Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood is the prequel to Call of Juarez. Bound in Blood puts you in control of the McCall brothers. Both are gunslingers during the American Civil War. The game begins with the brothers fighting for the Confederate Army and quickly they become deserters and start their path from their home in Georgia to the Aztech ruins of Mexico, in search of the legendary “Gold of Juarez”.
The game employs varying gameplay as the story unfolds. The first two levels are training levels. The first level takes place in the trenches of the battlegrounds in Georgia and you have to play as Ray. During the mission you learn all of Ray’s abilities from blowing up obstructions, to kicking down doors. For the second mission you have to play as Thomas. After disobeying orders the bothers have to fight their way to their homestead, and as Thomas you get to use some stealth to kill incoming enemies, and your lasso to gain a height advantage over the enemy, you also get your first crack at horseback riding. Riding is a bit odd as for some reason you don’t need to hold your reins and can shoot and reload with ease. But beware if your horse takes hits it will fall over and die. Other types of play include riding on a stagecoach through towns as you wreck havoc and the gun duels we all love in western movies.
As you can see both brothers have their differences and once you make it to the third mission you see where they need to work together. Ray is more of a close combat fighter, with the ability to hold duel pistols, use dynamite and kick down doors. Meanwhile Thomas is more stealthy. Thomas can not hold two weapons at once, but he can use throwing knives to make silent kills, or climb throughout the environment deploying a lasso when needed. As you progress through the game you will be able to choose which brother to use for a level. This adds to the replay of the game as you can play it multiple times trying each level with a different brothers abilities.
A few things that both brothers do have in common when playing the game are, the cover system, and “concentration mode”. The cover system is fairly easy all you need to do is push up against a wall, box or other object and then look around or over the object. The cover system for Bound in Blood is a bit different then other FPS games. Most games once in cover you can then fully pop out, but this is not the case with Bound in Blood. Instead once in cover you use the right thumb stick to peer out of cover, and you are limited to the degree you can look depending on the object. This is good and bad, bad because it take a bit to get the hang of but good in it makes cover more realistic. You’ll find it hard to make some shots due to the angle of you to the enemy but in time you get use to what you can and can’t do while in cover.
Concentration Mode is a new twist on bullet time. As you kill enemies your concentration meter goes up once full you can hit B and go into concentration mode. This also varies depending on which brother you are currently playing as. For Ray concentration mode slows time and allows him to paint targets, and then unleash a hail of pistol bullets at the targeted enemies. For Thomas his concentration mode is more of a quick draw mode, targets will be auto-targeted and as you fire off rounds your enemies will fall, the faster your trigger finger(which is a combination of the right trigger and right thumbstick) the more enemies you will drop.
While most of Bound in Blood’s missions are all preset and just require you to go from checkpoint to checkpoint killing enemies, there are some sprinkles of freedom. At some points you have the choice to continue the story or take a break and collect some loot by completing any or all reward poster missions. These are more like mini-games that don’t tie into the story but net you a few hundred gold to spend on newer weapons and let you do some horseback riding around the desert.
As far as Xbox Live play goes, Call of Juarez has some interesting modes and twists on the normal team based play. Online play has 8 maps, 5 game types, and 13 different type of character classes. Also the game uses a “Bounty” system. As you make kills the bounty on your head goes up. Once you get killed the player that killed you gets that bounty. This is very critical in the games deathmatch type, game type “Shootout”. The winner is decided by who has the most bounty. Plus as you earn cash you can spend it on new character classes, or upgrades to the character classes. Also the graphics online are exactly the same as single player, and the guns use some nice blur and focus when you aim. I’m a big fan of objective based play, be it defending/attacking points, or defending/attacking team members, and Call of Juarez focuses on that. For instance my favorite game type is “Wild West Legends” You have 3 objectives to either attack or defend. On one map you might have to rob 2 banks then blow your way through the barricade to leave the city.
As far as spending cash, there are 2 ways to spend money. One, buy new character classes, pretty straight forward. Second, buy upgrades during matches. This is a little different. As you earn bounty during a match you can upgrade the character’s abilities, which is either they run faster or they have higher health. Upgrades don’t carry over and only last for that match. The upgrades are the biggest letdown with online play, it would have been nice that as you play further in the game and earn more money you can make permanent upgrades to the different classes, with better weapons or better abilities.
Overall Xbox Live play is a lot of fun and runs very smooth, it nice while you wait for the game to fill with players you can have some fun shooting each other.
Graphics are incredibly good. The game has a rough dirty western feel with many tiny goodies. Shooting wooden creates will cause splinters to spray off. Shooting at empty bottles will leave broken glass. Explosions look very good and also cause a nice visual blur like a shock wave would cause, throwing your vision out of whack for a few seconds. Shadows and lighting looks amazing, just take a look over the landscape towards the sun for some nice views, or watch out when you leave dark mines as your eyes will need to adjust to the bright desert sun. The biggest issues with the graphics is the lack of environmental damage. Some object can be shot apart, such as chairs, bottles, lamps, railings and those conveniently placed explosive barrels (when will bad guys learn not to stack them next to their hiding places??). But items like tables wooden crates(which do spray off chips), fences and many other objects only show bullet marks. It seems like damaging your surroundings was only half executed by the developers. As far as a HUD goes you have a gun reticule which turns red when on a target, and you will see markers showing you where to go, but unless you need to reload the screen is clean. You can however with a quick button press pull up your current ammo count if you need to.
Sound is another plus and is really immersive with plenty of environmental sounds. Each type of gun has its on distinctive sound. The soundtrack is rather interesting, it blends western with some more modern electric guitar riffs. When playing online sound is a big part of it as there is no map so you will need to listen for foot steps around you.
Overall this is a solid game. I never played the original Call of Juarez, but have always been interested in playing something other then the normal war based or scifi based shooters. Getting use to the cover system takes a bit of time as well as getting a hang of the old style weapons which are a change from the powerful guns of more modern themed FPS games. Graphics are solid through-out with a few minor clipping and pop in issues. It would have been nice if there was some nice environmental damage, things blow up and crates will throw splinters in the air but buildings don’t come down and many objects seem bullet proof. I would have also really enjoyed a split screen mode, I mean the story is centered on two brothers who on many occasions fight side by side. Why not allow me and someone else to fight through the story side by side? If your a fan of FPS games, and want a nice change from the normal automatic power weapons of many FPS games, pick up Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood, and we’ll see you on Xbox Live.
A copy of Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood was provided to us for review from Ubisoft.