Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood [PS3]
July 17, 2009
July saw the release of Ubisoft’s Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood, a “spaghetti Western styled” First Person Shooter that takes players on a wild ride revolving around gold, Outlaws, Apache, Mexicans, and much more. A prequel to the original “Call of Juarez” by Polish developer Techland, Bound in Blood provides a deep riveting story of three brothers and their lives.
Those who can remember “Gun” might have been dubious at the sound of another Spaghetti Western FPS, however you will be pleasantly surprised that Bound in Blood holds up to a high standard. You’re thrown into the Civil War as Ray McCall, the older more brutish brother sporting the standard clichéd scar on his face and his two pistols. You fight through the enemy lines in an effort to save your brother Thomas, who once saved you can also then play as. Thomas is the younger of the two, though handles the rifles (and heights) much better than Ray. From then on you’re given the option of playing either Ray (who’s good at close range and explosions) or Thomas (who’s good at long range and stealth).
Bound in Blood is broken up into chapters, giving you the option of playing either Ray or Thomas at the start of each. The chapters are separated with a Fable-style image montage and narration of what happens in between the chapters story-wise. This included with the in-game cinematics gives much scope for the story to be carried out.
Thomas and Ray abandon the army to save their homestead, and evidently their younger brother William, a reverend and the one who’s point-of-view the story is told by. The game introduces many more characters along the road as Thomas and Ray quest for Gold, and a women’s love. Betrayal, deception, and sacrifice all weave their ways throughout the storyline.
Bound in Blood offers quite an open-world environment, and quite a variety of different locations to play in from the front lines of the Civil War, to the cliffs of Arizona, the desert plains of Mexico, to secret ruins sporting seas of sand circa the last Indiana Jones film.
From the get-go the gameplay is surprising. It teaches you what you need to know regularly enough that you learn it all within the first 5-10 minutes of playing, but not in too big packages as you need to pause the screen to read. The controls are intuitive enough to be able to aim and quite successfully kill enemies with little issues. However the biggest thing about the game is the mechanics it features.
One of the biggest problems with FPS games is how to make use of cover properly, with Bound in Blood the transitions are seamless. Push against an object and you’re already taking cover on it, now when you move your Look control your player actually moves against the object. If you’re against a crate one movement will make you duck down so you can reload without getting hit; move the other way and you’ll slowly look over the crate and if you continue to move then you’ll lean over the crate to look over the other side. When against doors and corners you can lean around and not Call of Duty style one direction leaning, when you lean you lean out and then around the actual door to take out enemies hiding behind the other side. And then just moving away from the object or door or wall changes the controls back to the standard look movement, the change is so seamless that it makes changing from these two modes simple in the biggest firefight.
Bound in Blood aims for realism in every sense, and with the use of Depth of Field it’s merged into the gameplay superbly. The whole game features Depth of Field, select points of focus with things further or closer in your field of view becoming blurry. Standing around the blur isn’t as noticeable but looking down the barrel of a rifle makes it all the more obvious. When looking down the barrel of a gun where it’s pointing becomes in focus, and objects further or closer to the point aimed at become blurry, the long you focus on a single point the more select it becomes. It literally means you can focus on sniping with a standard rifle, or focus on a target against a eclectic cluttered forest backdrop.
Finally there’s Concentration Mode, get enough kills and you’ve charged your concentration mode for whichever character you’re playing as. Using it results in a temporary bullet-time mode where pushing the right buttons with the right movement gets enemies killed very quickly. Playing as Ray gives you a concentration mode in which he sports duel pistols and where any movement over any of the highlighted enemies counts as a target, when the timer runs out Ray fires at every target identified. You can headshot as many enemies as you can, or just fill a few targets with as many bullets as you can muster. Thomas on the other hand has one pistol, in which you must hold down the trigger and with the same control the controls your movement, you pull back the hammer of the gun making you auto-target enemies and fire for every time you pull back. There are many times when an ambush by both brother’s is the best option, and in that instance both enter concentration mode at the same time. This only occurs when breaking through double-doors and you must aim and fire at your targets. It can sometimes feel a little like Quick Time Events however with the length of the advantage and the simple button configeration it’s easily achieved and amidst a gunfight it can be a lifesaver.
Bound in Blood also sports Cannons, Bows, Knives, Gatling Guns, as well as Horses, Wagons and anything else vintage 19th Century. Each has it’s moment of use, and each brother has their specialties that makes choosing one over the other difficult. Ray has a cuirass, dynamite and is better for close combat. Thomas on the other hand has a lasso that helps him climb up high with his rifle and is good at medium to long distance combat. He also has knives and you can buy a bow for him that makes long distance stealth achievable.
There is also quick-draw stand-off moments, in which your character faces off against an enemy, generally what would constitute a boss fight in other games. One control controls your hand while the other controls your pacing, if you lose focus on your enemy by pacing in the wrong direction everything becomes fuzzy. When the bell rings grab your gun with your hand and fire. Although it’s supposed to be difficult it seemed to be one of the easiest Quick Time Events in the game.
With the abilities of modern consoles the visuals are incredible. Explosions are incredible, the open-world sequences don’t sacrifice on the quality already established, and everything down to the gun decals are meticulously decorated.
In face the only real issue with the game is the save mode. It hasn’t learnt how to do it correctly. It has no “Save Game” button, and “restarting the chapter” compared to “return to last checkpoint” are both deceivingly confusing. Also there are a few points in which you may fail a mission, and you go back to the last checkpoint to try again, and although you’re doing all it asks for it decides you just didn’t do it correctly and so you fail again.
However apart from those rare occasions Call to Juarez: Bound in Blood has performed higher than expected as a Spaghetti Western FPS. Definitely worth a buy, if you’re skeptical than go hire it but you’ll just be spending more money because once you’ve played it you’ll go out and buy it anyway.
Storyline – 3.5/5 (Although a thorough storyline it was monotonous or predictable at points)
Gameplay – 5/5
Performance – 4/5