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Review: Call of Juarez: Gunslinger

The Wild West is ending. There are no more lands to tame. Stories, however, last for as long as those who speak of them, and stories are unbound by time. As the West comes to an end, one man will share of his stories of riding and shooting, and some of these tales may be larger than life.  Arriving to the Nintendo Switch for the very first time is Call of Juarez: Gunslinger a first-person shooter themed to the tall tales and legendary lore of the American Wild West. Featuring a fulfilling single-player, hard-hitting action, and white-knuckle duels, Call of Juarez: Gunslinger is an action-packed adventure that is perfect for the Nintendo Switch platform. 

Call of Juarez: Gunslinger is the fourth installment of the niche indie franchise, Call of Juarez. The Call of Juarez games is a first-person shooter themed to the Wild West, where players fight with revolvers and long-rifles and ride on horseback through the untamed wilderness for fortune and glory. After the universal panning of the third installment, which abandoned the Wild West for modern drug cartel wars, Call of Juarez: Gunslinger was released in May 2013 for the PlayStation 3, Xbox One, and PC. Call of Juarez: Gunslinger was critically and commercially well-received for returning to its Wild West roots and refining it’s unique action mechanics. Last year, Call of Juarez” Gunslinger was delisted on all digital storefronts, a huge detriment to video game enthusiasts as the game can only be acquired digitally. Following a dispute with the publisher Ubisoft, the developer, Techland, became the sole publisher. Now, thanks to assistance from Square Enix, Call of Juarez” Gunslinger has made its way to the Nintendo eShop. 

It’s the early 1900’s and The West has come to an end. For gunman Silas Greaves, his time in the West is over, but there is some business left to attend to in Abilene, Kansas. Upon entering the town’s Saloon, he is greeted by the bartender and an assortment of patrons. One fo the patrons recognized the name of Silas Greaves, and jumps in jubilation that a legendary gunslinger has walked into the Saloon of his very hometown. Silas is considered a legend in the West, and words have spread of his antics and adventures. Wild shootouts, death-defying leaps, narrow escapes, and bar-clearing gunfights all encapsulate his time in the West.  With a tall glass of beer, he begins to reminisce on his tales of his time in the West, and all the legends he met along the way. 

Call of Juarez: Gunslinger is mean, hard, and fast-hitting, with great first-person shooting mechanics that is distinct and rewarding. Call of Juarez: Gunslinger features a large assortment of revolver, rifles, and shotguns. Every weapon fires with attitude and personality. Shooting from a long-rifle feels vastly different than using a pair of revolvers. There is a strong sensation of impact and visceral shooting, which is greatly enhanced by the game’s unique color and visual scheme.  It’s a refreshing break from the large assortment of other first-person shooters, and their reliance on the modern world. In Call of Juarez: Gunslinger, using the cold steel of a revolver is a far different experience compared to a modern M4 carbine with ACOG scope. Additionally, players fight to rack up the highest score and eliminating enemies, as well as the manner in which enemies are eliminated all yield high scores and bonuses. 

 In single-player, players play as Silas Greaves as he recalls his tales from the West. One of the most wonderful aspects of Call of Juarez” Gunslinger is how Silas’ telling of his tales in the West is weaved with mythology. Mythology, and the tales that accompany it, can change depending on who tells the story. Very fine details and sequences of events can change and alter an entire event. During the course of each level, Silas narrates the action from his point of view, but the narration may change as Silas digs through his memory to recall events. On top of that, Silas is slightly inebriated as he drinks his beer, so his memory becomes more fluid. At any point, a level can change. In on instance, Silas is surrounded by armed and dangerous Navajo, and after defending himself from Navajo, the game pauses as Silas corrects his tale. Silas isn’t fighting Navajo. Instead, he’s fighting bandits that are fighting like Navajo. As he corrects the enemies change from armed Navajo to armed bandits. The same mechanic applies to level constructions and the level can shape and displace objects or paths depending on Silas’ account. Seeing this is different from other FPS’s, with their more linear storytelling. IN addition to different accounts, Silas interacts, and even fights, legends in the lore fo the Wild West, like Billy The Kid and Jesse James. Scattered throughout each level are small “nuggets” or collectibles, that help to reveal true facts about The West. To add to the story-telling, Call of Juarez: Gunslinger utilizes a cel-shaded graphic novel style to enhance the atmosphere of the lore. Shooting feels grounded but just the right amount of comical to heighten the absurdity of the gunfights. Call of Juarez: Gunslinger is certainly inspired by the violence and brutality of Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained.

One of the trademark traditions of the Wild West is the duel. Call of Juarez: Gunslinger features a multitude of duels with the famous legends of the Wild West. In these moments, the gameplay focus switches to a classic, cinematic mini-game, where players need to focus on their target, position their hand the right way, draw, and pull the trigger in the quickest way possible. It’s in these moments that Call of Juarez: Gunslinger shines even brighter delivering those white-knuckle moments that only Hollywood has been able to encapsulate. 

When everything comes together, Call of Juarez: Gunslinger is a rootin’ tootin’ action extravaganza. The gunfights are incredible, with ferocity and razor-sharp danger. Dodging bullets and dishing out punishment is incredible. The level-up system and the multiple game modes keep players coming back for more. As amazing as this all is, it is perhaps rather unfortunate that no additional content was added. New campaigns or game modes would have gone a long way to sweetening the deal, but what we are given here is strong and enjoyable. 

Call of Juarez: Gunslinger is a perfect example of a game that has aged well. It’s unique shooting and gameplay mechanics, combined with unique storytelling make Call of Juarez: Gunslinger a pure joy to play. With Call of Juarez: Gunslinger on the Switch, it’s time for a new generation of gunslingers to wield their steal and fight for fortune and glory.

Platform: Nintendo Switch eShop

Price: $19.99

Call of Juarez: Gunslinger was reviewed on the Nintendo Switch thanks to a review key generously supplied to Stack Up by Techland

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