Game Picks

Game picks - Call of Juarez: Gunslinger

CorrespondentJune 20, 2013 

‘Gunslinger’ romps through Old West

Ubisoft better be careful. At this rate, they might actually start changing what players expect to spend for a polished first-person shooter.

(Xbox 360; Rated M; $15) is the second such release that Ubisoft has made available for download in the last two months, after “Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon.” Like “Blood Dragon,” it doesn’t do anything particularly new with the genre, though it does take a few risks with the format.

“Gunslinger” is the story of Silas Greaves, a bounty hunter from the Old West with a story to tell. He’s every old, grizzled Western character you’ve ever seen in the movies rolled into one – a heaping portion of Clint Eastwood mixed with dashes of Tommy Lee Jones, John Wayne, and even Bryan Cranston (via Walter White) thrown in for good measure. The catch here is that it is Greaves himself telling the story, which means we are never quite sure whether he’s stretching the truth.

Laughing out loud

This leads to a number of laugh-out-loud moments where Greaves, as the narrator, changes his story even as the player is experiencing that story. Right in front of you, the landscape changes, people pop in and out of view, and grisly deaths are hilariously reversed.

What this does for the game is take some of the control right out of the hands of the player. While this sounds like it might be a bad thing, for a game like “Gunslinger,” the player’s lack of agency in the story’s progress actually works in its favor. Essentially, it allows the player to concentrate not on moral choices, not on authenticity, but on shooting the bad guys.

Progressing through “Gunslinger” is like traversing a giant, three-dimensional “Hogan’s Alley” style shooting gallery. While the enemies may bleed (and boy howdy, do they ever), the player is never given to seeing them as anything more than targets. This is partly aided by the fact that almost all of the baddies look identical to each other, and further helped by the numbers that pop up every time you manage a kill.

You gain experience points for every kill, you see. Take out a string of bad guys in quick succession and multipliers start to increase the number of points you get. You also get more points for creative kills like headshots, kills through cover, and kills using any one of the vaguely supernatural powers those points can be used toward. It’s an interesting system that all adds up to a first-person shooter that’s more focused on pure fun than anything else in recent memory.

Arcade mode, too

The trend in these sorts of games of late is gravitas. It’s actually refreshing to watch a game not just buck that trend, but move in entirely the opposite direction. There’s even an arcade mode, which focuses entirely on banking high scores, complete with online leaderboards for each stage.

As with most games of this ilk, there are collectibles to collect, and the story does eventually evolve into something a little more weighty – both factors that detract from the light, fun vibe of the game. Collecting things in particular is something of a chore, especially given that your reward for doing so is a series of history lessons. While it might be interesting to read a little something about a historical figure after that figure’s fictional appearance in the game, the novelty gets old quickly.

Even so, the majority of “Call of Juarez: Gunslinger” is an utterly enjoyable romp through the Old West. It’s on the short side, but the quality of what you get here for 15 measly bucks, and the replayability that comes with Arcade Mode, ensure that nearly every player will get more than enough bang for their bucks.

New This Week: “Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara” (Xbox 360/PS3/Steam) continues Capcom’s record of re-releasing every game in its back catalog, while Nintendo’s “New Super Luigi U” (Wii U) DLC offers a new way to play “New Super Mario Bros. U.”

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