The Call of Juarez series by Polish developer Techland managed to stand out in the crowded first person shooter market by catering to a niche, namely the Western genre. It is a category that has been relatively underrepresented in video games, much in the same way as it has gone out of fashion in the film industry. After two successful instalments in the series, Techland attempted to bring Call of Juarez to a present day setting with 2011’s The Cartel, though that instalment was not quite as popular or well received as the earlier efforts. Recognising the that the Wild West is what made the series memorable, Ubisoft will be releasing Call of Juarez: Gunslinger, which returns the player back to the lawless days of frontier America.
We had a chance to go hands-on with Call of Juarez: Gunslinger at Ubisoft Digital Days 2013, where Ubisoft production marketing manager, Aymeric Evennou, provided an insight into the Western themed shooter.
What was it really like to be a bounty hunter in the Wild West?
Ubisoft production marketing manager, Aymeric Evennou (AE): Anyone making their living hunting down criminals certainly needed a high tolerance for moonshine and whiskey, and saloon “conversation” was a vital skill for garnering valuable clues to a wanted outlaw’s whereabouts. A good saddle, a sense of direction and a love for riding horses were also important, as the distances between towns and hideouts were immense. But let’s be honest, the most important skill a bounty hunter had to have was being a good shot. Showdowns and gunfights were rare events that barely lasted minutes, and they were often decided in just a handful of seconds. Those brief interludes were the times when reputations were made and fates were forged.
Where does Gunslinger fit into the Call of Juarez series?
AE: Gunslinger is the spiritual successor to the much loved Bound in Blood. It showcases that unique mood and feel of the Old West, respecting the spirit of its legends and myths while letting the player experience a story that feels like a slice of epic history. The team's main objective was to keep a distinctive experience of fighting with classic revolvers, rifles and other historical weapons of the West. Yet, Call of Juarez: Gunslinger’s game promise to battle with the West’s best required moving towards a more arcade-oriented gameplay. In that respect, gameplay is faster paced. When we felt the arcade direction was a good fit, we also added with an advanced scoring system, with number popping and multipliers. The art direction reinforces this arcade feeling. Graphics are much more stylized than in previous Call of Juarez games, and effects such as blood splattering are emphasized. The final result is a fun and exhilarating feel.
What’s new this time around?
AE: Deciding to realign the gameplay gave us a good excuse to review our game experience from scratch, and integrate the list of long-requested features for Call of Juarez. We are very happy to introduce a character development system deeply rooted to the player’s story progression. Players will be able to build Silas Greaves’ aptitudes into their own custom playing style.
What’s making a return from past games in Gunslinger?
AE: The series’ trademark Concentration mode is back and comfortably fits with an arcade style gameplay. You can develop this mechanic thanks to the character development system. For instance, through unlocking an auto-target skill while you’re in Concentration mode to unleash devastating combos. Call of Juarez: Gunslinger also introduces Silas Greaves’ special ability, the Sense of Death. This new game mechanic allows players to dodge that bullet with their name on it, and gives them a window of opportunity to shoot back. Sense of Death can also be developed while you progress along the skill tree. Finally, it ain’t no real Western without duels, and we’re happy to bring them back into the experience. We have improved the feature's playability, and players will be able to practice or challenge their friends in a dedicated Duel Mode.
What has been done to ensure the game feels like a Western?
AE: The Story mode is the best way to start exploring the game and master Silas’s skill sets. Narrated by the Bounty Hunter himself, directly from a saloon, it’s a real hat’s off to Wild West mythic origins. Dime novels were full of highly exaggerated facts, jotted down in saloon interviews, and then fancifully woven with great liberty. Silas’ story takes us through over twenty years of the career that brought him face to face with the West's most notorious outlaws and lawmen. The addition of Silas' commentary, stories and digressions make this experience unlike any other, narrating your every move and sometimes rearranging his story, right before your eyes.
How has the replay value of the game been extended?
AE: The Gunslinger experience can also be prolonged thanks to the True West mode. This aptly named difficulty level is unlocked once the Story mode is completed. It’s designed to give the player a truer Wild West feel, as waves of upon waves of deadly enemies pile on for some extremely intense gunfights. In the True West mode, the player can also turn off the head-up display whenever desired, allowing for a more immersive experience.
What about players looking for a more casual gaming experience?
AE: An additional Arcade mode builds upon the Story mode. It takes the original maps, tweaks them to emphasize the game's scoring, combo multipliers and timers and removes all narration. With increased difficulty and leaderboards, this is the perfect mode to come back to play again and again. There are creative ways to find for getting the most points out of every situation. You'll want to beat your own score and show your friends who is the best shot in your town. Finally, the Duel mode allows players to go toe-to-toe history’s deadliest outlaws. Leaderboards allow them to submit their best scores and determine who truly was and is the fastest gun in the West.
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