Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood

Heed the Call

Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood is the greatest Old West game ever made. It's also a great FPS in its own right.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: August 12, 2009
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I've started this review about five times and trashed each other previous versions. For whatever reason, I just couldn't find the right way to start things off, so I'm just going to be honest: if not for the fact that Polish dev house Techland actually went out of their way to contact us directly, I would have never played Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood, and that would have been absolutely tragic. Growing up in on the West Coast (and in the Pacific Northwest, no less), one of the last places to get settled here in the States, I've long had something of a casual love affair with the Old West. Shows like Firefly and Deadwood have only strengthened that attraction to the mystique of a lawless, honor-bound kind of living that permeated this part of the country well into the early 20th century.

What's truly incredible about Bound in Blood, though, was that it managed to capture that essence, delivering the kind of scope and mood that even devs based here in California couldn't quite do in the same way. While GUN and perhaps more specifically Red Dead Revolver were, respectively, attempts at capturing the frontier feel and digitizing the Spaghetti Western, neither of them did it as completely as Call of Juarez -- and I feel the need to remind you reading this that the game was made in Poland.

Part of it might just be that the game has been able to harness the power of the PlayStation 3 to drop a game that's far, far bigger and broader in vision than was possible on the last generation of hardware, and while the PS3 version of the game is unquestionably the weakest in terms of technical flaws, it's nonetheless an incredible recreation of multiple parts of the US, and all done with Techland's in-house Chrome Engine 4, which manages some absolutely jaw-dropping bits of artistic flair.

The story as a whole tends to fall apart at the very end (culminating in an insanely frustrating boss fight that removes nearly everything enjoyable about the game's normal combat), but the set-up and ensuing first three quarters of the game do so much to set the tone and locales of the game that I honestly didn't mind it all too much. I died more on the final gunfight and boss battle than I did in the entire rest of the game, so for those about to read the next few bits of gushing praise, keep that in mind. Again, it didn't kill the overall experience, but that's mainly because what came before was so damned fun.

Bound in Blood, though hitting almost two years after the original's console release, is technically a prequel, telling the story of how Ray McCall came to be a man of the cloth at the start of the original game. It tells a genuinely interesting, twisty tale of two brothers' decent into becoming mortal enemies and a third brother's attempt to keep his faith at the fore even as he's dragged down into a life of violence, murder, debauchery and betrayal.

What begins with brothers Ray and Thomas trying to defend Atlanta from the invading Union forces at the close of the Civil War quickly turns into something far more interesting. Rather than fighting on the front lines to repel the Northern Forces, the brothers hear of an encroaching army near their home. They disobey orders, deserting their posts and catching the ire of their Colonel, Barnsby, a genuine asshole with a serious racist streak. Though the war is officially declared over just as the brothers reach home and find their mother killed and younger priest brother William at her side, Barnsby refuses to concede defeat and vows to track the deserters wherever they go.
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