Call of Juarez – The Cartel

7.5 Overall Score
Gameplay: 8/10
Graphics: 7/10
Story: 5/10

Constant Action | Very Different Concepts and Systems

Awful Story | Sloppy Animations | Unnecessary Swearing

Set in the present day, Call of Juarez: The Cartel starts when a Mexican drug cartel bombs a US law enforcement agency, forcing the government to bring together a special task force group to take them down. The group consists of three highly specialised agents from various law enforcement groups. These are: Ben McCall – an LAPD cop, and the descendent of Ray McCall — the revolver wielding cowboy from past games, Eddie Guerra – a DEA agent with a chronic-gambling addiction, and Kim Evans, a street kid turned FBI agent. Progression in the story reveals shocking truths and unravels a long line of corruption and betrayal.

Staring up the campaign, you’re thrown right into an action sequence, hanging out of a car window on the highway spraying at gangsters as they return the fire. This game starts as it means to go on, never short on action. Each corner you turn will see you brandishing your gun for yet another standoff, and these regular events are nothing short of awesome.

After completing the highway chase and a short cut-scene, you’re presented with a character choice. It’s not often that you see a character select screen in a single player mode, and choosing out of the three agents isn’t so hard. Each has a unique ability which is purely preference, like dual-wielding SMG’s, it doesn’t add much to the gameplay. My choice was made purely on aesthetics, and like myself, I’m sure most of you will be choosing Kim.

To make my choice clearer, and even easier, CoJ is not a bad looking game at all. It uses dated graphics, yes, but the higher end of them, forming a look between an upgraded Duke Nukem, and Left 4 Dead. Although the graphics look well, they’re brought down by some very sloppy animations. It seems as though the animations for this game were very rushed, even the basic sprinting animation, which is hard to get wrong, looks like you’re awkwardly jogging because you’ve  just **** yourself. Small things like opening doors, grabbing items, and switching weapons, just look terrible.

The gameplay in CoJ is fairly standard for a modern first person shooter, offering little uniqueness to the core of the game. I say that, however standard is often better. Playing it safe in CoJ paid off, and at its core, the gameplay is great: fluent controls, solid feeling weapons, and mechanics that are easy to get the hang of. Every standoff I find myself in, I thoroughly enjoy, despatching of the enemies in a very satisfying manner. But it is only basic, and a game can only be so good with such a bare bones system. There’s also a sort of power up mode, called ‘Concentration Mode’, which makes your bullets more powerful, and makes you shoot and reload faster. To build it up, you need to kill. It does take quite a while to build up, but when used, it lasts mere seconds. So if you use it at the wrong time, it’s completely wasted. Clearly this was implemented to make the combat a little more interesting and different, however it’s pretty pointless, and just worth ignoring.

Before release, CoJ boasted an indepth, and exciting story. Boy, was I let down. Call of Juarez has the single most vague and convoluted story I have ever experienced. There are so many twists and turns throughout, leaving you clueless as to what’s actually going on. Half the time, a new character, or sub-sub-side-plotline is introduced, then just completely disregarded later on. I couldn’t tell you anything other than the basic starting story, after that, I just… no.

A story is needless however in such a heavy action focused game, even less so when playing co-op. Co-op really makes CoJ what it is. It is without a doubt the best feature of the game, playing with friends in constant gunfights, whilst trying to complete secret missions (see below), and compete for kills, it’s insanely fun. Making it even more fun and competitive is the challenges that are spread throughout the co-op campaign. At certain points, a challenge will be triggered, which makes all three players compete to complete in order to gain extra XP, and bragging rights of course. These range from ‘first person to get two headshots in concentration mode’, to ‘who can deal the most damage to the helicopter’. They really add a new level of hilarious competitiveness into the mix.

It seems that Techland thinks swearing is absolutely essential to create a tense and gripping moment. I say moments; I should say ‘game’. Every second word is f**k, s**t, motherf**ker, t**t, b*****d, b**ch, and whatever else they could think of. It’s completely unnecessary, and often ruins the rare engaging moments of the story.

The multiplayer is fairly standard for an FPS, it only differs from the average with its lobby style, and partner system (see below). You level up, gain new weapons, unlock new character models etc. Pretty basic, and nothing special. When you load up multiplayer you first select your team, Cops or Gangsters, which is the main focus for the gamemodes. Typical Cops vs Robbers team deathmatch, but there’s also a few interesting objective based game modes too, like raiding a bank, which are pretty fun and tactical. But other than that, the multiplayer is not worth much of your time, co-op’s where it’s at!

Call of Juarez has some very interesting concepts, most are pulled off exceedingly well, others, not so much: The first that comes to mind, and probably the most impressive, is the inclusion of secret agenda’s and secret items. Throughout each mission, you have to find these secret items, which are different depending on the character you’re playing. For example, Eddie has to find hidden drug packs to pay off his debts. The twist with this is, that your team aren’t meant to know about your secret mission, and so whenever you see your item, you must discreetly take it without anyone seeing. A successful attempt will result in XP gain, whereas you’ll lose XP if you’re spotted by a teammate. This goes for secret agenda’s too, which are basically tiny sub-missions, you’ll get a phonecall midway into a mission with the details, again must be completed discreetly. These stay the same even when playing co-op too, so it’s hilarious fun to try and catch your friends red-handed, and time a successful grab for yourself.

The style of lobby the game uses is very different indeed, in a good way. Instead of the standard menu format, you’re put into an actual room, in which you can run around, test your weapons on a firing range, and customize classes. Not only that, but your lobby can hold up to 6 people, so you can do all of the above with your friends. With other people, it also allows you to request a partner from the players in the lobby.

That brings me on to the partner system used in the games multiplayer. Each game you play, if you do not request a partner in the lobby, you will be partnered with a random player in the game. What this partner system is, is that when you are within 20 meters of your partner, all of your abilities are boosted: you move faster, do more damage, and have more health. This forces teamwork in every game, something that’s often lacking in most first person shooters. It’s really great at making people work together, and makes for a much more interesting and tactical game. I’d love to see more games incorporate a similar system in the future.

Overall, Call of Juarez is a fairly standard swear-heavy game, with a terrible story, but a lot of good systems, and well pulled off concepts. It most definitely warrants a buy if you have friends to play co-op with, or just enjoy an action packed FPS.


Author: JackBrommers View all posts by
Aspiring Community Manager / Games Journalist. Geek, Gamer, Gearhead, Figure Fanatic, Avid Competition Enterer and Non-Preachy Vegetarian. Follow me on Twitter: @JackBrommers or feel free to add me on Xbox: Pipboy V3 Eagerly waiting for: Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3, Arkham City, Soul Calibur V, Skullgirls