A short, sharp gem of a first-person shooter (FPS), Call Of Juarez: Gunslinger offers uncomplicated thrills with its punchy action and engaging narrative.
You play the grizzled bounty hunter Silas Greaves, who has crossed paths with many a legendary figure of the American Wild West. Each chapter of the game takes you through one of his stories, as he recounts his adventures to a group of sceptical patrons in a bar.
His adventures play out like a Greatest Hits compilation of the Wild West, as depicted in popular culture. You are embroiled in a shoot-out on a speeding train in one mission and caught up in a Mexican stand-off in a graveyard in another.
At the heart of every successful FPS are its shooting mechanics, and developer Techland has absolutely nailed them here. You are limited to a relatively meagre selection of guns but you would not even notice when the gunplay is this satisfying.
Encounters with foes are fast and fluid and every kill builds up your Concentration meter, the use of which slows down time and highlights enemies a lurid red. Stringing long combinations of kills grants you copious amounts of experience points, which you can use to unlock skills, such as the ability to split a thrown stick of dynamite into three. Greaves also serves as a narrator to his tales. He talks as you play out his memories on-screen, telling the player what was going through his head at the time.
In one level, you take a precarious route into a mine, only for the foray to end fatally. Greaves then explains that it would have been a foolish approach. The mission rewinds and you take another entrance into the mine.
It is a refreshing take on storytelling. Each mission keeps you guessing as backdrops change and environments shift before your eyes.
While the story ends in about six hours, Call Of Juarez: Gunslinger provides a surprisingly robust package for a downloadable title.
New Game Plus mode lets you keep your unlocked skills as you take on a higher difficulty, while Arcade and Duel modes add longevity.
By focusing on keeping the shooting solid and adding flourishes to the storytelling, Techland has crafted a fine FPS that any fan of the genre should look into.
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