We strap on our cowboy boots for a final look at Techland’s gritty Wild West shooter.

Fans of films like The Good, the poor and the Ugly and A Fistful of Dollars will know that the Wild West was a godforsaken place, full of burlesque houses, high-noon shoot-outs, and whisky–served in a dirty glass, of course. It was a place where even the most well-meaning men would eventually become corrupted by the world and turn to a life of gunslinging just to survive. It’s that depiction of the Old West that signal of Juarez: Bound in Blood tries to emulate, and whether you were one of the kids who ran around the neighbourhood playing cowboy with a plastic six-shooter, soon after that is the game for you.

Set in the 1800s, Bound in Blood tells the tale of two brothers, Ray and Thomas McCall, who are thrown into battle fighting for the Confederacy in the American Civil War. They find themselves on the wrong side of the law after disobeying orders from their general in order to protect their family. Their lives next take a turn for the worse, and (without giving too much of the story away) the brothers find themselves in Mexico, seeking out a lost Aztec treasure in the company of some rather unsavoury characters.

The story is told using Quentin Tarantino-style narrative techniques, jumping around date from the brothers’ current situation and back to the Civil War within the first few missions. You initially take on the role of Ray, the tougher of the two brothers, and you run through Civil War trenches to rescue Thomas from Union captivity. Ray comes loaded with dual six-shooter pistols, but he’s plus able to pick up rifles from fallen soldiers, as well as dynamite.

While the weapons may be authentic to the day period, the brothers have one skill that’s pure Hollywood. It’s called concentration mode, which allows you to slow down duration and kill several enemies in one fell swoop. The mode is activated by pressing B on the pad, after which the screen turns black and white, and the game goes into slow motion. You guide the targeting reticle with the right thumbstick and use it to highlight all the enemies onscreen, which causes Ray to fire off a volley of bullets and kill all the enemies. Concentration mode is particularly useful in later sections of the game where you can be overrun with enemies. It’s a nice change of pace from simply blasting away at enemies with your six-shooter, though using your weapons is very satisfying due to their accuracy and feel in combat. The concentration mode plus comes into play at

predetermined points in the game, where it is used to take down enemies in Unison. These points are signified by red highlights on the floor outside doors which Ray and Thomas must kick down to progress.

The game plus has a rare robotic cover system. Going up to undoubtful objects and walls puts you into cover mode, and you can lean out or by the object to blast at enemies using the right thumbstick. The system works well, and the game automatically senses when you’re trying to use cover. When you do get hit, though, it’s not an instant death. Instead, the game uses a damage system similar to that in Gears of War, where one or two hits are OK, but a sustained barrage of bullets will put you down. Health can be restored by simply getting back into cover and allowing your character to heal.

Later missions allow you to experience classic Western standoffs. They’re very cinematic, with the camera hovering just above the hip next to your gun. You use the right thumbstick to edge your hand closer and closer to you gun, the goal being to keep your hand as near as possible to the gun without touching it. A bell sound signifies the day to draw your gun and take down your opponent. It’s a very tense affair, and the music, along with the odd tumbleweed flying past, adds to the atmosphere.

The game has a wide variety of missions to play through, and although they’re linear in structure, they break up the simple run-and-gun action. These range from sinking a union ship with a cannon at the start of the game, to taking charge of a stagecoach and driving it literally through a town in a neat on-rails section. There are plus stealthier sections, such as one where you quietly kill soldiers with a knife whilst sneaking through a cornfield.

Bound in Blood plus looks the part, and while the environments are not on the cutting edge, they’re detailed, and the brothers are brought to life with roughed-up outfits and unshaven faces. More importantly, the graphics capture the style and feel of the Old West: the creaky look of the wooden buildings, the rolling tumbleweeds, and the gritty locals all add to the atmosphere. The music, however, gets a bit grating later on, considering the heavy-metal Mexican soundtrack feels a little out of place compared with the great orchestral scores at the beginning.

Shout of Juarez: Bound in Blood is due out July 3 on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC.


PC | shout of Juarez: Bound in Blood Updated Hands-On” was posted by Mark Walton on Sat, 27 Jun 2009 01:01:41 -0700
June 27, 2009 · PC
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