Review: Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood

Jordan Deam | 21 Jul 2009 09:00
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America may have Clint Eastwood and John Wayne, but the Western belongs to the world. From the Italian Spaghetti Westerns of the 1960s to Kurosawa's influential samurai films, the genre's imagery and themes has a near universal appeal. That's one reason why Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood, developed by Poland's Techland and published by France's Ubisoft, gets a pass. (Don't get used to it, Frenchies.) The other? It's a genuinely competent and surprisingly fun first-person shooter.

Bound in Blood is the prequel to the original Call of Juarez, which Techland developed for the PC and later ported to the Xbox 360. It tells the story of brothers Ray and Thomas McCall, two Confederate Civil War deserters who head to Mexico in search of a quick way to get rich and rebuild their charred family homestead. Neither McCall is the main character of Bound in Blood; instead, the game introduces you to each character in its opening chapters and lets you pick which one you want to inhabit at the start of each mission.

It's not a superficial, decision, either - each brother plays differently than the other. Ray is the no-nonsense, close-range fighter of the two, able to wield dual six-shooters, kick down doors and toss dynamite at his enemies . Meanwhile, Thomas is agile and cunning, more apt to pick people off with a rifle or bow from high ground than run in with guns blazing. They also have access to different Concentration Modes, special abilities that you unlock by killing a certain number of enemies. Ray's Concentration Mode is more about the sheer volume of hot lead you can fling at your enemies, while Thomas' prioritizes speed and accuracy over a spectacle.

Unfortunately, with all this emphasis on the brothers' shared journey and complementary play styles, there's no option to play Bound in Blood cooperatively, either locally or online. It's a pretty glaring omission, but understandable - your brother is your guide through the level, letting your know where to go and what to do next. Without an A.I. partner, it would be a lot easier to get lost in Bound in Blood's sprawling, occasionally non-linear environments. You also might not get to enjoy the brotherly banter between the two characters, which is among the best of any recent first-person shooter and a definite high point of the game.

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