After Red Dead Redemption 2, you may have been having a hard time looking for another western game with a great plot filled with constant gun powder actions. Chances are you might probably not find a game as good as this in the stack of recent years’ releases (in the old west genre). In 2013, Call of Juarez: Gunslinger was released as a standalone sequel after having three predecessors published in the late 2000s.
You play as Silas Greaves, a famous bounty hunter, the story starts as you enter a saloon in Abilene, Kansas in 1910. A table full of characters overheard your name while you were conversing with the bartender, Silas gets offered a round of free beer. As an experienced bounty hunter, Silas returns the favor with his series of rough but enticing adventures as a professional huntsman. The gameplay begins as Silas recalls his first mission featuring Billy the Kid. That’s right, the real-life outlaw who had his name in America’s history book for his participation in Lincoln County War. After having spent decades in the wild west, Silas had already crossed paths with lots of infamous outlaws like Billy the Kid, Jesse James, Butch Cassidy, and Sundance Kid duo. The narrative is a good example of tying fictional characters with real-life persons and events together to form an immersive experience of the life of a gunman in the cowboy era. And that is one of the best things about this game. At the end of the game, you will have been rewarded with extra knowledge of the American frontier in addition to the great entertainment the game has to offer. Truth be told, I learned more about the wild west history and characters from this game than I ever did from anywhere.
When talking about Gunslinger, it would be unfair not to mention the earlier two games in the series. Actually, there are three before Gunslinger, but the third one, Call of Juarez: The Cartel (2011), is universally accepted as the worst in the series and doesn’t really contribute to the evolution of Call of Juarez world. Call of Juarez (2005) and Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood (2009) are known for their distinguishable features in the genre. In those first two games, you can play from two protagonists’ perspectives, unlike in Gunslinger, you can only play Silas. However, all three share similar gameplay mechanisms including being fps, revenge-fueled story, weapon dual-wielding, concentration mode (the special ability of the characters), and the signature trademark of the series, the dueling system.
What makes Gunslinger stands out from the crowd is its unorthodox approach in narration as opposed to the earlier games. You progress the game as Silas recalls his encounters with the most notorious villains, and sometimes he can’t remember exactly as it happened or simply lying. When that happens, the game just rolls back and presents you with the new line of the story. For example, in the first chapter of the game, someone at the same table with Silas at the saloon interrupt his story and foretell how Silas went into a duel with Pat Garrett and killed him in the shoot-out according to a dime novel he read, but Silas confirms that wasn’t how it went down with Pat Garrett, whereas he got knocked out by Pat. In that case, the player has to play two scenarios, one where Silas took Pat to the showdown, then the game rewinds back to the actual scene where he was captured by Pat. This kind of little gimmick is presented consistently throughout the game altogether with the comic-like art style.
For combat, it has one of the most satisfying shootings. Blood spews out as your enemies get hit by your revolver, shotgun, and rifle. You can unlock better and improved versions of your favorite weapons type by leveling up. Experience points are used to upgrade your character level, and the only means of gaining experience points is taking down your foes as much as you can. There are also perks you can unlock in the skills menu, that can further aid your playstyle. There is also the concentration mode you can use to highlight the foes in your field of vision and slow down the time, allowing you to take down the outlaws more effectively. Aim for the head and you will see leveling up is quick because headshots provide more exp points.
Also, don’t forget to find collectible items called nuggets of truth if you want to more about the real history of the scene you are playing. It also has the hardest and the most advanced duel system in all of the Call of Juarez games. Successful duel relies on two factors: focus and reflex. Focus points are filled when you can steadily aim the circle on your moving opponent, and you get high reflex stats for putting your hand right above the holster using the A and D key. At first, I was losing lots of reflex points because the tutorial only told me to put the hand close to the gun, not exactly telling me to put it above the holster. I also find storytelling a little clumsy because the gameplay occurs over the voiceover narrations of Silas and frequent interference by the table members, there are lots of things happening on screen and yet my attention had to be dived between shootings and constant talking. So, be wary not to pay all of your attention to only one aspect of the game, or you could miss out on some valuable information.
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