Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood

July 29, 2009

Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood is a prequel to the original game. The story, is pretty accessible even if you have no idea what happened in the original, or don’t know the McCall brothers. It revolves around the two brothers, Ray and Thomas McCall, both out to find the treasure of Juarez and rebuild their family’s property that was destroyed during the end of the Civil War. It’s a pretty basic story, but it has a few nice twists and very compelling characters to make it more than a generic western.

The voice acting is something that stands out to me as some of the best I’ve heard in quite a while. Marc Alaimo and Zach Hanks do fantastic jobs as both Ray and Thomas, giving the player the impression that these two characters both are as ruthless as they seem. Then there is the music, which suits the game’s setting and story perfectly, and gives the game even more of a “western” feel. The game has a pretty stunning look as well, although there are a few graphical hiccups here and there, but nothing too noticeable. Also, sometimes during cutscenes, the voices never match up directly with the lip syncing of the characters. Again, it’s not a huge problem, but something noteworthy.

The original Call of Juarez told an interesting tale, but it was sadly dampened by a lack of compelling gameplay. There were unnecessary stealth and platforming sections, and the gunplay always felt a bit off at times. However, Bound in Blood does away with the stealth and focuses solely on gunplay, and this is where the game truly shines. It improves upon the original in just about every way, and gives a pretty satisfying western experience to those who have either enjoyed the original, or are getting into the series for the first time. It’s clear how the developer, Techland, has improved upon the great ideas seen in the first. The shooting mechanics are near perfect, and you can really feel the power behind these older, but still very efficient weapons. Aiming doesn’t feel spotty anymore, as it did in the first, and the game really has no control problems to speak of.

The enemy A.I. is pretty tough, and with multiple enemies on screen at once, things can get pretty hectic. Luckily, the game has a “cover system” of sorts that lets you lean out from behind an object to shoot at enemies. It doesn’t work all of the time, like in a game such as Killzone 2, but it can definitely be a useful thing to have when you are practically surrounded. Throughout most of the game, you’ll be together with your brother (depending on who you picked to play as yourself), and they are generally helpful. Something annoying I found is the game sends you back to the last checkpoint if you leave your brother too far behind. He’s generally smart, but he can get stuck behind certain objects when you’re trying to simply progress to the next area.

You can control either Thomas or Ray. There aren’t many differences between them, and the story generally stays the same despite certain points where the two split up. The only differences are smaller things; for example, Thomas can use a rope to climb to higher areas, and has more speed, while Ray can use explosives such as dynamite to clear out areas. There’s no real reason to pick one over the other, so I just say flip a coin. However, this game is desperate for some kind of co-op mode. It would have made perfect sense, since both brothers are almost always together or at least in the same mission. Even a co-op mode that is different from the single player campaign would have been nice to see, but instead we get nothing. 

You can also ride horses in the game, but it seems awkward, since you are riding a horse while aiming with a gun with both hands. It just all looks weird on screen, but it’s not a big complaint. There are also the duels, which feel just as tense as a real duel should, as you and your opponent circle each other and wait until a single bell toll signals the draw. You have to be quick though, because later opponents may be much faster than you had ever anticipated. And of course I can’t forget the slow motion powers you get. Each one allows you to take out a group of enemies at once, and is slightly different depending on which brother you play as.

So the single player is pretty solid, it all looks and sounds great, and the story kept me interested from start to finish. So how about the multiplayer? It’s fun, but it feels like an afterthought, like most multiplayer found in games now. There are some pretty fun modes, but none of them feel as fleshed out as they should be. Plus, maybe it was just when I was playing, but I couldn’t find too many people playing the online, so I didn’t get a good amount of time with it as I would have liked. It’s a nice diversion, but nothing you’ll keep coming back to.

Overall, Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood is a fine shooter, and it is a huge improvement over the original in every single way. It’s not for everyone, but for shooter fans looking for a nice western fix should enjoy it.

ESRB: M for mature. Very realistic violence, language is suggestive and has high-level swears

Pros: Has a well written story; Fantastic voice acting and music that sets the mood perfectly; controls and aiming feel spot on; the game has a nice amount of challenge in the later levels

Cons: A few graphical problems, such as poor lip-syncing on the character models; lack of co-op is a huge disappointment; multiplayer feels like an afterthought

Score: 4/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.