Call of Juarez PC DVD-ROM

Published by Ascaron Entertainment
Developed by Techland
Release Date: 15th September 2006
Price: £34.99

Call of Juarez, an introduction.

Given the popularity of Western movies and FPS games it’s surprising that we haven’t see more Wild West flavoured shooters. In fact most of the time the genre seems to be infatuated with the World War II theme (which has been done far too much) and this is a shame. Techland have decided to show some courage though and give us a FPS that deviates a little from the usual routine and that’s not  about World War II.

What’s the game about?

Call of Juarez attempts to capture the atmosphere of the old Western movies. In the game you’ll play as two different characters. There’s the young fugitive, Billy, who seems to be despised by most, and the Reverend Ray. The Rev., who is the brother of Billy’s stepfather, is an ex-outlaw who now believes that God has chosen him to administer rough justice, especially to Billy. The sections where you’ll play as the Rev. play like a traditional FPS, whereas the sections with Billy are a little different as his primary weapon is a whip and he is heavily reliant on stealth rather than a direct assault. The game begins with Billy attempting to return home. Two years earlier he left home after a violent bust-up with his stepfather. The homecoming goes all wrong however and Billy is blamed for the murder of not only his stepfather but also his mother. Naturally it’s the Rev. who has jumped to this conclusion and he makes it his goal to bring Billy to justice, his way. Billy meanwhile must avoid the fury of the Rev. and find out what’s really happened.

What’s good about the game?

It’s certainly very refreshing to have an FPS that tries to do things a little differently, especially using the Western theme. Those who want more than a run of the mill FPS experience will appreciate the different styles of play that both Billy and the Rev. offer and it’s certainly good to have a change of pace during the game as most FPS games simply feel very similar from beginning to end. The game isn’t as linear as some FPS games we could mention. The stealth sections of the game sometimes reward you for being extra careful and taking time to explore your environment, which is good to see.  The various challenges you’ll face in the game usually have multiple solutions, which is always appreciated. Graphically the game doesn’t disappoint and if you’ve got an extremely high end PC you’ll have a game that’s looks impressive. Whilst the game’s story isn’t exactly grade A material it’s far from being dull and again it’s a refreshing change from what you usually experience in a game of this nature. Multiplayer modes include Western varieties of Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and Capture the Flag. Seeing as the game hasn’t been released yet, we can’t really comment on the quality of these multiplayer modes though.

What’s not so good about the game?

If you were looking for a ‘pure’ FPS then Call of Juarez might not be the game for you. Playing as Billy, the game feels almost like a Western flavoured Splinter Cell, which is going to disappoint gamers who are simply looking for some run and gun action. Whilst it’s refreshing to see the Western theme used in a FPS it’s a shame to see a concept such as ‘Bullet Time’ (which gives you a temporary amount of time with your enemies moving in slow motion) being mimicked in the game. It was great in Max Payne but it’s disappointing to see other games blatantly taking such concepts and dropping them into their games without coming up with something original. In truth the game could have done just as well without it. At times your objectives can be rather tedious and simply feel like they are there to pad the game out, which is a little disappointing. As we’ll mention in a moment the stealth sections are very problematic for deaf gamers and this is a major obstacle to overcome. The load times in the game are excruciatingly long. In fact the load times usually exceed 2 minutes on our PC (that has 1GB of RAM), which is surprising to say the least. It must also be noted that the game comes with the rather problematic StarForce Copy protection system, which is going to annoy those that have had problems with it in the past.

How does it look?

With the graphical details turned up to the maximum, Call of Juarez is actually quite impressive in terms of its visual quality. You’re going to need one heck of a PC to have the game running smoothly though. Our PC met the recommended requirements but on full detail and running at our TFT’s native resolution of 1280×1024, the whole thing was literally a slide-show. Thankfully we could configure the graphical details in order to obtain a balance between the game looking and running acceptably. The game features some impressive physics and damaged modelling. The character models could have looked better though. Even with the game running at the highest settings the character models don’t look as impressive as you might have hoped for.

How deaf gamer friendly is the game?

Subtitles are offered in Call of Juarez although they are turned off by default. With the subtitles enabled you’ll be able to follow the games story and main dialogue without any real problems. The subtitles don’t have any character portraits or names next to the dialogue. Tutorial messages are shown in text. Objectives are shown in text and can be recalled at any time by pressing the ‘O’ key. Likewise your log can be accessed at any time by pressing the ‘L’ key. The real problem with Call of Juarez, as far as deaf gamers are concerned, is that there is quite a lot of reliance on stealth, particularly when playing as Billy,  in the game. During these stealth moments the ability to know how much noise you’re making or to hear movement from those enemies in your vicinity is crucial to avoid being spotted and getting involved in shootouts. However there are no meters or gauges that enable a deaf gamer to be aware of how much noise your character is making or to alert you to the presence of your enemies, which makes the whole thing very frustrating at times. What makes it particularly frustrating is that enemies will hear when you accidentally walk into or knock over many of the objects you’ll find in any given location.

Final thoughts.

With the lack of Wild Western based games available it’s a real shame that Call of Juarez doesn’t cut the mustard. There’s nothing particularly bad about the game (indeed it certainly has its good points) but on the whole it feels disappointing, despite having some aspects of the game that are actually quite impressive. For deaf gamers in particular the stealth elements are going to pose one heck of a challenge (far more challenge than the AI could ever offer) and this is going to make it a game that only the most dedicated should play. If only captions, icons or gauges had been included to make the experience more deaf gamer friendly it would have been a much more pleasant experience for deaf gamers.

Overall Game Rating: 6.0/10

Deaf Gamers Classification:

(Click the letter or here for details)

Whilst certainly not a bad game, Call of Juarez isn’t as good as it could have been. Deaf gamers are going to have a torrid time with the stealth sections, which offer no form of visual feedback and as such make the game very testing to say the least.