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01 Aug 09

CALL OF JUAREZ: BOUND IN BLOOD is the prequel to the original Call of Juarez, released a couple of   years ago for PC and Xbox 360. Techland’s first success in the mainstream market was solid if not exactly   spectacular, and it found its success as a breath of fresh air in an FPS market flooded with WWII and alien   shooters. With Bound in Blood, Techland looks to build off its success and expand its player base by adding   the PS3 to its release repertoire.

Bound in Blood is set several years prior to the original Call of Juarez, this time focusing on the duo of  brothers Ray and Thomas McCall. In the midst of the American Civil War, the two violently desert the army to  retreat home and fend for their family, drawing the ire of their commanding officer, who is insistent on them  coming before a firing squad. The story evolves past the civil war scenario into a more classic Western tale,  which will take the brothers across America and Mexico in the hunt for a mysterious medallion purported to  lead to the long lost treasure of Juarez.

The story is definitely entertaining, though disappointingly short. If you’ve played the original, then it’s very  satisfying seeing the back story of a number of key characters and the drastic changes that lead to their personas  later on in life. There are some great twists in the story – some you’ll see coming and some you defi  nitely won’t.The ending is satisfying albeit predictable, but it’s worthwhile to complete even though we’re only  talking six or seven hours here.

The gameplay that accompanies is not up to the standard of the very well written story. The weapon range is  limited at best and the enemy AI is just not up to scratch; your adversaries have poor aim and they’re really not  much of a challenge. You can choose to play as either of the brothers in the majority of the missions, with the  character you don’t select accompanying you anyway. This is where Techland really dropped the ball in not including co-op play. Bound in Blood and its narrative are tailor-made for co-op gaming, and not including it is a real disappointment.

There are a number of gimmicky set pieces throughout the story, which will see you whitewater rafting, horse  riding and attempting to escape a pyramid as it caves in. While these do a good job of mixing up the gameplay,  the end goals are too limited and all feel more or less the same. The gun duels that serve as boss battles,  however, are rather enjoyable. The presentation of these is  immaculate, and they’re great fun, but don’t be disheartened if it takes you a few rounds before you get the hang of it!

One area where Techland has really put in a grand showing is in the presentation. The visuals on an HD TV are  truly stunning, taking players on a ride from ghost towns, open forests, Mexican villages, Native American  towns and through the desert. The attention to detail is staggering also. The voice acting and sound effects are  also superbly done and wouldn’t seem out of place in a Hollywood blockbuster.

While Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood doesn’t have any major shortcomings, there’s just something missing.  The single-player mode is decent with a well-written narrative, but is marred by poor enemy AI and  painstakingly short length. Graphically it’s solid, with some impressive environments that do an excellent job  of recreating the West. Overall, however, the total package feels like less than the sum of its parts, which is a  real shame as this showed superb potential. The end result is that Bound in Blood is a solid rental for the  weekend, but perhaps not a smart buy.