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.