Call of Juarez: The Cartel Preview
So, how do you make a Western-themed shooter that isn’t set in the Wild West? …sounds like a trick question, doesn’t it? But Techland is going to take a stab at it; their latest project is Call of Juarez: The Cartel, and it’s set in 21st-century Los Angeles and Mexico. The developer says we’ll receive the “best elements” of that iconic period in history, despite the modern-day setting. We don’t need cowboy hats and a whole lot of cacti to maintain the theme in question; we only need that which defined the Wild West: the rampant lawlessness, the sheer amount of freedom due to the unbridled possibilities of an untamed land, and a time when men were men. So yeah, you can have gunfighters in this day and age…but instead of horse thieves and locomotive bandits we have gang leaders and drug cartels. Therefore, welcome LAPD detective Ben McCall, who is a direct descendent of the franchise’s preacher, Ray McCall. He's ready to throw down.
Plus, we’ll be introduced to a corrupt DEA operative, Eddie Guerra, and FBI agent Kim Evans. All three are members of pissed-off organizations after the bombing of a US government building is traced to a Mexican drug cartel. Techland told GameSpot that at the core of this game’s attitude is an atmosphere most reminiscent of gritty TV dramas like “The Shield,” “Sons of Anarchy,” and “24.” Additions to this new entry include melee combat, although the developers admit this element of the gameplay is still in a “prototype” phase. Furthermore, multiplayer fans will be happy to know that a cooperative mode will be featured as well; we’ll have the option of drop-in co-op play for up to three players, along with a brand new cover fire system that lets you flank your foes. A ghostly silhouette shows where one player should move, while another provides covering fire, and this sounds like a decidedly cool and effective mechanic (provided it’s implemented correctly).
As for returning features, you can look forward to the slo-mo concentration mode, which is always a crowd-pleaser. The modern setting won’t put a stop to the all-out, chaotic firefights that are so commonly associated with old west shootout situations, and Techland should keep the intensity high throughout. The benefit of this new setting is that we can get our hands on more advanced weaponry; current sniper rifles and assault rifles await, and instead of horses and carriages, we get high-speed chases. Of course, it’s always a challenge to include various game mechanics, but if you’re concerned about the driving parts in The Cartel, remember Techland’s last project: the entertaining off-road racer, nail’d. Based on the screenshots, we’re also anticipating a greatly enhanced visual presentation, and one that’s as slick and stylish as it is refined and satisfying.
If you watch the debut video, just recently revealed at this year’s GDC, you’ll hear the opening line- “Times have changed since the Old West…yet, nothing’s changed.” And then later, “welcome to the new Wild West.” Basically, three bad-ass characters who appear to break all the rules will take out the Cartels, which real-life authorities haven’t managed to do. Maybe it’s because of all the red tape they face. This ruthless trio is going to fight dirty to get things done; this is way beyond slapping the cuffs on someone and sticking him in a cell. This is more like, “I’m gonna adopt the age-old idea of justice; an eye for an eye, and maybe something extra because you pissed me off.” My only question is whether or not they can somehow make this still feel like a Western shooter. It doesn’t really seem possible but then again, there are some parts of the game that will take place out west, so…
Either way, it looks promising. Call of Juarez: The Cartel will drop later this year.
3/3/2011 Ben Dutka