Call of Juarez: The Gunslinger Preview -- Tall Tales Go DownloadableBy Miguel Concepcion - Posted Sep 06, 2012
Like a swinging pendulum, the Call of Juarez series is going back to its roots. After a mostly negative response to last year’s Call of Juarez: The Cartel, Call of Juarez: The Gunslinger brings us to the Old West and as a downloadable release no less.
Taking a page out of the Bastion book, The Gunslinger is presented as a narration-driven flashback. A middle-aged bounty hunter has propped himself a seat in a saloon and one conversation leads to younger patrons eagerly asking about the man’s gunslinging tales. Cut to the first playable section of the game, which wastes no time in introducing familiar names.
For this mission, you’re helping Billy The Kid make a getaway from a pumpkin farm while being pursued by Pat Garrett and his deputies. Historically, Garrett ultimately takes down Billy, but our brief hands-on demo didn’t showcase that event, let alone imply that such a scene would take place in this game.
Our bounty hunter’s impressive memory ensured that he would have a lot to say during a given playthrough. That includes both real-time narration of the events as they unfolded, as well as giving gameplay hints to the player without actually acknowledging the presence of the player. As Deadlight and Bastion illustrated, such technical game feats are easier said than done, with the latter being much better executed than the former. The Gunslinger even plans to take it up a notch by including interjections of disbelief from the bounty hunter’s captivated audience.
With all the style that comes with the gunplay, not to mention all the bodies piling up, it was of little surprise that The Gunslinger has a scoring system based on how well you shoot. It isn’t especially complicated; it’s not like Bulletstorm or Sleeping Dogs where you’re encouraged to mix up attacks. Hard shots like headshots will always be challenging, so those kinds of tasks will always yield generous points in The Gunslinger.
Even as an alpha build, the game already looked more polished than The Cartel. And the settings will range from the typical Western locals of gold rush settlements to rocky mountains to ghost towns. Developer Techland has added a number of visual effects such as bullet dodging and slowdown in order to hit multiple targets in a short span of time. If this first chapter is any indication, there will also be a greater emphasis on gunplay than exploring.
So far, Ubisoft has managed to sufficiently pitch The Gunslinger as a downloadable game with a bit more features than what gamers would expect from a $15-$20 shooter. This was most evident when the game’s spokesman went over the skill tree and also the bounty hunter’s ability set in general. The aforementioned slowdown mode is called Concentration, one of the various upgradeable abilities.
You first learn it through a scripted event, but you’ll be able to trigger it yourself if certain conditions are met. The bullet dodge is known as Sense of Death, and there’s also a rapid reload skill where you mash one of the buttons. One of the more curious unlockables is the ability to pick up weapons from corpses, which you’d think would be standard feature, at least in other shooters.
There was an appealing conciseness to this demo, particularly how there was little time to pause and take a breath between shootouts. And there’s even more to pay attention to when you have a grizzled and informative bounty hunter narrating. Then I began to wonder: when embellishment isn’t an uncommon trait in Wild West storytelling, will there be a ‘gotcha!’ moment at the end of the bounty hunter’s tale?
If I called it right, you can expect to find out when Call of Juarez: The Gunslinger is released Q1 2013.