Call of Juarez Preview

First person shooters have taken place in many different settings and time frames over the years. While some of the most successful franchises have taken place in fantasy worlds or alternative reality settings, others occur in historical periods. With a plethora of games ranging from World War II to the hip-hop streets of the 90’s, it always seems like there is one perfect setting for FPS games which-for one reason or another-hasn’t had a lot of success. Of course, I’m talking about the time of horseback riding, revolver duels, and tumbleweeds rolling in the wind: the Wild West. The setting of the Wild West has contributed to a few sporadic games over the years, yet it’s mainly been as barren as a desert. But with Techland’s upcoming Call of Juarez, prepare to saddle up and hit the ol’ dusty trail.

Powering Call of Juarez is Techland’s own Chrome 2 Engine, which is shaping up to rival current (and future) game engines being built by other big-named companies. Shader Model 3, HDR lighting, post-processing effects including depth of field, geometry shaders, and full rag doll and item physics…I could continue rattling off these wordy details, but you get the idea. The original Chrome Engine was used for Techland’s 2003 FPS Chrome, but if you look at some screenshots from Call of Juarez, you can tell that it’s come a long way since then.

Call of Juarez’s gameplay will be divided between two main characters, Billy and Ray. Billy is a man on the run wanted for murder, and Ray is an outlaw-turned-reverend out to catch Billy. A demo for the game was released last week offering a level for each character, and it’s your first chance to get your feet wet with the game. The level featuring Billy has you running through the wild trying to reach a ranch where a friend is waiting. Needing to steal a horse to reach your destination, you’ll utilize Billy’s stealth-oriented gameplay (along with his whip, which can hurt enemies, disarm enemies, and help Billy swing across crevices) to sneak through an old man’s farm and reach a horse you can "borrow." While on the horse, the controls are very straightforward; it’s like driving a car. Be careful, though, because pushing your horse too hard can eventually kill him. After some pleasant scenery, the level ends.

Ray’s level takes place in a small town. You begin in a church where you hear of Billy’s murderous escapades. Holding the book of the Lord, you dust off the chest holding your old pistols, and prepare yourself to do deeds you vowed to stop years ago. As soon as you step outside, a rowdy crowd gathers with the town’s sheriff. The sheriff begs you to not go after Billy, but after a stray shot the sheriff goes down and the crowd breaks away to riot. With the sheriff dead, Ray has to save the sheriff’s newly widowed wife before leaving the town to go after Billy. While playing as Ray, be prepared to kill first, spout some religious lines in the middle, and ask questions later, as he plays more akin to the traditional FPS gameplay style.

Later on in the level, you’ll find yourself having to escape a burning building. This scene gives a good look at what the Chrome 2 Engine can do with fire; it’ll spread by itself without any scripted actions. With the proper necessities, you can put out fires, too. One of the few downfalls I noticed in the demo was that the game seemed very linear, particularly in Ray’s level. While going through the town, you couldn’t go into any buildings besides the ones which are absolutely necessary to complete the objectives. Having buildings closed off like this makes the town very lifeless, and I can see where it would take away from offline replay value. At this point it’s unknown whether or not the game will be so restricted when it’s complete, so hopefully it’s due to time and resource limitations for the demo’s release.

One new feature Techland has implemented in the game is known as the "concentration system." If you enter combat with your pistols holstered, the few seconds it takes to draw them is shown through a very slow-motion sequence. While they are rising up to the screen, you can get a few precious shots off before your foes have a chance to react. Want your epic, sunset revolver duels? Here you go, courtesy of Call of Juarez. Another unique aspect of the game is the fact that each level is introduced with your appropriate character speaking some lines about the impending events. The voice acting is top notch, and the feeling and tone match the characters perfectly. The other sound effects in the game also sound well done, and match the setting very well.

In the end, the different gameplay methods each character will utilize is the most promising feature of the game. The game will also support multiplayer (including both co-op play and death match dueling) on maps based on famous Wild West films, so that’s a neat perk for fans of the western genre. If Techland manages to do Call of Juarez right, the Wild West may become the next World War II in the FPS gaming world. Unfortunately, the game has been delayed until early next year, so gamers will have to wait a little longer to unholster those revolvers.


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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