The Wild West, boy howdy I would’ve only lasted a few days there before falling off my horse or falling victim to a band of outlaws. Fortunately, I don’t need to invent a time-machine in order to experience this key time in American history, I can just boot up Call of Juarez: Gunslinger and have the time of my life.
You could probably call this a budget title, after all it can be found on Steam for £11.99. This is most certainly a bargain for a game which I felt matched BioShock for pure enjoyment. Going back to the Wild West or more correctly, Old West setting of the original games after the mediocrity of The Cartel’s modern theme is a stroke of genius. Not enough games out there, and certainly not enough that have appeared on the PC (I’m looking at you Red Dead) use this period of time in which so many great tales can be told.
Gunslinger sees an aging bounty-hunter known as Silas Greaves pull up a chair in a bar in the early 1900s and start recounting his tales of daring-do to an enraptured audience. A young boy clinging tightly to a dusty paperback about Silas’ tales along with a couple of older patrons and a barmaid encourage Silas to tell the truth, or at least his version of the truth of what he got up to.
Silas’ adventures see him come across such names as Billy the Kid and Jesse James amongst a host of Old West legends, it is also ultimately a tale of revenge against those who murdered his brothers and attempted to kill him. The story reveals itself at a steady pace with chatter in the bar playing over your shoot-outs and adventures, sometimes time even draws to a stop as Silas’ audience question what happens.
His tales are tall and far-fetched with rapid changes in scenarios playing out. One minute you might be fighting Native Americans, the next some gang members. You’ll go from clambering underneath a bridge to disarm explosives with no route to the other side to suddenly seeing a new route drop down before your eyes. Bit of advice, don’t take things too seriously in this game, Silas is plenty liberal with the truth leading to ever escalating moments of danger and chances to prove his heroism.
Combat is silky smooth with three distinct approaches on hand, each able to be improved with various unlocks. You can be a dual six-shooter wielding maestro or someone who likes to get up close and personal with a two-barrelled shotgun. My approach was to take a lovely long-range rifle and a pretty lowly-skilled dual-wielding bringer of death. As you complete a barrel of unlocks for each of the three play-types you gain access to an improved weapon. After finishing the story once, you can go back in New Game Plus maintaining everything you earned first time round and building up your complete array of death-dealing tools and skills.
Some chapters of Silas’ story are punctuated by sometimes awkward boss battles where you are fighting off a very tough opponent and a steady stream of lackeys. I much preferred the chapters which ended with a duel. These are tense affairs as you try to keep your target in focus and your hand close enough to your holster to grab your weapon in a split-second all the while making sure your enemy doesn’t draw on you before you can react. Or you can be a dishonourable dick by drawing and shooting first. You lose some experience points this way, but for a tough duel it is a way forwards.
If you love to duel so much you can even take part in a game-mode just for such a form of combat. You have five lives to win as many duels as possible in the honourable fashion. There is also a wild little Arcade mode which puts you down in the setting of one of the story levels with one of the three loadouts of your choice. The aim? Get to the end of the course as fast as you can building up combos of fallen enemies, smashed pumpkins and exploded barrels of dynamite as you try to score as many points as possible.
Gunslinger has everything you need, a fun tale of revenge, cowboys, guns and dynamite and some wonderful action. It is a perfect example of digital distribution done right and should be applauded. Buy it and enjoy, I for sure did.
Verdict – Headshot
Platforms Available – PC, PSN, XBL
Platform Reviewed – PC
Please check this post for details on our scoring system. Review based on a Steam press account copy.