Western games are a bit of a rarity, especially in the FPS genre. Sure, you had Outlaws, and Darkwatch and Blood to an extent, but there’s only one series that consistently gave you a western First Person Shooter experience: Call of Juarez. However, before the release of Gunslinger, Call of Juarez had its name sullied by the subpar Call of Juarez: The Cartel. However, if there’s a better way to apologize for a bad game, I don’t think I’ve seen one yet.
Call of Juarez: Gunslinger focuses on a grizzled bounty hunter named Silas Greaves who is telling his tale to eager bargoers. Said stories frequently involve Silas clashing with infamous legends of the West, such as Butch Cassidy and Billy the Kid. Now, as anyone who knows their American history well can tell you, most of these stories are completely false, and that fact comes up quite a bit during the game.
See, Silas is an unreliable narrator, and you experience the effects of that firsthand. At one moment you could be facing off against natives, and the next Silas changes the story and you’re surrounded by banditos instead. During the missions you can also collect ‘nuggets of truth’ to see what actually went down during these missions, which is a very nice touch.
However, the real star of the show is the gunplay. You have four weapon slots: one for rifles and shotguns, two for pistols, and one for dynamite. You can also pick up rarer weapons across the levels such as a mare’s leg rifle or a sawn-off shotgun. All of the weapons have a great feel to them, and enemies react the way they should when you blast them at close range with a double-barreled shotgun.
The game also has a bullet-time mechanic of sorts, where time slows down allowing you to dodge shots or line up headshots for better points. You can also access a similar bullet time when your sense of death meter is full. When the meter is full and someone delivers a would-be fatal shot to you, you can still bob your head out of the way by leaning left or right and then line-up a counter shot. Not only does it look cool, but it’s a great way of making the player feel absolutely badass.
Once you rack up enough points, you can level up in one of three skill trees. Gunslinger focuses on pistols and dual-wielding, trapper focuses on shotguns, and rifleman focuses on the rifles. Every class has its ups and downs, and with new game +, you can potentially go back and actually max out the skill tree.
Sadly, it’s not all good. The dueling system often feels confusing and clunky, and boss fights are a real drag most of the time. However, the downsides thankfully extend only to when you’re not shooting up hordes of enemies, which is good. With a campaign filled with memorable moments, a great story, and an extra arcade mode to top everything off, Call of Juarez: Gunslinger is a game I’d recommend to any fans of westerns, arcade-style shooters, or just shooters in general. It’s an excellent title that I plan on returning to very soon.