Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood
Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood is a 2009 first-person shooter Western video game developed by Techland and published by Ubisoft for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Microsoft Windows. It is the second game in the Call of Juarez series, and a direct prequel to the original Call of Juarez. Two further Call of Juarez games were made after Bound in Blood; a loose sequel set in contemporary Los Angeles and Mexico (The Cartel), and a narratively unrelated game with similar gameplay (Gunslinger).
|Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood|
North American cover art
|Series||Call of Juarez|
|Engine||Chrome Engine 4|
|Platform(s)||PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Windows|
Taking place roughly twenty years prior to the first game, Bound in Blood focuses on the McCall brothers; Ray and Thomas. Beginning towards the end of the American Civil War in August 1864, they abandon their post to try to save their family home. Labelled deserters, they go on the run, with their younger brother William, a priest, joining them. Two years later, hiding out in Mexico, they meet the bandit Juan Mendoza and his girlfriend Marisa, and first encounter the legend of the Gold of Juarez. With their army commander still pursuing them, they enter into a dangerous alliance with Mendoza and an Apache tribe in order to find the gold.
Bound in Blood received mainly positive reviews. Most critics praised the plot, the general shooting mechanics, the game's authentic western tone, and the multiplayer online mode. Criticism tended to focus on poor enemy AI, repetitive level design, and, especially, the lack of any kind of co-op mode. Some critics also found the single-player mode too short and easy. The game was a commercial success, selling close to one million units worldwide across all systems, considerably more than the first game.
Bound in Blood is a first-person shooter in which the player can control one of two characters; Ray McCall, or his brother Thomas. Whereas in the original Call of Juarez, the player controlled alternating characters from level to level, in Bound in Blood, most levels offer the player the choice of which character they wish to play as, with each character having a slightly different style of gameplay. The character which the player does not choose is controlled by the AI for the duration of the level. There are also occasional levels through which the player must play with a specific character. In many levels, there will be times where the brothers will have to directly help one another, such as Thomas helping Ray to reach a high platform, or Ray kicking down a door for Thomas. Most levels are played through in the same manner, irrespective of which character is chosen, with the only difference being that of style. Occasionally, however, the brothers will separate within a level, and, as such, the level design will be different depending on which character the player is using.
Controlling each character is broadly similar. Each can move forward and backward, can strafe left and right, can run, walk, crouch, and jump. Each shares an identical HUD, with the same information available to the player; the location of the mission objective and the location of the other character. At certain times, the HUD will also contain other information, such as the location of a shop or an indication that the player character needs help from his brother. When the player is reloading or selecting a weapon, their available weaponry, ammo count and cash are also displayed. Both characters can wield six shooters, shotguns, and rifles. Both characters can also interact with certain objects, such as chairs, oil lamps, ammo and dropped weaponry.
The main gameplay differences between the two characters is that Ray is stronger and slower than Thomas; he cannot jump as high, but he can kick heavy obstacles out of his way and take more damage from enemy fire. He cannot aim as far as Thomas, but he is faster with six shooters, which he can dual wield, and is quicker when aiming at nearby enemies. Thomas can move faster than Ray, and can also grip onto ledges and pull himself up. He has a better long range aim than Ray, but is slower when using six shooters, which he can only single wield, and when aiming at nearby enemies. Ray can use two weapons unavailable to Thomas – a dismountable gatling gun and throwable dynamite. Thomas can use three weapons Ray cannot – a lasso, a bow and arrow and throwing knives. Weapons common to both characters include various types of six shooters, rifles and shotguns. Both characters can also can start fires by throwing or shooting oil lamps. They are also both capable of using chairs in hand-to-hand combat.
Thomas' use of the lasso requires the player to point the crosshairs at an appropriate spot, and then move the analog stick or mouse in a circular motion, mimicking the action of using an actual lasso. Once sufficient speed has been reached, the lasso will be thrown automatically. When he uses the bow and arrow, the player has the option of going into slow motion for more precise aiming, or firing in normal speed.
There are three different types of slow motion attacks in the game, called "Concentration mode." Ray and Thomas' concentrations modes are charged by killing enemies, with headshots charging their meters faster than body shots. However, once the player has filled their concentration meter, they have only sixty seconds in which to activate it, or it empties by half, and they must recharge it. In Ray's mode, once slow motion begins, Ray is free to rotate 360 degrees from a fixed position. If the crosshairs pass over an enemy, that enemy will be "tagged". Up to twelve enemies in total can be tagged (or less than twelve enemies can be tagged multiple times, up to a total of twelve tags) during concentration mode, but the amount of time the player has to do so is limited (indicated by an on-screen meter). Once the time is up, Ray fires at all tagged enemies with perfect accuracy. In Thomas' concentration mode, the player does not need to manually aim. Instead, the crosshairs automatically moves from visible enemy to visible enemy, pausing on each one momentarily. As the crosshairs moves, the player must hold down a button permanently, and when the crosshairs pause, the player must pull back on the analog stick or move the mouse backwards to fire at the target (mimicking the action of real-life fanning). The third type of concentration mode is dual concentration, which happens automatically at certain points of the game, always at doorways. Ray and Thomas simultaneously burst into the room, and the game goes into slow motion. Two targeting reticles appear on either side of the screen, with each moving towards the center. The player cannot control the movement of either reticle, or move their character during concentration mode, but they can control the positioning of the screen, allowing them to maneuver the character's vision so as to position the reticles over an enemy. They can also shoot independently from either their left or right gun, or both simultaneously.
As with the first game, duels are also common. During duels, the character and the enemy will slowly circle one another, with the player needing to keep the character's hand as close to his gun as possible by moving the left analog stick/mouse. However, they cannot touch their gun, as if they do, their hand is automatically moved away. At the same time, the player needs to keep the opponent lined up in the centre of the screen by using the right analog stick or keyboard. When the time comes to draw, a bell rings, and the player has only a very brief window in which to draw, aim and fire.
The game also features a multiplayer mode (available via LAN and PlayStation Network on PlayStation 3, System Link and Xbox Live on Xbox 360, and LAN and online on PC), with several types of gameplay. Multiplayer modes include: "Shootout" mode (deathmatch), "Posse" mode (Team deathmatch), "Wanted" mode (one player is randomly designated as the "wanted" player, and other players can only score points by killing this particular player. Once the wanted player is killed, the player who killed them then becomes the wanted player. The player with the most points at the end of the game wins), "Manhunt" mode (a team "wanted" game in which one player is designated as the wanted player. If they survive sixty seconds, their team scores a point. If they are killed, the player who kills them becomes the wanted player, and they must try to survive for sixty seconds. The team with the most points at the end of the game wins), and "Wild West Legends" mode (game scenarios based on real-life events such as the Battle of Antietam, the Dalton gang's last raid, the Frisco Shootout, the Skeleton Canyon shootout, and the O.K. Corral, in which one team are the "Lawmen" and the other team are the "Outlaws". One team has a series of objectives, and a limited time in which to complete them. The other team must try to prevent them from accomplishing their objectives). An "Old West Map Pack" DLC, released on August 6, 2009 contained four new maps for the "Wild West Legends" mode (based around the Battle of the Little Bighorn, a gold theft from Vulture Mine, and attempted escapes from a Fort Smith prison and Elmira Prison).
Multiplayer mode features thirteen different class of character, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, and each with a different set of weaponry. Classes available immediately are "gunslinger", "rifleman", "miner", "sniper", and "native". Unlockable classes are "scout", "trapper", "gunsmith", "hombre", "spy", "officer", "duelist", and "veteran". Multiplayer games employ a "bounty system" for scoring - the more kills a player gets, the more his/her bounty increases, and hence the more points are awarded to any player that kills them. This bounty system is used in all game modes, on all maps and with all character classes. Money earned during multiplayer games can be used to unlock character classes or to upgrade the class currently being used within the game. Upgrades feature two levels; the first level cancels out the classes' weaknesses, the second increases the classes' strengths. If the player switches classes mid-game having already upgraded another class, their upgrades will not carry across to the new class. However, if they switch back to the previously upgraded class, their upgrades will remain. Upgrades, however, do not carry across to different games.
- Ray McCall (voiced by Marc Alaimo): the older of the McCall brothers. He has no tolerance for authority figures, and his only love is reserved for his family.
- Thomas McCall (Zach Hanks): Ray's younger brother, and something of a lady's man, who has a history of taking women in whom Ray is interested.
- William McCall (Carlos Alazraqui): the youngest McCall, William is a priest who sticks with his brothers after their home is destroyed during the Civil War. He hates that they have become outlaws and believes it is his duty to turn them "towards the light." He is constantly either trying to keep them from getting into trouble, or sorting out the trouble in which they do get involved.
- Juan "Juarez" Mendoza (Rene Mujica): a powerful Mexican bandit leader, nicknamed Juarez after the town in which he was born. He is determined to find the Gold of Juarez.
- Marisa (Giselle Anthony): Mendoza's girlfriend. The McCalls meet Mendoza after saving Marisa from a gang of rowdy cowboys.
- Running River (Jay Tavare): an angry and uncompromising Apache chief determined to wage war against the "white man."
- Seeing Farther (Dante Basco): Running River's intelligent and perceptive son, he is tasked by his father to acquire rifles for the upcoming war.
- Colonel Barnsby (John Cygan): the McCalls' commanding officer in the Confederate States Army during the Civil War.
The game begins in a ceremonial chamber, with Ray and Thomas pointing their guns at one another, as Marisa stands alongside Thomas. Ray says "I loved you, and you lied to me. Both of you. You betrayed me." From nearby, William laments to himself how the family has been destroyed by lust for a woman and greed for gold. There is a cut to black, a gunshot, and Marisa screams.
— opening narration
The game cuts to two years previously, 1864, with Ray and Thomas fighting for the Confederacy in the American Civil War. Near the Chattahoochee River, the brothers help to repulse an attack by the Union Army. However, rather than go on the offensive, Colonel Barnsby orders a retreat to Jonesboro to reinforce supply lines. The McCalls refuse to comply, and instead desert to try to save their nearby home. When they arrive, they find the house partially destroyed, their mother dead, and William by her bedside. Vowing to return and rebuild the house, they leave, knowing they are fugitives. A short while later, Barnsby arrives, vowing to track them down and hang them for their desertion.
The game cuts to 1865, with the Union victorious. Barnsby, however, has refused to surrender, and continues to both fight the army and hunt the McCalls. The brothers head to Fort Smith, Arkansas, with William growing increasingly worried by their lawless behaviour. When the local marshal learns Thomas slept with his daughter, there is a shoot-out and the marshal is killed. The brothers flee, heading to San Lorenzo in Mexico. Ray has heard tales of an Aztec treasure called the "Gold of Juarez," supposedly the ransom accumulated for Montezuma after he was taken captive by Hernándo Cortés, which disappeared after the fall of Tenochtitlan, and hopes they can find it and use it to rebuild their home.
Meanwhile, Running River, an Apache chief, makes plans to wage war on the white man. He sends his reluctant son, Seeing Farther, to purchase rifles in Mexico, authorising him to trade a hidden medallion which reveals the location of the Gold. In a saloon in San Lorenzo, Marisa catches Ray's attention. After helping her when she is harassed by some cowboys, the McCalls are invited to dinner by Juan "Juarez" Mendoza, a powerful bandit, and Marisa's boyfriend. Mendoza reveals he too is looking for the Gold, and promises them a share if they help find it. After they kill a rival of his, he introduces them to Seeing Farther, who has come to him to purchase the rifles, and, in return, will reveal the location of the medallion.
The group head to Arizona to meet a gun runner. In Tucson, they learn he has been imprisoned by the Pinkertons. Marisa secretly flirts with Ray, who tells her they could take the medallion for themselves. Ray and Thomas then rescue the gun runner, who is wrapped in bandages, and return him to Mendoza. In private, he reveals himself to be Barnsby, telling Mendoza if he wants the rifles, he must hand over the McCalls. Meanwhile, Ray brags to Thomas and William of his plans with Marisa. Thomas goes to see Marisa, who says she was using Ray, hoping he would kill Mendoza, when she is actually in love with Thomas.
Heading to meet Mendoza, the McCalls instead find Barnsby, who imprisons them. Under interrogation, William tells Barnsby that Mendoza is trading the rifles for the medallion. Barnsby orders his men to hang the McCalls. However, they escape, and follow Mendoza. Barnsby watches them leave, deciding to follow them to Mendoza, hoping to get the medallion and use the Gold to raise a new Confederate army. When the McCalls catch up with Mendoza, he claims he knew nothing of Barnsby's plan. The Apaches acquire the rifles, but confront the group, as William has told Seeing Farther the rifles don't work. Running River orders them all killed, but Seeing Farther intercedes. Marisa is taken captive, with Mendoza's approval, as she was the only one he told the rifles were defective (unknown to Mendoza, Marisa had told Thomas, who had told William). The McCalls go to the village as Seeing Farther's guests, and he agrees to help them find the medallion. Infiltrating Navajo territory, they retrieve it, with Seeing Farther entrusting it to William and explaining how to use it.
Shortly after returning to the camp, Barnsby attacks. The Apache are massacred; Ray, Thomas and Running River escape, but Seeing Farther is taken hostage. Barnsby offers Running River his son in return for the medallion, and Running River agrees. Assuming William and Marisa are dead, Ray and Thomas attempt to rescue Seeing Farther, but Barnsby mortally wounds him. Dying, he says William and Marisa are still alive, and are being held captive by Mendoza in his alcázar. The brothers leave Running River to kill Barnsby, as they head to rescue William and Marisa. Speaking to his dead son, Running River renounces his life of violence and hatred, stating that from now on, he shall live a life of peace, and be known as Calm Water.
Meanwhile, Mendoza interrogates William about the medallion, but William refuses to explain to him how to use it. Marisa gives William a gun, unaware that Mendoza is watching. Mendoza forces William to kill to save himself, and then orders his men kill William. He tells Marisa after he kills Ray and Thomas, he will kill her for her betrayal. She tells him she is pregnant, but he says once the baby is born, she will work as a prostitute for him. However, she knocks him out and takes the medallion. At the same time, Ray and Thomas storm the alcázar. Ray heads to save William, and Thomas gets horses for their escape. Marisa approaches him, telling him she knows the secret of the medallion, and she and Thomas must use it, as William is dead. Thomas reluctantly agrees to leave Ray behind. Elsewhere, Ray prevents William's murder, and in the caves under the alcázar, he shoots Mendoza, but is unable to find his body in the water. He and William escape, with Ray beside himself with rage at Thomas' betrayal.
In an effort to calm Ray, William tells him the secret of the medallion, not believing the Gold to be real. However, he is shocked when he learns it is, and they encounter Thomas and Marisa in the chambers. The opening scene repeats, with the two brothers facing off against one another. However, William steps between them, telling Ray he won't allow him to kill Thomas. He pretends he is about to draw a gun, and Ray shoots him. In actuality he was taking out his Bible. The chamber is then attacked by Barnsby, whom Running River chose not to kill. After killing all of his men, the McCalls face Barnsby, shooting him dead. Coming to believe the legend that the Gold is cursed, the McCalls and Marisa leave it behind. William's sacrifice compels Ray to renounce violence, and become a priest. He then marries Thomas and Marisa, and the three head to a small town in Texas, with Marisa pregnant with Mendoza's child. She carries the medallion as an amulet, which she plans to give to the child when he is born.
Bound in Blood was announced on January 13, 2009, with Ubisoft revealing they would be partnering with the developers of the original Call of Juarez game, Techland, to release a prequel for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Windows. In an interview with IGN in February, Techland lead product manager Paweł Kopiński explained the developers had taken on board the most common criticisms of the first game (mainly concerning the platforming and stealth sections), whilst enhancing the mechanics of the original that received the most praise, namely Reverend Ray's gameplay. Speaking of the game from a technological standpoint, he said it would be the first game to utilise the fourth iteration of Techland's own game engine, the Chrome Engine, which would allow for considerable graphical improvements over the original;
we've managed to achieve increased performance allowing for even more polygons on screen and advanced special effects. While we focused on the game's core strength, its shooting mechanics, we're also very proud of the enhanced wide open environments and natural wildlife. Additionally, we stayed true to the two character dynamic and even added the ability to choose between the McCall Brothers before almost every mission.
Discussing inspirations for the game, Kopiński stated "we wanted to capture the best of all the western movies we love, so it can't be simply categorized as either a Spaghetti Western or a realistic Western. It's a blend of the best elements from both." He specifically cited Sergio Leone's Dollars Trilogy (A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly), and Once Upon a Time in the West, Ed Harris' Appaloosa, James Mangold's 3:10 to Yuma, and TV show Deadwood as influences.
In an interview with GameSpot in April, Kopiński stated "the time we have left until release will be spent perfecting players' experience of the wildest West ever created." He explained Techland didn't initially plan on making a game that dealt with the American Civil War. It was only when they counted back from Billy's story in the original game that they realized a prequel would coincide with that period of history. Once they made that realization, they embraced it, with Kopiński pointing out "war and its aftermath bring out the worst in people, pushing them to their limits and pitting individuals against a new, transformed reality. War serves as a catalyst and an excuse for the McCall brothers. It sets in motion a chain of events that leads Thomas and Ray across America in their quest." He also said the time period of the game allowed the developers to use specific groups of real life people in an historically accurate manner, such as the Apache, the Comanche, the Navajo and the Pinkertons. However, he confessed that in some areas, the game did take liberties with historical actuality;
When it comes to guns, we had to choose between history and the beloved spaghetti Westerns. As is often the case, reality turned out to be much less exciting than legend. During that time, revolvers were still very unreliable, and double-barreled shotguns were the most popular weapons in the Wild West. That's why spaghetti Westerns won that particular competition. This means that all weapons are very accurately re-created from their historical counterparts, but just like in everyone's favorite Western movies, they shouldn't really be there yet. Sometimes, their true date of introduction is just a few months away, but in other cases the difference is a couple of years.
Bound in Blood received "generally favorable reviews," with the PC and PlayStation 3 versions holding aggregate scores of 78 out of 100 on Metacritic, based on thirty-nine and forty-seven reviews, respectively. The Xbox 360 version holds a score of 77 out of 100, based on seventy-seven reviews.
GameSpy's Eric Neigher scored the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions 3 out of 5, writing "the setting, characterization, and run-and-gun shooterificness get watered down by linear level design, been-done set pieces, and too-heavy a reliance on the western films of yore." He criticized the game for bringing nothing new to the first-person shooter genre, and although he praised the storyline and the differentiation between the gameplay styles of Ray and Thomas, he was critical of the lack of a split-screen or online co-op mode; "The lack of co-op is made all the more astounding when you take into account how great Bound in Blood's other multiplayer modes are." He concluded, "This is an entertaining shooter with many good points, but nothing's particularly outstanding or original here."
Eurogamer's Oli Walsh scored the Xbox 360 version 7 out of 10, comparing the game unfavorably to the original; "The sequel is more confident, but perhaps more conservative [...] although it's still a well-spun yarn with a fantastic sense of place and time, it doesn't quite have the same fire in its belly." Although he praised the plot, gameplay, and shooting mechanics, he was critical of the graphics, citing examples of tearing, poor animation and inconsistent draw distance. He concluded "It's far too unvaried and unrelenting a shooting gallery to earn an unhesitating recommendation; although the internal pacing of each chapter is good, they're all the same," although he did praise the game for being "a proper western, set in a tangibly real Wild West, with proper, honest-to-goodness cowboys, Indians and bandits."
Official Xbox Magazine's Taylor Cocke scored the Xbox 360 version 7 out of 10. He praised the plot, but criticised the voice acting. Although he praised the gameplay, finding it rewarding if repetitive, his biggest criticism was the lack of co-op; "absence is completely inexcusable, and the addition of pointless, paint-by-numbers competitive multiplayer only adds insult to injury."
IGN's Jeff Haynes scored the PC and Xbox 360 versions 7.7 out of 10, and the PlayStation 3 version 7.5 out of 10, calling it "a solid title that's held back by technical issues and some repetitive gameplay sequences." He praised the plot and the differentiation in the gameplay styles, although he felt the choice of character should have led to story-branching. However, he was critical of the dueling system (which he felt was based more on luck than skill), the enemy AI, and the level design. He was also critical of the graphics, citing examples of "bland texture work," pop-in, screen tearing, clipping and aliasing. He praised the multiplayer mode, the sound work and the voice acting, and concluded "the repetitive nature of the missions, coupled with some technical issues, really keeps this title from standing out more."
GameSpot's Randolph Ramsay scored all three versions 8 out of 10, calling it "a tense, riveting, and superb-looking first-person shooter." He was critical of the short length of the single-player campaign and the enemy AI, writing "it never feels like you're fighting a smart, organized force." He also criticised the lack of co-op, but praised the online multiplayer mode, the graphics and the voice acting. He concluded "this game's strong narrative and high production values make it an almost cinematic experience. Add to that its exciting gameplay, and Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood becomes the ideal sequel - one that is an improvement over the original in almost every way."
Computer and Video Games' Richard Cobbett scored the PC version 8.4 out of 10. He criticised the lack of different levels for the different characters, and the duel system, but praised the shooting mechanics and the plot. He concluded "Bound in Blood is a much more enjoyable experience than the first Juarez [...] It's far more satisfying than previous westerns like GUN and Red Dead Revolver, even if its set-pieces never quite make it to the Modern Warfare high benchmark. [Bound in Blood is] an outstanding FPS [with] excellent shooting and terrific production values."
Bound in Blood was a commercial success, selling considerably more units than the original Call of Juarez. According to figures from the NPD Group, in its first four days of North American release, the game sold 24,000 units on the Xbox 360 and 20,000 units on the PlayStation 3. In the United Kingdom, it entered the charts at #6, but rose the following month to #4.
The game ultimately sold roughly one million units worldwide across all systems, making it one of Ubisoft's best selling titles for the first half of the fiscal year. Although their overall sales were down 52% from 2008, having earned $247 million by November, compared to the $511 million of the previous year, they cited the strong sales of Bound in Blood and Anno 1404 as high points.
Since Bound in Blood, there have been two further games in the Call of Juarez series, both developed by Techland and published by Ubisoft. The first, Call of Juarez: The Cartel, was released in 2011 for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Windows. Set in contemporary Los Angeles and Mexico, the game follows the story of LAPD detective Ben McCall, FBI agent Kimberly Evans and DEA agent Eddie Guerra as they attempt to ascertain who bombed the DEA headquarters, and why. The game is connected to the previous two Call of Juarez games insofar as Ben McCall is a descendant of Billy "Candle" (one of the protagonists from the first game) and is from Hope (Billy's home town), one of the villains is called Juan Mendoza (although it is never specified if he is related to the Juan Mendoza from the first two games), and several criminal organizations are attempting to find the Gold of Juarez. The game was poorly received, with designer Paweł Marchewka calling it "a mistake" and arguing it was released before it was ready.
The next game, Call of Juarez: Gunslinger, was released in 2013 as a downloadable-only title (for PlayStation 3 through the PlayStation Network, for Xbox 360 through Xbox Live, and for Windows through Steam). The game returns to the Old West setting of the first two games, but introduces a new storyline and a new set of characters. Spanning thirty years, the game takes place across a wide range of locations, including Wyoming, Montana, Kansas, Missouri, and Colorado, as an unreliable narrator relates his encounters with people such as Billy the Kid, Butch Cassidy, and Newman Haynes Clanton. The game ends with a teenager heading to West Point, who is revealed to be Dwight D. Eisenhower. It received mainly positive reviews.
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