“What’s up Juarez, you yella?” screams Red Dead as Juarez puts it tail between it’s legs, drops it’s western roots and disappears into the sunset to churn out yet another first person shooter based in modern times.
Now that the initial shock of a change of direction and the constant referrals to the “new wild west” are over we get to play this anticipated title. Call of Juarez: The Cartel is a first person shooter just like all the others you have played in the past, yes it has a few ideas pinched from other games but it never pushes itself into the must have purchase category, with a bog standard story starting with an attack on the Los Angeles offices of the DEA by a large group of criminals known as The Cartel. To get back at them without starting a war with Mexico, three of the best officers from different departments have been tasked with bringing them down. As stated earlier the action is basic FPS, you can carry a couple of weapons and pick up whatever criminals drop, run and hide behind cover, room breach and even perform a focus move that slows time to pick off rooms of goons; so far nothing new.
The main pull in The Cartel is the three separate story lines of each of the main characters, with the start of the game allowing you to choose from one of three stereotypical characters, Bob McCall, a gruff, six shooter packing, profanity spewing, bible bashing, mean SOB LAPD officer; Kim Evans, an FBI agent with family ties to the lower echelons of the drug trade and finally Eddie Guerra, a survivor of the DEA bombing who is also racked in gambling debts. Even though this motley crew are working as a team they have their own agendas that crop up during each level, most of the time this involves collecting evidence or talking to a snitch to find out that the other cops are crooked, it’s all easy to carry out but it’s worth doing these tasks offer a few rewards.
Of course with the three characters comes the much touted three way co-op. Whilst collecting your gear from the boot of the car at the start of each level you can create a public or private match and as long as other players are at the same point as you in the game they can join. The co-op works just as well as the solo experience with flanking and team work essential, but it still suffers the same problems.
The feeling of the game being rushed and released too early flows throughout the whole experience. An example of this during my play through was when the flash forward mini-mission at the start of the game got stuck in a loop and made me play the same part of the action a couple of times over. Every part of the game has something wrong with it; the decent looking and varied environments such as the gang neighbourhoods and ship yards are spoiled by assets and characters just appearing and disappearing at random. The characters sadly look just awful, with bright yellow wire models poking through skin textures and NPC’s just floating across the screen rather than walking. Rushed programming also causes checkpoints to disappear, leaving you wandering around levels aimlessly with nothing triggering the next cut scene. There are also car driving levels interspersed through the game but I have purposely avoided mentioning them as you tend to groan rather than anticipate their arrival; if you can’t drive a 4×4 over a curb what hope does the rest of the game have? To call this game buggy is an understatement.
Feeling overly harsh the game does get a few bits right; although as cheesy as a teenagers sports sock the voice acting, if not a little too foul mouthed, is done well and both the team in solo play and enemy AI are solid, with your team offering decent cover fire and actually killing enemies, whilst on the opposing side, the criminals will dive for and use cover during gunfights.
Online multiplayer really strives to be something different but just like the campaign, seems to be full of lots of ideas bolted on with no real focus. Choosing from either cops or criminals you are taken to the game lobby; for the cops it’s a police station. From here you are able to wander around, try out a target range, customize your weapons loadouts and join games. You initially start with a couple of basic classes but as you play online, more weapons and items become available, like shotguns and body armour. The online games themselves are mission based, pitching teams of cops and robbers against each other, having a range of rolling missions depending on the map, such as protecting an evidence locker, then driving to the next area where it could get you entering a building and gathering suitcases. The levels are realistic and well made for multiplayer action.
A cool touch is that in each team you are able to partner up with another player, boosting your characters whilst in close proximity to each other and giving a shout out when you are gunned down. With a full compliment of teams the multiplayer offer a lot of great games, but make sure you put plenty of time aside as the levels can take a while to complete.
There was no real reason to use the Juarez name here other than to put a final nail in the coffin. Call of Juarez: The Cartel offers a lengthy campaign mode that will bore you long before completion and a decent but forgettable multiplayer mode all marred by terrible glitches.
Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood was a really decent title, however the step away from the West and the half finished nature of this game means that any reputation that was built up is now long gone.
Rating: Below Average Review policy
Developed by Techland, Call of Juarez: The Cartel is out now on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360. Click the link to order and get a free keyring while stocks last.