Meet Billy Candle: a sneaky fella with a whip and a bow. On the run from the law for the murder of his own mother, Billy favours stealth above all else and gets about by clambering over rooftops and bravely hiding behind boxes. Now meet Reverend Ray: a bad, bad man who repented, found God, then inevitably went even more hatstand in the process and is now doing the Lord's work by shooting villainous types RIGHT IN THE FACE.
The newly-announced-for-360 Call of Juarez alternates between both figures; you'll take Billy through towns, creeping, hiding and fearing for your life, then follow him through the same area as Rampagin' Ray with his big box o' bullets.
A Polish-made, Western-set first-person shooter, Call of Juarez had bad news written all over it in capitals; yet the European release of the PC game was among 2006's nicest surprises. The differences between Billy and Ray are more meaningful than Halo 2's Master Chief/Arbiter switcheroo, radically changing the way the game plays from level to level and making it quite unlike any other shooter on the 'box.
Developers Techland are promising various improvements for the 360 release too. The graphics have been polished up nicely and there's a substantial set of Live options, with quick-draw shoot-outs and the usual Deathmatch and Capture The Flag modes, as well as a selection of historical gunfights re-enacted for co-op play against the game's AI.
It's already the best Western game ever (... although Rockstar's Red Dead Revolver runs it close); question is, with the extra bells and whistles, can Techland make Call of Juarez a genuine contender in the FPS genre?
Due for release very soon, in the
middle of summer, it's up against stiff competition from the likes of Bioshock and, to a lesser extent, The Darkness. But while it's relatively hype-free, with extra maps, new features and an all-round polish, Juarez may yet just be one of 2007's darkest hosses.