Call of Juarez
Content at a glance:
Computer Platform: Xbox 360 (Microsoft)
Produced by: Ubisoft
Price Range: $11-20
Learning curve time: 1-30 min.
Age level: Mature Teen to Adult
ESRB Rating: M (Mature)
Reviewed By: Zach Walton
VOLUNTEER GUEST REVIEWER
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Christian Rating: 3 of 5 (average)
Gameplay: 4 of 5 (good)
Violence: 2 of 5 (heavy)
Adult Content: 2 of 5 (heavy)
The Wild West. The time of Cowboys, Indians and buried ancient treasure. That's the theme set by Call of Juarez. Very few shooters and games for that matter tread into the Wild West territory. There's a gold mine of material to choose from but the slower pace of Wild West battles may be what turns off most developers from this era. Techland have done a great job of bringing the feel of the Wild West to a game.
The story begins as Billy Candle who is on his way home after searching for the lost gold of Juarez. He begun his search in order to prove that he's not worthless to his father who disapproves of him. He didn't find the gold and comes home to find his family brutally murdered with “Call of Juarez” written in blood on the farm door. Billy's father's brother, Reverend Ray, an outlaw turned preacher, comes upon the farm and sees the carnage with Billy on the grounds. He takes Billy as being the murderer and thus begins the chase.
The story is interesting as the developers give the player the chance to become the hunter and the hunted. The player will go through stealth/platformer based levels as Billy Candle as he tries to avoid his pursuers and find the truth behind his family's murder to clear his name. The next level will then be played as Reverend Ray. These are traditional shooter levels as Reverend Ray is God's wrath on earth and does away with criminals in his search for Billy.
One of the main points of interest in this game is the use of Christianity. Many people will be turned off at first by Reverend Ray as his use of violence in the name of God is not commendable in the slightest. By game's end, Ray realizes his mistakes and presents one of the greatest Christian role models that I have ever seen in a game.
Blood splatters on the ground and walls after shooting them. It's not detailed or very gory. Also, the game prevents the player from shooting corpses or harming innocents or animals. It's a very commendable act on the developer's part to prevent useless violence.
There is a lot of language. This is the game's main weak point in terms of its content. All curse words are used more than once, some more than others. There is also a lot of sexual language thrown around.
The first level involves the player having to sneak into a prostitute's room to steal her gun. The prostitute hints towards having sex with Billy until she is called away.
The player meets a Native American halfway through the game who gives Billy three quests of enlightenment. The Native American tells him that if he finds three items, the river god will show Billy the way he must go.
As I said, the change of Reverend Ray from thinking he's God's wrath on Earth to realizing that he's just a man with no right in the matter is a humbling one. It really made me think about how we as Christians tend to make ourselves on God's level and judge those around us. The monologue where Ray chastises himself for his arrogance is a great experience.
The game runs on the Valve's Source engine so physics are in full effect. The character models are very low res and have very little detail. The animations are pretty bad as well. Where the game truly shines is the environments and the weapon detailing. Those are the star of the show and I wouldn't have it any other way.
The voice acting is somewhat cheesy but it gives the player that Spaghetti Western feeling. The voice actor for Reverend Ray is amazing though and I think worthy of an award. The music is always on cue and excellent for whatever the situation is. I could tell instantly that the sound team was a big fan of westerns and wanted to capture that feeling with their music.
Call of Juarez is a difficult game to rate on the gameplay. Each level switches off between the two characters. Billy's levels are all about stealth and platforming. While the player can certainly fight their way through the levels as Billy, they will most likely fail most of the time. The stealth moments aren't as bad once the player attains the bow and arrow. It's like the Old West sniper rifle in that it's silent yet deadly. This makes things a bit easier though as the bow is almost always a one hit kill. The platforming sections except for one are poorly executed and only make the player frustrated. The one exception is brilliantly executed and made up for all prior bad experiences for me at least.
The Reverend Ray levels are all about gun play. That's not to say there are things to keep the formula fresh. As this is the Wild West, guns weren't exactly made with the same professional skill as they are today. The guns will overheat and explode if you use them too much. The game puts an emphasis on constantly changing your weapons out for new ones that enemies drop. Every enemy carries at least one gun though so running out never becomes an issue. As Ray, the player can dual wield pistols, hold one pistol and quickfire, use rifles or shotguns.
While most levels are the same, a few really stand out. The two best levels break the mold of previous levels and offer a genuinely thrilling experience. The first is a chase on horse back as Ray. The horse back riding is implemented flawlessly and it feels epic in every sense. The player will also explore an old cave Tomb Raider style as Billy and it makes for a great experience.
Call of Juarez is a difficult game to recommend due to all the language. The change of Reverend Ray though is a great one and any mature Christian gamer who can withstand the language will absolutely love the change the game presents with Reverend Ray. Call of Juarez is one of my favorite games as a Christian gamer. It has its faults, gameplay and content wise but I wholeheartedly recommend it to any mature gamer who loves the Wild West and wants to see a great Christian message told in a medium that rarely ever crosses into that territory.
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Year of Release — 2007
[tags] 3.5 stars, First-Person Shooter, Xbox 360 (Microsoft), M (Mature), Ubisoft [/tags]
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this Spotlight review are those of the reviewer (both ratings and recommendations), and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Eden Communications or the Christian Answers Network.
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