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Call of Juarez: The Cartel

The bad, the bad and the ugly...

Hot off the back of Red Dead's insane-o-sales, this third Call of Juarez release could have been a huge hit for Techland.

A return visit to the Wild West in FPS format might have done wonders for the franchise were it not for the bonkers decision to uproot the game's time period and slap the branding onto a dull modern-day shooter. The real madness, however, is that it's been released at all.

Thanks to a mix of sub-Crash Time driving sections and sub- Duke Nukem shooting it's a strong contender for the worst game of 2011 award. There's one semi-inventive mechanic at play - a 'co-opetition' campaign that sees you acting behind the backs of your two partners while trying to complete the main missions - but even this can't redeem what's ultimately a limp excuse for some gratuitous swearing and gunplay that's been outclassed by luminaries such as Raven Squad and Hour of Victory. Remember those games even existed? No? Precisely.


DEA agent Eddie Guerra, FBI officer Kim Evans and LAPD maverick Ben McCall (who quotes scripture when he's shooting in slow-motion just like his ancestor Ray from previous Juarez outings) make up the trio of playable characters.

Regardless of whom you pick, each character is lumbered with their own secret agenda to work towards while completing the standard mission parameters.

We plumped for Ben and received a phone call at the start of mission two telling us our newly-brewed child was Hepatitis C positive. Ben promised to "take care of it", but without a spare Biology degree and chem lab to hand he chose to do so through the power of cash.

As the mission rolled on our dislikeable trio raided a drug den and we were forced to pocket the dead gang members' wallets. If nobody was looking we netted experience points and Achievements. If our partners caught us red-handed, we lost out.

The majority of the experience sees you trudging through soupy looking environments with draw distances that can be measured with a ruler and taking pot-shots at clumsy enemies with the loosest weapony we've fired in years. Guns have next to no feedback and combat is as remarkable as that found in XBLA slop like Battle: LA.

But just when you think it couldn't get worse you'll be asked to 'steer' a vehicle through some barren environments. And boy, does it get worse. Despite driving flawlessly we failed one mission because our car was too slow to catch the enemy.

When we restarted the level, we completed the chase almost immediately as the vehicle we were after had beached itself on a low wall at its starting point. When we rolled up to its side the level faded to black and we were catapulted to a cut-scene - in a completely different location, no less - showing our ridiculous trio scouting out the very car we'd just nabbed.

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It's staggeringly primitive stuff from start to end, and made all the worse by the sorry fact that Techland had been onto a bit of a good thing with the series. The first two Juarez games, while hardly genre-toppers, earned solid recommendations in our past, and a shift in time period alone isn't enough to spoil the underlying experience: it must have taken real effort to wrench this series so far off the rails.

Feel free to run. Feel free to hide. But whatever you do, for the love of God, don't answer the Call

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The verdict

An inept shooter that manages to make Duke Nukem Forever look like Modern Warfare

  • Novel secret missions
  • Atrocious shooting
  • Embarrassing driving
Xbox 360
Action, FPS