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Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood

Score: 85%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Ubisoft Entertainment
Developer: Techland Software
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1; 2 - 12 (Online)
Genre: First Person Shooter/ Action/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

Towards the end of the first Call of Juarez, the tormented Reverend Ray McCall breaks down and shares the details of his dark past in a touching load screen monologue. If you played the game and thought to yourselves: "Wow, they could have made a game based on that story," I'm happy to report that developer Techland has been on the same wavelength all along. Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood serves as a prequel to Call of Juarez; while it takes a few steps backward in the narrative's timeline, it takes several steps forward for Western-themed games.

Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood is a superb-looking game. The natural landscapes of Civil War-era Georgia and the dusty wastelands of Juarez are represented very nicely. Character models and animations are outstanding; William McCall, in particular, looks almost lifelike. The best part of the visuals is that you will never see two enemies die the same way.

Bound in Blood is rounded out nicely with a great bit of sound design, as well. The report of firearms is satisfyingly harsh and lends a lot of oomph to each kill. The music works really well; I usually have a problem with modern-sounding music being injected into historical contexts, but here, it fits the game's attitude. The game's voice acting is excellent, from the grim-sounding McCall gunslingers to the deranged villain -- if you take Foghorn Leghorn and reimagine him as a white supremacist, you'll have the general idea of what Colonel Barnsby sounds like. You'll hear far more than your share of Western-themed curses, but you'll always appreciate the great timing and delivery on the part of the actors.


If you're a veteran of the first game, I'm afraid Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood has already been spoiled for you. You already know ninety-percent of how the story plays out. The story begins as brothers Ray and Thomas McCall reunite on a Civil War battlefield in their native Georgia. With Tecumseh cutting a swath of destruction across the South, the brothers become worried about their family... and decide to desert the Confederate Army -- a crime that is not forgiven by their commanding officer. Eventually, the brothers McCall (including pious William) find themselves on the hunt for the legendary Gold of Juarez, a treasure that is said to be as cursed as it is elusive. You'll meet a few characters from Call of Juarez, and even though players of the first game already know this story, there are some pleasant surprises. The story that chronicles Ray McCall's transformation into Reverend Ray is a good one, and it will keep you involved until the end.

Bound in Blood is as straightforward a shooter as it gets. You'll move from story point to story point as either Ray or Thomas McCall (you can usually choose at the beginning of a level). You'll slay outlaws, Indians, and Union infantrymen alike. Even though it's basically a cookie-cutter shooter, the watercooler moments and scripted sequences keep the blood flowing.

End-of-level duels are back; they are more intense and dramatic this time around. It's always a dramatic and suspenseful twenty seconds of gameplay. You've got to keep your enemy in your sights and your hand near your gun, because if you fail to respond to the tolling of the bell, your opponent will gun you down before your pistol clears its holster. You've got to time it just right -- which is kind of funny, because just about every successful duel results in your enemy getting shot in the crotch.

There's a good multiplayer component in Bound in Blood that revolves around the classic cops-and-robbers dynamic. You can earn money by killing enemies and then use it to purchase new classes and upgrades. It's fun, class-based shooting action that you'll return to well after you've completed the single player mode.


Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood's difficulty is adjustable, but I found it to be a very easy shooter. Objectives are never complex; most of the game simply shuttles you from one enemy encounter to the next. After you get to each encounter, it's all about finding the right angle of attack and lining your headshots up. There are times when the game takes a bit of control from you, but it only happens during moments that are on-rails for good reason.

You can beat Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood and see all there is to see in just under seven hours if you're good enough. There are only a handful of side missions, and they are all straightforward enough to finish in one try (give or take the occasional trial-and-error in duels). This game is very linear, and even shooter newbies should have no trouble finishing this game on Normal difficulty.

There's a good bit of replay value in Bound in Blood, and most of it comes from the multiplayer. However, if you've got a keen eye for collectibles and like to see everything a game has to offer, there are several scrolls hidden in chests that are scattered across each level. These scrolls unlock interesting bits of content, many of which include commentary from the McCalls. I particularly liked the Mathew Brady photos.

Game Mechanics:

As mentioned earlier, Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood places you in the role of either Ray or Thomas McCall, and with the exception of two missions, you get to choose who you want to play as. Ray is a pistols akimbo and dynamite kind of guy, while Thomas is prone to stick to his rifle (and lasso, for those hard to reach locations). Regardless of who you choose, the experience remains largely the same.

By far, the most impressive mechanic in Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood is the first-person cover system. First-person shooters and cover systems rarely mix well, with the possible exception of Killzone 2. However, Techland has found exactly how to take a cover system and make it work in a first-person shooter. By moving up against a corner or piece of cover, your character will snap loosely onto the cover. You can move in and out of cover naturally, but when you're in cover, the aiming controls allow you to peek over or around whatever cover you are currently taking refuge behind. It's a system that feels very natural, which is no small feat in a game that literally puts you in someone else's shoes. It makes you wonder how much better other first-person shooters could have been with this kind of system.

Concentration Mode returns in Bound in Blood, and it's more satisfying this time around, even if it is less realistic. Concentration Mode is different for Ray or Thomas. Ray simply paints a bunch of targets and lets loose a barrage of bullets. Thomas quickly surveys the area and unloads on his enemies with a single-gun hammer action burst.

Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood doesn't offer much in the way of innovation or depth, but its great presentation and involving story help to elevate it above every other Western-themed game on the market.

-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

Minimum System Requirements:

Pentium 4 3.2, 1 GB RAM, Shader Model 3 Compatible Graphic Card w/256 MB RAM.

Test System:

AMD Athlon 64X2 Dual-Core Processor 6400+, NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GTS, SoundMAX Integrated Digital HD Audio, Windows Vista, Sony DVD RW AW-G170A ATA Device, 2x 1GB DDR2 at 400MHz

Nintendo Wii Little King's Story Microsoft Xbox 360 Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood

Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated