Western shooters. There aren’t many of them, so if you find yourself feeling nostalgic for the old days when cowboy hats were all the rage, people could openly carry guns on their person, and when armies walked right up to each other before firing, Bound in Blood is definitely the game for you. But if you’re not necessarily into those things and you’re looking for a competent shooter that looks and plays great, I’m pleased to say I can still recommend this game.
I’ll admit I’m not a huge fan of the western genre and its abundance of grisly cowboys with chips on their shoulders, but never was the western theme too much. There were times when I really got into the game, which made me forget I was playing one of two possible cowboys in the WWII era. Did you catch that? You did? Yes, throughout the game you get to control one of two brothers named Ray and Thomas. Ray enjoys long walks on the beach, dynamite, dual-wielding guns, and a woman that knows how to please a man. Thomas, on the other hand, takes inspirations from some of his personal heroes like Sam Fisher and Solid Snake. This means he uses stealthy weapons including his bow and knives to eliminate his foes.
This is a good-looking game, and while this may sound a bit bizarre, Bound in Blood has some of the best-looking foliage I’ve seen in a game. That’s right, in between slaying loads of enemies and ravaging countless women, I also managed to notice the pretty shrubs. The character models are a little stiff and sometimes creepily so, but the magnificent shrubbery more than makes up for that. Other than the occasionally eerie characters and gorgeous greenery, Juarez has more than a couple stunning set pieces, most notably the outdoor locales (that make up most of the game’s locations).
So the foliage is fantastic and the people are unusual; the most important thing is the gameplay. A game can look amazing but if it doesn’t have some remarkable gameplay than no amount of realistic trees is going to save the game. Luckily, the combat is solid and well polished, switching between the various weapons in your arsenal is intuitive, and combat feels right. There’s a decent selection of weapons to choose from, however since they’re all from the WWII era they all control like weapons used to before the Lancer and the BFG came along.
Tolerable weapons not enough to get you interested? How about a not-gimmicky mechanic that is in no way similar to Bullet Time? This unique and highly innovative mechanic is in no way related to the Slo-Mo used in a plethora of other shooter games for two reasons: first, it’s called Concentration Mode (which really proves the point right there), and it also kinda-sorta auto-targets parts of your enemies for you while in the Bullet, err Concentration Mode. It’s great to use, but it’s a common feature found in many FPS games out there that I think should’ve been tailored to make it better suit this game. These days slapping a new name on an existing feature doesn’t make it new, but it also doesn’t necessarily make it not fun.
My next problem with the game isn’t necessarily a big thing, nor is it anything really anyone else noticed. I don’t like the menus. It’s not that they’re difficult to navigate; it’s the color scheme. For a game that takes place in the Wild West with sand and cowboys, and all that jazz, why are the menus blue, green, and orange? Orange doesn’t bother me all that much, but blue and green? Not even a pale blue, or a leafy green, I’m talking Robin’s Egg Blue and Sea Moss Green. Coming from a background in Graphic Design, this really bothered me, but colors like brown, tan, gold, etc. all would’ve worked better than the ones the developers chose.
The strange color combination rant is finished, so let’s get back to the stuff that actually matters, and that would be the deliciously cheesy dialogue. I imagined a bounty of gruff one-liners that tend to go hand-in-hand with the western medium, and while Bound in Blood has plenty of that, it also has a lot of dorky dialogue from way-too-happy NPCs. A war is going on, people are dropping like flies, and some of these guys are actually peppy. Not just excited, but outlandishly happy. If they’re not that than they fall into the other category: the rough masculine types who like spouting orders like they’re in the McDonalds drive-thru. But for me, the most annoying dialogue came when my character decided to have an inner monologue. Oh yes, there are plenty of those. In the end I can sum this up by saying that this game definitely won’t be winning any awards for its writing.
Before I wrap things up I would like to check off the last on my list of problems with the game, (and I promise these might actually matter to you). The running is almost as fast as walking, the musical score is occasionally dreadful (near the beginning of the game there’s some piano music that may cause slight bleeding of the ears), during every cinematic there’s a message on the screen that reminds you to press this button to skip the movie (which makes it hard to get immersed in the cinematics), and last but certainly not least… no coop. You have got to be kidding me. Why would a game that has two playable protagonists not also have some sort of cooperative play? That’s Game Design 101, my friend. While the lack of a coop feature doesn’t make the game worse, it’s also a glaring omission that really bothered me.
All in all, Call of Juarez in an efficient shooter with a unique story, plenty of characters to laugh at (including the ones you control), and all the alluring verdure you can handle. The more sadistic gamers will enjoy looting the battlefield’s many lifeless corpses and maliciously choosing the exact spot they want to shoot at their enemies using Concentration Mode, while slightly less disturbed gamers will enjoy the satisfying combat, excellent visuals, and uncommon theme. Bound in Blood certainly isn’t without its flaws, but for fans of the genre I definitely suggest picking it up and giving it a try.