Friday, December 29, 2023

Call of Juarez (PC) Review

Call of Juarez annoyed me.

Released in 2006, Call of Juarez is an FPS set in the Wild West. I should have loved this game, but I didn't.

Considering the game was released 17 years ago, the visuals still hold up. Compared to most of the gray and brown shooters released around this time, this game stands out with colorful visuals. They successfully portrayed Mexico in a way that avoids the visual style of a Breaking Bad episode.

The story follows two characters, Billy Candle and Rev. Ray McCall, one seeking treasure and the other redemption. Techland explored the idea of finding redemption in the Wild West long before Rockstar. However, the story is not quite as interesting, and the voice acting can be amateurish at times.

Shooting is clunky and the weapon degradation does not help at all. McCall is more fun to play because you get to use guns, but the downside is that between episodes, you don't get to preserve weapons. There is no ADS when using pistols, and at times, you have to engage enemies at a distance. There are a lot of post-processing effects that obscure visibility, and fighting enemies with pistols at a distance is a frustrating experience.

But by far the most annoying mechanics are the melee combat and duels. I can forgive the awkward melee combat but detest the duels. I remember playing the demo way back in the day and hating it. That hasn't changed 17 years later.

There is very little player agency during duels. The mouse has a mind of its own. The game runs at over 200FPS on my machine, and I get the feeling that made things worse. I restricted the frame rate to 60 using RTSS, and I think it made the experience marginally better. In my opinion, it's incredibly bad game design to lock a player into a specific situation and impose very narrow criteria for success.

Billy leans more towards stealth, and using a bow is fun. However, the worst part about playing as Billy is the platform sections. First-person games around this time were not smooth enough to attempt first-person platforming. To say these sections are awkward and boring would be an understatement.

The game's default control scheme is a little weird. Horse sprint is mapped to Caps Lock on default. Why not use Shift? Who thought this was a good idea?

The disappointing part is that this could have been a timeless classic, but needlessly poor design choices prevent this game from reaching its potential.

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