Meet Silas Greaves, bounty hunter extraordinaire. He's been there, done that. And while he may not be shy about his accomplishments, he sure is entertaining...
I'm hooked as soon as the intro starts. The year is 1910 and the main character, Silas Greaves, rides into town in a series of gorgeous stills, and he looks just as lost as John Marston once did in Red Dead Redemption. He stumbles into a dusty bar and is treated to drinks by friendly townsfolk who want him tell them of his adventures.
Silas isn't any old gun for hire, he's a legendary bounty hunter and he has run into some of the most legendary outlaws forged in the Old West - from Billy the Kid to Butch Cassidy and Jesse James. Just to name a few. With a great flair for the dramatic, he recollects his experiences, and every now and then the residents in the bar correct certain factual errors, and on occasion, so does Silas.
Your part is to visualise the memories of Silas and play them as he recalls, something that soon proves easier said than done. For instance, you can find yourself standing on the wide open wastes when Silas remembers a barn and it appears out of thin air. And perhaps the native Americans he first recalled were cowboys operating on the wrong side of the law?! All of the enemies are instantly replaced. This all combines to create a dynamic game-world, the likes of which we've never before seen.
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Perhaps the best part of the concept is that Techland haven't been restrained by historical accuracy - this is a series of unlikely scenarios as told by a compulsive liar. This kind of story just wouldn't be told with a realistic palette of greys and browns. Instead Techland chose to make use of cel shading in Call of Juarez: Gunslinger - and this gives it that unmistakable look of a graphical novel. It matches the concept perfectly, both in terms of tone and mechanics.
As far as the gameplay goes Call of Juarez: Gunslinger is easily recognisable for those familiar with the two first games in the series. Heavy hand-cannons, shotguns capable of splitting your victims in half, and old rifles that are handy if you're looking to deal some damage from afar. Perhaps things are slightly too familiar, and the pacing isn't far off something like Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Your taken from A to B, through extremely linear levels, shoot whatever enemies appear, and face a boss at the end of the level.
Perhaps Techland felt there was need for more variation and that's why there's the ability to dodge bullets, and shoot several enemies in one go with mini-games that have been added. There is also something similar to Dead Eye from Red Dead Redemption thrown in for good measure. Then there are duels where you need to finish your opponent as quickly and heroically as possible. None of these added features really add anything substantial and some sort of puzzle element would have done wonders for the pacing and variation.
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What stands out as the main new feature is the arcade-like structure Techland has opted for. Gunslinger is all about lining up headshots, making clean kills and rising in rank. As you progress you unlock added abilities such as automatic reloads while running, and the use of two shotguns. And it's all about achieving high scores. When you've finished the game you can relive individual memories through the arcade mode. However, I was done with the game as the credits rolled and never really felt the urge to go back and better my scores.
The six hour long adventure is just the right size for a digital treat, and Gunslinger is somewhat liberating in its old school approach. No unnecessary extras, just pure action with lovely design, a great narrative and high scores to chase.
7 / 10
Entertaining high score chase. Charming design. Lots of action. Original narrative. Great voice acting.