Bring on the pasta mom because a new spaghetti western is in town, and it’s called Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood. This iteration may be a prequel to the first Call of Juarez, but it is definitely an evolution when compared to the first game. Everything the first Call of Juarez got wrong, Techland has nearly gotten correct. From the slow action stealthy pacing in the first game, to action packed shootouts that will even make Dirty Hairy look like Mr. Clean. Call of Juarez Bound in Blood is definitely one western oriented game that will have you jumping on your horse and riding off into the sunset.
Bound in Blood is set several years before the first game. Anyone familiar with old western films starring Clint Eastwood like Unforgiven and/or Fist Full of Dollars should know that this game borrows heavily from them, but surprisingly, is done superbly and gives off those same chills experienced when you found out Clint Eastwood had a metal plate under his poncho (Fist Full of Dollars). The game is set in the Old West where gun duels with drunken cowboys was a casual thing. Yes, even the classic saloon gun battle happens, and yes it’s even a lot more riveting then some movies we’ve come to love. The attention to detail is hard to neglect as there is never a dull moment in the background and scenery in the game. Rather it is a horse drinking out of a trough or some gunslingers duking it out for the fair ladies hand, there is still a few empty towns just waiting to host a shootout and Techland has done a great job of making this western environment come to life.
From the get-go, you take the hand of Ray McCall and following right behind you is brother, Thomas McCall. For those who have played the first Call of Juarez, you’ll remember Ray as the preacher. Both brothers are on a hunt for treasure. After deserting the Confederacy, you’ll play as each brother through their western tale of greed, anguish and lush for gold. Both brothers have their own personality and it truly shows as the game plays out. Not to mention the wonderful voice acting that each brother carries. Thomas is the more reluctant, yet thought provoking type, and Ray is the older western ruthless gunslinger type. Ray’s caliber of choice is the duel wielding six shooters, as Thomas is more careful with his rifle. Playing the game with each brother will allow you the use of the brother’s significant concentration modes. Ray’s specific attack is moving the reticle across the various enemies in one motion which will follow into an action of his weapon automatically firing each of the opposed enemies in one stroke. Thomas’s concentration mode attack requires you to flick the right thumb stick in the same motion as the hammer on a gun to automatically shoot the opposing enemies, although beware, there are only a few seconds for you to react after entering these modes and you must choose the timing correctly or its just wasted if not used correctly. Either way, both sequences pack plenty of tension and really makes you feel like you’re in the old western with your fingertips right by your pistol.
The controls in Bound in Blood flow very well. The classic left trigger to aim, right trigger to fire. What’s great about having such easy controls is that you have the opportune moment to carefully read your opponent’s intentions while in a shoot-out. The controls are so spot on that you can control the camera while it’s panned down low behind your character’s right side to get a view on your hand close to your gun and a view of your opponent, which makes for a great presentation. Whether it be a pistol, rifle, shotgun, explosives, or even knives, (which all can be found at the local gun shop) any weapon is easy to control and if used right, can make for a great gun duel and action packed sequence. You also take control of cannons, Gatling guns, and dynamite. Controlling each character in a certain situation is done easily with the inclusion of the cover system. It can take some getting used to, but when done correctly your character will get into cover by pushing up against a surface, like a wall, rock, or a box, and with the flick up the right thumb stick, you can look to the left, over, or right side of whatever you are covered by and peek out to see what’s ahead of you.
Bound in Blood dabbles its trigger finger in multi-player as well, although it’s worth noting that I happen to be disappointed in the fact that there is no online co-op through the campaign with a friend since it would only make sense that you go through the single player always with a partner already. The online counterpart is all competitive, with 5 modes, and 8 maps. The most interesting mode is the Wild West Legends, where your team has to complete certain scenarios by blowing stuff up. The other team’s objective is to stop your team from accomplishing that of course.
Now with nearly every aspect that was wrong with the first Call of Juarez, Bound in Blood does its job at delivering the goods. With improved graphics, a great storyline, even better narrative, and improved game play, there was hardly anything that hindered my game play, except for the occasional but sudden load times, and the sloppy animations from certain characters (at times, character’s lips are moving, yet they are not even talking to you). The single player campaign also seems to be pretty short clocking in at about 8 hours of playtime. I had a blast saddling up and riding out with my fellow hombre.
Final Score: 8.5/10