Forget what you thought you knew about the legends of the West. In Ubisoft's downloadable first-person shooter Call of Juarez: Gunslinger, Silas Greaves sets the record straight. His story drops you in a preposterous tale of heroism, featuring some interesting narrative-based gameplay mechanics and engaging score-based shooting. Gunslinger is a charming, Wild West adventure that you'll want to pick up and play, even if the appeal doesn't last forever.
Greaves serves as the game's hero and narrator, recounting his life story of revenge, bounty hunting, and run-ins with the likes of Billy the Kid, Butch Cassidy, and Jesse James to a group of saloon patrons. At its core, Gunslinger is a fast-paced FPS with a strong emphasis on chaining kill combos, getting high scores, and unlocking new abilities. The arcade-y gameplay makes the three skill trees (duel-wielding gunslinger, close-ranged shotgunner, and long-ranged rifleman) generally feel the same. Most of the time, you'll be haphazardly running through levels, trying to shoot the next enemy before your combo bonus resets; invariably, weapon variation and strategic positioning fall by the wayside. However, while Gunslinger may lack the need for any tactical consideration by the player, using the slow-mo concentration mode, racking up points with careful headshots, and pulling off trick shots is a complete thrill.
One of the most engaging aspects of the game comes from the unpredictable nature of the environments. Because you're playing out Silas' story as he tells it, sometimes the world changes from his inaccurate storytelling and embellishing of facts. Trees pop out of the ground as Silas remembers the leaf color from the change of the seasons, enemies literally drop out of the sky, and alternate level pathways are introduced as you play. This mechanic successfully immerses you in the moment and environment, as you get background information on the historical figures, locations, and enemies you encounter.
The six-hour campaign brings you to visually stunning Wild West environments, with levels set atop a moving train, a dark gold mine, and a run-down saloon as you hunt some of the most famous names from the 19th century. The drab, dusty, and dirty world of the West is given life with beautifully stylized cel-shaded visuals, making the game look like a comic book come to life. As appealing as the graphics are, you're liable to encounter slow loading screens and occasional texture pop-in, but these issues will reportedly be resolved in a day-one patch.
Aside from the standard cannon-fodder henchmen, you'll also encounter moderately challenging boss fights and showdown-style duels. Most boss fights amount to circle-strafing and shooting an heavily armored enemy until they go down. None of the boss encounters are particularly imaginative or challenging--a shame, considering the unique, historical personalities that end up looking down the business end of your six-shooter. The duels are also simplistic. Once you've mastered the minigame's basic technique, the later showdowns present little challenge.
After the campaign is over, you'll want to jump into the Arcade mode, which lets you play through the missions with an increased enemy count as you attempt to push your combo counter and high score up the leaderboards. There's also a Duel mode, but once you've completed the quickdraws in the campaign, there's little reason to return for another showdown.
Overall, Call of Juarez: Gunslinger offers an entertaining romp through a stylized Western world. The famous name dropping doesn't add much spice to Silas' revenge story and their gameplay implementation is even less memorable. But where Gunslinger falters with the legends of the West, it succeeds in creating a score-based shooter with an interesting, constantly morphing environment and charming narration. If you're looking for a Wild West story that can stand on the shoulders of the legends it houses, Gunslinger may be a let down. But those who want a solid Western shooter with exhilarating mechanics, you'll want to give this game a try.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 3.