Ubisoft has apparently instigated changes that make these levels more action-packed and less frustrating than they were in the original PC release, and to be fair they rattle through at a fairly decent pace, with enemy AI that’s forgiving enough to make success possible, but not so forgiving that it becomes inevitable. However, for those of you who prefer the smell of gunsmoke to all that “yella-bellied” crawling, the Ray levels deliver it in spades. Everywhere Billy goes he seems to leave a trail of outlaw varmints in his wake, and delivering the Lord’s justice to them is just what Ray does best.
Thanks to a decent – though not quite F.E.A.R. level – enemy AI, a fine selection of hard-hitting pistols and rifles, and a solid grasp of how to stage a gunfight, the Ray levels are a blast. The revolver, your mainstay weapon, can be dual-wielded using the left and right triggers, and with limited ammo in each gun, you need to consider your shots and work tactically to survive. What’s more revolvers come in several different forms, with different levels of accuracy and damage, and guns grow unreliable – even dangerously faulty – after prolonged use. Nor is this a game where you can afford to be caught without ammo. While armoured, Ray isn’t invincible, and the game uses a Call of Duty 2 style health recharge system to keep you on your toes. Put all this together and you have some of the most satisfying gun battles I’ve enjoyed since F.E.A.R.
I don’t make the comparison willy-nilly, either. Call of Juarez’s gunplay demands the same considered approach as F.E.A.R., and the game even has its own equivalent of F.E.A.R.’s slowmo feature. Holster your revolvers, then click a trigger to draw and the game enters concentration mode. Time slows down to a crawl, and a pair of cross-hairs trail slowly towards the centre of the screen. You can move slowly for perfect aim, and – as the cross-hairs highlight a target – squeeze off a barrage of rounds. Wait for the cross-hairs to align, and the game goes back to normal speed and (hopefully) every low-down sinner in view will be slumped on the floor, choking. It’s the perfect way to simulate the sort of antics beloved of The Man with No Name or Django. One minute you’re every no-good’s target, the next you’re the last man standing.
Up to a point, then, Call of Juarez is an excellent FPS. I really can’t say this enough. If you’re bored of your standard sci-fi or military shooters and looking for something with a different feel and mood, it comes highly recommended. It has looks, it has brains, it has atmosphere. It even has a cracking, finger-picked guitar heavy soundtrack and some very respectable voice-work. However, to enjoy it you have to be prepared to deal with a few rough edges, some of which will spoil your enjoyment overall.