Call of Juarez: The Cartel hands-on multiplayer preview – dealers vs cops

Drugs are a violent business, and not just for those actively doing the crimes. Sure, drug dealers have to deal with a not-so-ideal customer base, but that's not all they have to deal with. Sometimes, the authorities get involved, and that's when things start to really get ugly. It becomes a desperate struggle to hold on to as much contraband as possible while still holding onto their lives. And that bad situation is exactly where Call of Juarez: The Cartel's objective mode drops you.

In the map we played, it was our team's goal to break into a warehouse where a bunch of confiscated cocaine was being stashed by the opposing team, the cops. We had to bust down the door of the shipping crate that they were hiding the stuff in (with our handy supply of C4, of course), grab the loot, and carry it back to our van, which was lying in wait to carry us back to the hideout. As is typical with objective-based shooters, the battle immediately became a struggle for important control points, culminating in several intense gunfights over the entry points to the crate, the way out the door, and the backside of the van.

Getting the drugs to the van was only half the battle though. Next, it was time to get those drugs back to the cartel's base of operations, several blocks down the street. Seamlessly, the action switched to a vehicle-based situation with drug runners flanking a slow-moving van down the street while the opposing police forces streamed from spawn points to try to blow out the wheels, kill the driver, or anything else that would get the van to stop moving closer to the destination. Of all the points in the demo, this was probably our favorite. The chaos that ensues by a battlefield that slowly moves through the map is something that not a lot of multiplayer experiences have going right now, and it's great.

Finally, it was time to take care of that damn snitch that lost us the drugs in the first place. Holed up in a safe house and protected by the police, the traitor is seriously tough to get to. Fortunately, there's a partner system that will help players willing to stick together to get through those particularly difficult moments. Hanging out by your buddy will afford you one of several different advantages against the enemies (ours was the ability to do a lot more damage at the cost of taking a little more ourselves), as well as the capability to revive your partner if they were to ever fall to enemy gunfire. When you need that final little boost to get up the stairs, past the waiting guards, and to the safe room where the objective is waiting to be slain, you better grab a friend.

Of course, after committing such a heinous crime, we had to hide the evidence. And what better way to do so than by burning the place down? Our final objective, we had to fill up gas cans and torch the place, ensuring our clean escape from our various crimes. After about half an hour spent in this single mission alone, we were impressed by the huge amount of variety each mission promises. If each other mission was as long and in-depth as the one we played, it'll be sure to keep players interested for a long while.

With a maximum of twelve players per match (six on each side), the surprisingly huge maps (18 in total) always felt crowded, even when the objectives switched to more mobile situations. It's really interesting to see a game taking tried and true modes in multiplayer, and applying them on a grander scale, adding in a sort of narrative to the situation. It definitely feels like a new experience so far, and we're excited to give more of these types of missions a shot.

Jun 29, 2011

Taylor Cocke is a Los Angeles-based writer and producer who spends too much time watching numbers go up in MMOs and ARPGs. You name it, he's written and/or produced for them, which is shocking considering the aforementioned MMO playing.