I wasn't particularly impressed by the last two instalments of the Call Of Juarez series, the first game annoyed me so much that I got rid of it as quickly as possible, whereas the demo for the second game was quite enough for me, so I shrugged off the announcement of the third game in the series, that is until I found out it was moving out of the Old West into a modern day setting and you'd get to take on The Cartel. Images of a cool shooter plonked in the middle of a Robert Rodriguez style world entered my mind and I got a little bit excited and curious in equal measure, but was I right to do so?
The story behind the game is average at best and throws members of various law enforcement agencies into a special task force, and as you can imagine there's a fair amount of distrust between them. It won't blow your mind though because it's very much a paint by numbers action plot that holds no surprises whatsoever. The campaign's a fairly decent length and chances are you'll go back and play through it a couple of time to fill in the gaps with all the playable characters' story threads, unless of course you've had enough of things the first time round.
Not only is the gameplay incredibly linear, it's also very repetitive; you start off at a load out hub, then you're in your car, then you run around shooting stuff, and there might be a high speed chase at some point too. Of course the objectives that you're tasked with are different during each chapter, but you'll hardly notice because the gameplay is exactly the same. The game's repetitive nature is highlighted in the boss battles, every single one is a helicopter! Oh yeah, and are there maybe different ways to dispose of the flying machines? Nope, you'll be crouched down behind cover, until you get a chance to shoot a rocket at them, or spray them with bullets from a heavy machine gun.
There isn't much room for exploration, however it is worth taking a look around to find secret items to steal, or completing the secret agenda side missions, which you'll need to do without alerting your team mates. If you're successful then you'll raise your level and unlock a variety of weapons. The only other thing that'll mix the gameplay up a little bit is switching between Ben, Kim, and Eddie, in order to find the one that best matches your talents. Ben's quick off the draw with pistols, Eddie's better with SMG's and can dual wield Uzis and other small bullet spraying guns, whereas Kim favours long range ballistics and can keep a steady hand when staring down a scope without having to pause for a breath. To be honest though the difference between them is so small that the novelty wears off remarkably quickly.
The game's been designed with co-op in mind and when you're running round with your friends online things work pretty smoothly, however if you're playing by yourself the AI's not bad, but it's nothing to write home about, in fact at one point one of my AI team mates pushed me out of cover straight into enemy fire . . . needless to say I wasn't impressed. On the whole though they do tend to push forward whilst disposing of enemies and occasionally come back to help you if you get into a tricky situation, but having said that I've also seen them run straight past an enemy, that was so exposed they might as well have been shouting "I'm your enemy!" whilst waving their arms around, which resulted in them taking a lot of fire directly to their backs.
When you first dive into the multiplayer you're offered the choice of team cops, or team criminals, and to be honest that should tell you all you need to know about it! You're essentially taking part in a glorified version of cobs and robbers, but you know what, it's pretty good fun! Depending on which team you decide to join you'll get objectives like stealing drug shipments, setting fires, protecting confidential informants, or bringing down gang stronghold, all whilst blasting the other team to bits with whatever weapons you've decided to take into the fray. The co-op element's present here too and you'll get partnered up with another player, which does have its advantages because you'll receive some of their special abilities provided you're in close proximity to them. On the whole though it pays off to work as a team rather than going down the lone gunman path.
So, Call Of Juarez: The Cartel has a lot of ups and downs and it can be quite amusing at times, but unfortunately you will find yourself getting bored of the gameplay fairly quickly and it does feel slightly dated, which is a real shame because this one had a lot of potential and could have been something really special if a bit more time had been invested in it.
- Secrets and secret agenda side missions
- Western soundtrack backing up a modern shooter
- Too many helicopters to destroy!
The Short Version: Call Of Juarez: The Cartel isn't bad, but it's not great either!