easily if you don’t like it.

To be honest though, the real star of the show in Bound in Blood is the quickdraw section that sees you going mano-et-mano with a single opponent. It’s the quintessential moment in any western film, though one which so far has been missing from almost every cowboy game – except Bound in Blood.

The setup for it is simple, with the camera focused on your hip as you circle around your enemy slowly and try to keep him firmly in the centre of your screen. Your mouse is used to control your hand and keep it as close to your gun as possible, though you have to fight your own movements and resist the urge to grab your gun until you hear the church bell. As minigames go it’s an incredibly simple system, but a remarkably tense and enjoyable one all the same and the only real weakness is that it’s an event that shows up a bit too often and the novelty eventually dies of repetition.