Review – Call of Juarez: Gunslinger (Switch)

I’m not going to lie, this is the first time I’m playing a game in the Call of Juarez series. I had little to no knowledge about it prior to playing this specific Nintendo Switch port of the final iteration of the franchise. Now I’m wondering what the hell was I thinking ignoring this franchise for all these years. Especially since I loved my time with the version of Call of Juarez: Gunslinger for the Switch, arguably one of the best first-person shooters to grace the system’s library so far.

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“It’s hiiiiiiiiigh noon…

At its core, Call of Juarez: Gunslinger is a basic first-person shooter that plays similarly to the vast array of military shooters of its time. The controls are pretty much the same as you would expect from a Call of Duty released in 2012 or 2013, with ironsights, aim assist, slots for two weapons, hip firing being basically useless, auto healing, a dedicated button for melee, and a dedicated button for “grenades” (in this case, dynamite). Cover shooting, headshooting, and hitting explosive barrels for multikills are the core strategies to follow.

I know what you might be thinking. “Oh, it’s just another generic shooter”. Call of Juarez: Gunslinger could have been considered that, if it wasn’t for the handful of features that make it stand out from the rest of the crowd. Not only those released in 2013, but even more recent shooters, especially those who have actually been released on the Switch.

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Making things explode is so cathartic.

The visuals are excellent. The folks at Techland were really smart when implementing this slight yet impactful cel-shaded filter on top of Gunslinger‘s dated Chrome Engine visuals, as this allowed it to stand the test of time. It still looks gorgeous to this day, in fact. Cel-shading is always helpful to reduce CPU and GPU usage, allowing for the game to run at a pretty decent framerate on both docked and handheld modes. I’ve only managed to notice slight framerate drops whenever the game decided to include rain effects at any given level.

There are a few gameplay features that make Call of Juarez: Gunslinger as well. First of all, there is a big emphasis on racking up lots of points by killing the biggest amount of baddies in the shortest amount of time possible. Doing so grants you with more experience points, which allow you to buy upgrades such as a faster reload speed, more accuracy while wielding a rifle, going akimbo with two revolvers, or doubling the amount of ammo you can carry. Those slight RPG elements are far from being complex or intrusive.

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I hate these dueling sections.

I also really like the aiming assist implemented in here. Let’s face it, Call of Juarez: Gunslinger is a single-player title for a system with no achievements. Aiming assist is a very welcome addition, as it makes the simple act of making your bullet reach the desired target less cumbersome than other games for the system, such as Wolfenstein II. You will feel like freaking McCree from Overwatch when you trigger the slow-motion mode, allowing you to get rid of everyone in sight with style and precision. You can also play the game with motion controls if you want to. It’s not bad as it may sound, but I decided to turn it off anyway.

Finally, I really enjoyed the game’s overall sense of humor. The entirety of Gunslinger‘s story is told by a very unreliable narrator, Silas Greaves, who constantly revises his own stories while you’re playing a level. That may result in the appearance of additional enemies, a bridge appearing from out of nowhere, an entire section of the level being rewound, and so on. The script is very funny and the voice acting is excellent, with everybody talking with a very heavy hillbilly twang. There’s also an excellent score that is clearly inspired by the works of Ennio Morricone, which is more than essential in a Western game like this one.

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The rifle is neat, but nothing beats wielding a good old trustworthy revolver.

If there’s one thing I didn’t like about Call of Juarez: Gunslinger, that would be its dueling sections. They are a basically a reflex test: keeping adjusting your focus crosshair in order to increase your overall accuracy, keep moving you hand around to increase your draw speed, and pay attention to when you’re actually allowed to shoot. This is a very cumbersome section, with confusing controls and an overall uninteresting gameplay loop. You can draw your gun before the game tells you so, allowing you to kill your enemy “without honor”, not winning any experience points in the process. I ended up doing that on every single duel throughout the entire game. Who cares about honor? I got places to be.

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He gon’ be dead soon.

I would have never imagined that Call of Juarez: Gunslinger would end up feeling right at home on the Switch. It’s a game that fully takes advantage of the system’s portable nature with its short yet highly replayable missions, fast-paced action, and optional motion controls. Not to mention that, for a game released for the previous generation of consoles, it still looks gorgeous, both in docked and portable modes. It might not literally be the best shooter to feature on the Switch, but it’s most certainly the one that looks, plays and feels the best on Nintendo’s portable system. At first I thought I’d just recommend it to shooter or Western fans, but no, this one is a great fit for anyone who owns a Switch in general.

 

Graphics: 8.5

It looks really impressive for a last-gen title, with great lighting effects and cel-shaded visuals. It also runs well for the most part, with the exception of stages in which rain is present.

Gameplay: 9.0

It basically plays like modern military shooters, but with a Western twang and slight RPG elements. The control responsiveness is good, the amount of aim assist is ideal, and the motion controls aren’t bad at all. The pistol duel gameplay is clunky though.

Sound: 9.5

It has the two essential things that any Western-influenced project needs: a soundtrack clearly inspired by Ennio Morricone’s works and everybody talking with a heavy hick accent.

Fun Factor: 9.0

An arcadey shooter with a great story, sense of humor, and most importantly, gameplay. Its levels are short enough for small portable bursts, and are highly replayable. The only major issue I had with it was with how annoying the duel sections were. Thankfully, they were few and far between.

Final Verdict: 9.0

Call of Juarez: Gunslinger is available now on PS3, Xbox 360, PC and Switch.

Reviewed on Switch.

A copy of Call of Juarez: Gunslinger was provided by the publisher.