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Call of Juarez The Cartel devs insists: “The wild west lives on”

Thursday, 3 March 2011 17:09 GMT By Keza Macdonald

Call of Juarez is back, but not as we know it – it’s transformed from a Wild West action shooter into a modern-day outlaw cop drama based around the Mexican cartel. We speak to Techland’s Samuel Jacques and get a first look at two demo levels to see how that controversial setting change is working out.

The Call of Juarez series

Western shooters made by Polish developer Techland.

Call of Juarez first released for PC in 2006. A 360 version followed in 2007.

A sequel, Bound in Blood, released in 2009.

The Cartel is contemporary. It released for PC, 360 and PS3 this summer.

The first thing I thought when I heard that Call of Juarez had given up on the wild frontier was that Techland had traded away the most interesting thing about a series of otherwise not especially distinguished shooters. Since Bound in Blood came out in 2009, Red Dead Redemption has shown us just how compelling this setting can be, and made us wonder why videogames don’t choose it very often. I cannot be alone in wondering why the developer would abandon it in favour of a much more conventional modern-day gangland feel.

As far as product manager Aymeric Evennou is concerned, though, Techland hasn’t given up the Wild West setting – just adapted it to the modern day.

“The wild west lives on, even in modern times,” he says, explaining the thinking behind the change. “The Wild West is mostly a location – and those locations have not changed much today, except for a few roads. It’s also about lawlessness, where good guys fight bad guys with smoking guns – and the outlaw is still alive today. You can see it in LA, and in Juarez itself. This world is violent and lawless. When we talk about our Wild West, we talk about real men.”

“When we talk about our Wild West, we talk about real men.”

And women, as it turns out. Call of Juarez: The Cartel stars three hard-ass cops: Ray McCall, a grizzled, brutal old Vietnam veteran from the LAPD; Eddie Guerra, a chronic gambler from the DEA; and Kim Evans, a rising star in the FBI. Three characters allows for three-player co-op, a feature that Techland is very keen to talk up. The story can be played through with any one of these three, and each of them offers a slightly different take on events.

“We saw that people were expecting co-op in Bound in Blood, so it made sense to put some co-op in this one, for three players instead of two,” says producer Samuel Jacques. “We’re relying on the three characters to sustain it. We don’t want to have the traditional co-op where you have one main character and two or three more that you don’t care about much.”

They’re all take-no-shit types, modelled on the anti-heroes of modern cop dramas like The Shield. They form a cross-agency task force tasked with investigating the Mexican cartel, and the game is constructed around that investigation, taking the three characters on a 16-mission road trip from California to Juarez.

THe announcement trailer.

The setting, then, varies from inner-city LA to the wild open roads that you might more readily associate with a Wild West theme. This variety is one of the key advantages that the change in setting affords, says Evennou – along with a greater range of weapons.

“The modern Wild West theme is a way to refresh the franchise and bring much more to the game in terms of design. It brings us lots of new weapons, in terms of variety and power – all gamers like that. It also brings vehicles – riding a horse is cool, but we prefer Mustangs.”

Personally, I’m not sure that all gamers do prefer bigger guns and muscle cars over horses and revolvers – a certain multi-million-selling success from last year rather disproves that theory.

Shooting the snitch

The demo kicks off with an image of gorgeous desert scenery that zooms out to reveal grimy, grey, horrible Los Angeles. The three cops are arguing in a car outside a suspect’s apartment – in a quick few cutscenes full of hard-ass banter, they break into the apartment, wire the guy up and wait for his cartel contact to show up. Two guys turn up and promptly shoot the snitch – the three cops are too busy arguing amongst themselves back in the car to save him.

There have already been calls to ban the game.

They then follow the suspects’ car towards a nightclub, where three burly men block their way through to the back alley. A fist-fight ensues – “these guys are cops, they can’t just open fire in the middle of LA” – before they gain entry to the club itself, which is inexplicably heaving with people in the middle of the day. After making their way through the crowd, they find and talk to the gang leader they’re looking for in the VIP area – and, unsurprisingly, it degenerates into a huge shootout.

Evidently letting off shots in a back alley would be against best police practice, but a firefight in a crowded nightclub is alright.

The dialogue is – for the most part – cringeworthily bad. McCall shouts random, swear-peppered biblical phrases as he shoots at enemies, and pretty much all of Kim’s dialogue conforms strongly to the overcompensating tough female cop stereotype. Latino gang members yell, “It’s time to meet your maker, esse!” before the nightclub turns into a shooting gallery. It’s not all that much worse than your average game, but you can’t invite comparisons with something as powerfully and tautly written as The Shield if this is all you have to offer up.

The action itself, however, seems solid. It’s very much a matter of hiding behind cover and shooting bad men when they pop into your field of vision – although many of them seem happy to stand in the middle of rooms rather than dive behind the nearest crate. It’s fast-paced, if predictable – ghostly outlines indicate where you’re supposed to run to next, or where to stand so that your co-op partner can breach a door with you.

“It’s about about the player experiencing the characters – you don’t play three different borderline cops in other games.”

Without the setting, though, and without anything particularly distinctive about the actual shooting, what is it that distinguishes Call of Juarez from the crowd? What makes it interesting? Jacques does not appear to have an answer ready for this question when I put it to him.

“Well, we’ve yet to reveal some features,” he says. “For me it’s not the gameplay. We’re a first-person action shooter. It’s about about the player experiencing the characters – you don’t play three different borderline cops in other games.

“Action shooting is the core feature of the game – but there are also elements around being a cop. You have to use your fists instead of guns to deal with some situations, for instance, and there are undercover missions. It’s not just action, action, action – there are also elements of investigation. We wanted that to provide more variety than the traditional [action shooter].”

Those characters are going to have to be strong to hold up the whole game, then – and in this early demo, it was very difficult to get a feel for them. The co-op elements don’t appear to be particularly complex or innovative, but we have only seen one level. If Call of Juarez’s success is going to ride on these things, a lot of work is going to have to go into polishing them up.

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6 Comments

  1. Moonwalker1982

    Looking quite good in some screenshots i must say. So it’s not based on the characters from 1 and 2?

    #1 4 years ago
  2. YoungZer0

    God, the character-design single-handedly manages to not get me excited about this game.

    #2 4 years ago
  3. Patrick Garratt

    I’ve added the announcement trailer.

    #3 4 years ago
  4. Shonak

    Mix of Breaking Bad and No Country for Old Men?

    #4 4 years ago
  5. Moonwalker1982

    Holy crap, summer 2011? I didn’t see that coming. Not sure about this though.

    #5 4 years ago
  6. albo88

    the game sounds interesting lets see how the gameplay with the car or bike will turn on

    #6 4 years ago

Comments are now closed on this article.

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    Goldeneye players should be familiar with the concept of screencheating, which is what this new indie is all about. Screencheat has been on our radars for a while but has now been confirmed for PS4, sparking a new wave of interest with a trailer and PS Blog post. However, it was one of a number […]

  • World of Warcraft Timewalking will make old dungeons fun again

    World of Warcraft will soon introduce a feature called Timewalking, designed to make you feel young again. When WoW players participate in a Timewalking event, they’ll be transported to a randomly selected classic dungeon. Upon entering, their level and gear will be scaled way, way down to the Dungeon’s Heroic level – so they won’t […]

  • Bloodborne and Dark Souls messaging – in real life

    Soapstone is a cool little app that mimics the messaging system found in Bloodborne, Dark Souls and Demon’s Souls. Bloodborne and Dark Souls fans will surely agree that the asynchronous multiplayer side of things, with players leaving anonymous tips, encouragement and jokes for each other, is one of the cooler aspects of the From Software […]

  • Mass Effect fans, get a load of this My Talking Elcor plushie

    I have been waiting to write about this all day because oh my god. Mass Effect attracted a devoted fanbase and Bioware has found tons of clever ways to satisfy that fanbase’s desire for clothes, collectibles, books, comics and toys related to the future world of Commander Shepard and company. The company has been so […]

  • Homeworld Remastered Collection headed to retail

    Homeworld fans can purchase a neat little package of gloriously remastered nostalgia soon. The Homeworld Remastered Collection has been available online since the end of February, but is now on its way to retail thanks to a deal between new rights holder Gearbox and Ubisoft. The PC exclusive will launch in physical form from May […]

  • The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt download size lower than predicted

    The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt has a hefty install footprint, but it’s not as bad as we expected. The Witcher 3 was expected to be a 50GB download after a note to this effect was added to the PlayStation Store. It looks like that might have been a placeholder figure, as DualShockers noted today that […]

  • Bloodborne, beaten with a Guitar Hero controller

    Come on now, you didn’t expect anything less from the Souls community, did you? Bloodborne has been vanquished with a Guitar Hero controller, just a few weeks after its release. Kotaku reports Bearzly took nine hours to finish the game, which is probably less than many players using a Dual Shock. You can watch a […]

  • Vendors? New social space? Your House of Wolves questions will be answered

    Destiny players learned more about House of Wolves in this week’s Bungie update than you might realise at first glance. Resident Destiny expert Arekkz cast his eagle eye over this week’s Bungie Weekly Update, which announced next week’s Reef tour livestream. I personally am most excited to learn about gear upgrade paths, but Arekkz points […]

  • GTA 5 playable with Virtuix Omni VR treadmill

    You’ve seen GTA 5 with Oculus Rift, Now see GTA 5 with the Virtuix Omni. GTA 5 PC has unlocked a number of exciting possibilities. Modders and hackers are still working on making the game’s files accessible to third-party creation tools, but several cool things have been produced even with this barrier still in place. […]

  • Mortal Kombat X: play as Rain and other locked characters on PC

    Mortal Kombat X players comfortable with tinkering with the game’s files can unlock unplayable characters. Mortal Kombat X includes a number of familiar fighters available only as opponents, not playable characters. if you’re super keen to try out Rain, Baraka and co, you can – with a bit of fiddling. Redditor XVermillion figured out that […]

  • Madden 16 release date set for August, of course

    Madden NFL 16 has a deeply unsurprising release date. Madden’s release date always falls at the end of US summer, and Madden 16 is no exception. EA Sports has announced that the NFL sim will release on PlayStation 3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One on August 26. We have absolutely no further information at […]

  • Star Wars Battlefront won’t have Battlelog support

    Star Wars Battlefront is not just Battlefield in a Hallowe’en costume, so don’t expect the same suite of features. Star Wars Battlefront is the subject of intense anticipation and curiosity, so it’s not surprising a bunch of rumours have turned up. One of these rumours suggests that Battlefront will have its own version of Battlelog, […]

  • Battlefield Hardline beats Bloodborne to top March NPD chart

    PS4 had a good month but it was EA’s multi-platform Battlefield Hardline that was the best-selling game. March 2015 NPD at a glance Total spend down 6% YoY. Hardware and software both down. Console hardware blamed for significant hardware dip. Accessories up. Battlefield Hardline tops software chart. PS4 outsells other consoles. Wii U, 3DS and […]

  • Destiny: House of Wolves gear upgrade paths will be revealed next week

    Destiny developer Bungie will reveal new equipment upgrade paths during a livestream next week. Destiny: House of Wolves will release on May 19, the developer announced last week, promising a full schedule of reveals over the next few weeks. It also gave a broad outline of some of the things it will be discussing in […]

  • Don’t forget: the Elder Scrolls Online Welcome Back Weekend kicks off tomorrow

    Just a quick heads up to remind you that The Elder Scrolls Online Welcome Back Weekend kicks off tomorrow, April 17 at 10am EDT. The free weekend is an incentive to bring back beta players which tried the game, but decided not to pursue a purchase. You can play the MMO until 10am EDT on […]

  • Tale of Tales announces May release for Kickstarter success Sunset

    Those attending Kill Screen’s Two5six Festival next month will be able to play Tale of Tales upcoming title Sunset before it’s released. Along with the news provided to us by BeefJack, Tale of Tales have also released new set of lovely screenshots which we have posted below. Sunset will be released on Linux, Mac and […]

  • Take 50% off select racing titles through the Codemasters online store

    Codemasters has launched an online store and is celebrating by giving you 50% off the titles listed. Here’s what’s on sale: F1 2013 Classic Edition F1 2014 – F1 RACE STARS BUNDLE F1 2013 GRID 2 GRID 2 Reloaded GRID Autosport DIRT 3 Complete Edition DIRT Showdown Toybox Turbos F1 RACE STARS Hit up the […]

  • Spy_Watch coming to Apple Watch from Surgeon Simulator devs

    Surgeon Simulator developers Bossa Studios have announced its working on an Apple Watch game called Spy_Watch. Spy_Watch, according to the developer, has players heading up a spy agency which isn’t faring too well. Players will need to train a spy and then send him out on various missions to “reclaim the agency’s former glory.” Real-time […]

  • Trine 3: The Artifacts of Power hits Steam Early Access next week

    Frozenbyte has announced Trine 3: The Artifacts of Power will launch on Steam Early Access next week. The early access title will run you $19.99/€19.99/£14.99 and you can purchase it come April 21. If the short video above isn’t enough to tempt you, a video showing nine minutes of gameplay was released last week.

  • Journey, Flower, flOw trilogy to be released this summer on PS4 in 1080p at 60fps

    A remastered version of the Journey Collector’s Edition is coming to PlayStation 4 from ThatGameCompany. According to Gamespot, the trilogy will contain PS3 titles flOw, Flower and Journey on one disc, and it will run in 1080p at 60fps. A standalone version of Journey will arrive close to the trilogy’s release on PS4 through the […]

  • Here’s a few screenshots of PS4-exclusive Alienation from Housemarque

    Screenshots for Alienation, Housemarque’s four-player co-op PlayStation 4 exclusive, have been released and you can have a look at them in the gallery we’ve posted. Announced at gamescom 2014, the game features three main character classes, weapon customization, and various team set-ups. The game has players shooting at things with twin-stick gameplay with a top […]

  • Star Wars: Battlefront website notes November 17 release, teaser video and first image hit

    The first Star Wars: Battlefront image has been posted, and apparently it appeared on the official website at some point this morning. The game will also be released on November 17, according to the official website’s source code. The release date is noted in the code located in the image below. Props to Gematsu for […]

  • Mortal Kombat X is the fastest selling entry in the series to date

    Mortal Kombat X has sold faster than any other game in the series to date, making it the “biggest launch” in Mortal Kombat history, according to creator Ed Boon. Speaking in a series of tweets, Boon said both the mobile and console versions have “literally millions of players getting online” resulting in the servers being […]

  • Shadow of the Beast reboot resurfaces with some new screenshots

    The Shadow of the Beast reboot, which was announced in 2013, has show its face once more with early screenshots. Screenshots of the Amiga classic remake show off the Karamoon’s desert and the main character, Aarbron. According Matt Birch, CEO and founder of Heavy Spectrum, the team is currently hard at work on the “core […]

  • Halo: Spartan Strike arrives on Windows 8, iOS and Steam today

    Halo: Spartan Strike is now available on Windows 8, Steam, iOS devices and Windows 8 phones. The mobile top-down shooter will run you $5.99. Halo: Spartan Strike tells a new story in the Halo universe set during the events of Halo 2 on New Mombasa in 2552. Those playing on Windows 8 devices can compete […]