May 2, 2007 - Say what you want about Manifest Destiny, but the notion that America was destined to expand westward to the Pacific seaboard in the 1800s set the stage for some of our country's most important events. We're talking, of course, about Clint Eastwood movies.
And now, clearly inspired by the great Spaghetti Westerns of years gone by, comes Call of Juarez. This graphic, brutal, and kind of funny take on the Old West comes courtesy of Polish developer Techland. We're guessing these guys didn't major in American History. And after shooting bands of desperados with our six shooters, we don't really care.
We recently got our hands on this racy shooter, set to hit the Xbox 360 and PC this summer in the US. We say "racy" because if you watch the trailer you'll notice arrows flying into the heads of Apache warriors and a certain employee of a bordello on her knees ready to give you, um, thanks for your efforts.
You'll play as two characters: young Billy Candle and the Reverend Ray McCall. Only 19, Billy is accused of killing his mother and his stepfather (Billy's real father is a Native American). Billy is trying to escape his accusers and prove his innocence, facing a bit of racial tension along the way for the Injun in him. Reverend Ray McCall is a reformed gunslinger-turned-preacher. After the inept town sheriff fails to catch his brother's accused killer (that's Billy), he takes the law into his own hands.
This summer, lead will be eaten.
Both characters have very different abilities that add some decent variety to CoJ. Billy has a whip that he can use to swing from tree branches during some basic platforming missions. The whip can also be used as a weapon, and we even unlocked an achievement by whipping an attacking coyote to death. Billy also relies on stealth to slip into enemy camps and towns unnoticed as he continues to evade his pursuers and prove his innocence. His weapon of choice is a bow with which he can kill silently. He can either run and gun or go into slow motion "bullet time" by holding the left trigger. On one quick mission, we snuck up on a number of aggressive Apaches and shot arrows right through their eyeballs.
The Reverend's missions are decidedly more action-packed than Billy's and more of what we expect from a western. He can use two pistols and fire using both triggers, or he can use one pistol and read from the Bible. Yes, verses from the book of Revelations apparently strike fear into the hearts of Ray's enemies and they will fall still and confused as God's wrath, and Ray's bullets, rain down upon them. Thou shalt not mess with a preacher.
Other weapons include rifles, shotguns, a sniper rifle, a Gatling gun and even your mitts. We fought through one boss battle with Billy using the triggers to jab and hook our way to victory, similar to the combat in Chronicles of Riddick. In another boss fight with Ray, we had an old fashioned duel straight out of The Quick and the Dead. A clock counts down and when time runs out, you can pull your gun by pulling down on the right stick and then pushing up. From there, you go into slow motion and try to put as many bullets into your enemy as possible. Ubisoft was quiet on multiplayer details, but we do know there will be a separate duel mode. Online modes will include deathmatch, retrieval and attack-and-defend. There's been no word yet if special attacks will include quoting the Book of Job.
We also got to play through one of the many horse missions. As Ray, we chased an escaping stage coach. You control the horse with the left stick and aim with the right stick. What's nice is that you aren't on a track but actually use the horse as you would a vehicle in other games. You can aim with the right stick and try to pick off enemies -- a tough task on horseback. You can push your horse to a gallop with the left bumper, although the increased speed takes away your ability to shoot. You can even climb down a steep hill, pulling down on the left stick to kick your heels down and slow your horse down. If you go too fast down a cliff, you're horse will flip over, falling into a death animation that will make equestrians wince. Also look forward to stage coaches, trains and bank robberies. We also expect a brothel. Please let there be a brothel.
Sadly, this game does not include a Bon Jovi soundtrack.
Visually, CoJ looked impressive, running at a smooth 60 frames per second and featuring excellent lighting and bump mapping. A cinematic score inspired by Ennio Morricone accompanies the action, as does some decent -- and sometimes corny -- voice acting.
Keep your eyes on Call of Juarez which has the potential of a summer sleeper, thanks to its new take on the Western. In the meantime, take a gander at the media links below for new footage and a look at the weapons in the game. Giddyup.