I’d heard a lot about Call of Juarez: Gunslinger [Download] on various podcasts so when it was on sale during the winter steam sale I went ahead and bought it.
The premise of Gunslinger is that you play an old bounty hunter in the Old West and you walk into a bar and start telling stories about all these famous outlaws that you fought. Because it is in the form of storytelling, there are times in the games where someone will say something like, “I heard about that. You killed 50 people that day” and you play that section shooting tons of people but then the game will stop and your character will say, “No, it wasn’t like that. I only killed 5” and then you will replay the scene the other way. This video does a pretty good job of describing the game:
I found the game to be entertainingly told but other than that to be a pretty basic linear shooter with few places to vary from the main path. There were also only a handful of different weapons which I found disappointing.
What I found most interesting about the game was how they worked with and around the limitations of the game engine. It uses the Chrome engine which is pretty enough and also powered Dead Island. What it doesn’t seem to be able to do, however, is animate mouths because no one in the game ever seems to talk on camera. All the storyline about telling the story is through cut scenes or voice overs. It has been a while since I played Dead Island but I seem to remember people talking in it so I’m not sure if this is the engine itself or more a sign of the design choices of Gunslinger.
Another interesting aspect of the game’s design is that the fact that at tomes the story will backtrack or be told with different facts means that the player is in effect replaying the same level twice (or more) which means that the game designers can make the game longer without having to create any more levels. Several of the levels also take place in Ye Old Western towns which might very well be the same town because they looked quite similar. I admit that I didn’t really bother to read all the text or pay that much attention to where the game was being set but there were times when I thought I was playing a level set on the same map as a previous one.
While these things work pretty well, not everything about the game works as well because some of the arcade game-style stuff feels at odds with the conceit that the player is experiencing a retelling of a story. For example, there are points for shooting multiple people that you can use to level up which draws attention to the fact that it is a game.
The most dissonant gameplay element is that each level has hidden “Nuggets of Truth” cards that you can collect and which tell you the historical facts behind the colorful story you are playing. While this is neat in concept, the reality is that because they are hidden meant that while I was playing I spent a lot of time wandering around in nooks and corners looking for these secrets and not playing through to the next part of the game. So while I liked the concept, the execution was more of a distraction than it should have been.
Overall Gunslinger is fun if you like old school shooters and are interested in storytelling in games and how the software used can influence how a game is made.
three thumbs up
Tell me a story
About outlaws and cowboys
Just don’t distract me.