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[Review] Call of Juarez: Gunslinger

Posted on December 23, 2019 by (@@Virtualboi92) in Reviews, Switch eShop

System: Switch
Release date: December 10, 2019
Developer: Techland
Publisher: Techland

When it comes to first-person shooters, it’s fair to say that the market has taken a very distinct direction over the last decade or so. Multiplayer, map packs, and monetization are frequently touted as the core ingredients of a fun and successful modern shooter, but if you cast your mind back to the days before Call of Duty ruled the roost, you’ll quickly find that games of the genre weren’t always marketplaces or live services – they were once self contained experiences with creative flair and value. My time with Call of Juarez: Gunslinger has served as a realization that thankfully, this can still be the case today.

Taking place in ye-olde-west, Gunslinger propositions itself as a slightly leaner variant of the best that the Call of Juarez series has had to offer its fans since the very beginning. The game takes place within a series of incredulous anecdotes that are being relayed by the game’s protagonist, Silas Greaves, to both the player and a host of eager ears in a small-town saloon. Gunslinger has a lot of fun with its plot, much to the benefit of its overall narrative. Given the fact that each mission tends to revolve around a chance encounter with a legendary figure of the Wild West, the patrons surrounding Silas can sometimes correct him (or he will correct himself) throughout his narration, and as this happens, elements within each mission will change before your eyes. This retroactive form of storytelling is part-parody and part-cliché, but the story ultimately builds to a dramatic and satisfying conclusion thanks to its unpredictable nature and quality voice acting.

The meat and potatoes of the experience, combat, is an area in which Gunslinger excels. Weapons feel meaty and impactful, and the rather generous auto-aim means that lining up headshots is never an issue. Whilst playing with the Switch Pro Controller, Call of Juarez feels sublime, with easy target acquisition and satisfying finishers to boot. On the Joy-Con, however, things are slightly more unwelcoming – but I believe that this is an issue more-so with the limited degrees of freedom on a Joy-Con analog stick than with the game itself. Techland seem to be aware of this, and as such, they have included a rather intimidating array of options to make the act of pointing guns at bad people as easy as is possible on a Switch.

Despite the strength of the game’s story and gunplay, Gunslinger refuses to rest solely on those two pillars alone. At the center of its gameplay lies a more-ish scoring system and a surprisingly in-depth leveling structure that really deepen the overall experience. If slow, methodical pacing is your thing, then Call of Juarez might not be the right fit for you, as the constantly dwindling score multiplier forces you to pick up the pace from the very outset. By increasing your score, you get to develop your artistry with pistols, shotguns and rifles and unlock skills such as duel wielding, and a more effective “bullet time” mode. Outside of the story, there are also a slew of “arcade” challenges that allow you to hone these skills further. For the sake of replayability, and the pick-up-and-play nature of the Switch’s design, these challenges are a fantastic addition to the main story.

Technically, Call of Juarez tries it’s best to have its cake and eat it. The game runs at a crisp resolution whilst playing in either handheld or docked mode, and the games cel-shaded art style pops out of the screen in a satisfying (if a little visually busy) manner. Occasionally though, the frame-rate can dip noticeably below its 30 frames per second target, and in such a fast paced shooter, this can often effect your ability to open guy’s heads with bullets. Ultimately, the game both looks and runs respectably, and the balancing act Techland has managed to maintain between visuals and performance is acceptable.

The Verdict

In a sense, Call of Juarez: Gunslinger is a simpler game that harkens back to a simpler time. The creativity of its mad-cap plot, its generous usage of historic figureheads of the wild west, and its brutal approach to fast, varied and frenetic gunplay all come together to form a great single-player game that has a distinct, quirky appeal – yet never takes itself too seriously. The replayability of its arcade challenges and the surprising depth of its leveling system add a layer of fresh yet familiar appeal to an already appealing experience, making Call of Juarez: Gunslinger an easy recommendation for any first-person shooter fan on Switch.

Call of Juarez: Gunslinger review copy provided by Techland for the purposes of this review.

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