Call of Juarez (Windows)

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Written by  :  Cadorna (223)
Written on  :  Oct 29, 2006
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  4.29 Stars4.29 Stars4.29 Stars4.29 Stars4.29 Stars

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Atmospheric wild west shooter with many highs and a few lows

The Good

There are some (and not exactly few) moments during this game in which it feel like you're playing a role in a well made western movie. For these moments alone, this game is worth a try. The game has you alternating between playing Billy, a half-mexican who is falsely accused to having killed his mother and stepfather, and playing Ray, former Gunslinger and present Reverend, who picks up his guns one last time to give the (apparent) murderer of his brother (Billy's stepfather) a chase. Since this is the section for the good stuff: Ray's levels are mostly brilliant. He's a guy like Clint Eastwood, shooting first and asking the questions later, except that he talks a bit more, with a voice actor that sounds a bit like Johnny Cash. And it's mostly in his levels that the game really shines. He's the one that gets to use most of the game's weaponry, namely a variety of pistols and rifles, with some extras like wild west style machine guns and sticks of dynamite thrown in. Oh, and he can also recite from the bible, which is kinda cool, albeit not terribly useful. He's the one that gets challenged to high-noon'ish gunfights by the game's equivalent to boss enemies and that gets to participate in exciting moments like chasing a cart on horseback in wild gallop, relying on his guns to fend off villains trying to convince him to abandon the pursuit.

That out of the way, the game's rather well looking, while sometimes a bit rough on the edges. Sound and music is what you'd expect, but nothing that'll stick to mind as being exceptional, neither for the good nor for the bad. Level design is also most often in the OK range, though some levels are rather well done, and the best that can be said about the levels that they rarely feature elements that you 'll feel have been put there for the sole reason to limit your movements, which is a very good thing, in my opinion. The story, while not exactly original, comes across as believable for the most part and "yeah, you bet" moments with hair-rising plot twists are rare (though there are a few).

The Bad

Since I omitted the Billy levels above, you might have figured they'd appear down here, and if so, right you were. Billy gets to do a lot less shooting, and even if he has weaponry, he's often not allowed to use it in order to stay undetected. If he is to use force, it's mostly against non-sentient enemies: Wolves, Snakes, Spiders and other animals. He's a bit like a male Lara Croft, excluding some more memorable body features. Well, being forced to sneak around isn't the reason I put this in the bad portion of the review, it's just that the game's sneaking system isn't exactly sophisticated. In fact, it's pretty basic, with sound, cover and lighting (only used in a single level) all playing a role - but unfortunately, these roles aren't consistent, and more often enough, it's a trial and error, quicksave and reload affair which is often borderline annoying and which crosses that border even more often. In one of the game's worst design decisions, the very first level stars you as Billy trying to sneak out of town. That's one of the games most terrible levels, cause there are plenty of people patrolling the streets, and if one of them sees you, you're as good as dead. Possibly realizing their own mistake, the developers chose being detected here NOT to fail the mission. So, unlike in later levels, you COULD just use the god-mode to simply walk out of town right through the badguys - but don't say I encouraged you to do so. ;) In his later levels, Billy often has a whip to fend off the critters and to swing across chasms, rarely he has firearms, and if he has, he's likely VERY tight on ammo. In the bottom line, Billy's levels are usually more boring and/or annoying, but this makes you really appreciate Ray's straight-forwardness when it comes to using firearms. There's especially one level, where you need to sneak your way across a well guarded farm with Billy, and right after that, you come back there with Ray, puncturing all the guys that forced you to duck into bushes moments ago with a unhealthy dose of bullets. Talk about a nice change of pace.

One of the worst parts about the game still has to be mentioned, though: Loading times. They are long. LONG. LOOOOOOONG. Sometimes, when you were playing youngster Billy in one level, and have to wait looking at the loading screen for Ray's level to appear, you'll feel to have aged the appropriate amount to be able to slip into this considerably older guy's shoes now. To give you a figure here, having a level load for five minutes will be a common sight even on a good system, and with a somewhat older rig, crossing the ten minute mark is not impossible. And I'm not exaggerating here. As a positive note: This does, however, amount in almost non-existent swapping during the levels, which will always run very fluent even on a low end system. And, in case you were wondering, you'll not have to switch 5 1/4" floppies, either. ;)

The Bottom Line

All in all, the heights in Ray's missions more than make up for the lows in Billy's. After each part of the game in which you were forced to duck in the mud, to run for cover at the sight of someone armed only to be promptly caught upon reaching your destination and be challenged for a fight with the guy you were hiding from, after ascending a HUGE peak in a seemingly endless series of jumping, grabbing and climbing in order to get some bird feathers, only to find the guy you were getting them for murdered upon your return, you'll have a level in which you'll let your guns talk, and only them, and in which you can imagine the baddies you're exposing of being the level designers that came up with the ordeal you just went through. Case in point, the game's secret collectibles are wanted posters bearing the developers faces on them... So, if you have even a passing interest in wild west stories, don't give this one a miss. And even if westerns aren't you thing, chances are you might still enjoy this game.