Cowboy first-person shooter Call of Juarez has donned numerous guises since its 2006 inception. The original lurched to life on PC, and lumbered through low-res Wild West towns with clunky shotguns, before 2009's Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood saw developers Techland launch into a faster brand of buddy action.
After horrendous neo-western misstep Call of Juarez: The Cartel in 2011 we're back in the dusty old mid-1800's for what's Techland's fourth, and likely final, attack this generation. And they're going for the jugular.
For starters, Call of Juarez: Gunslinger is downloadable only, releasing on XBLA, PSN and Steam this summer, which Techland license to play quick and dirty.
Short, direct, and packing an almost comic sense of violence, it's Call of Duty in a stetson and spurs.
THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE FUGLY
The demo opens as we awake in a pine forest. Harsh sunlight streams through rough trees like a laser show, and sheer grey cliffs funnel us down a linear hillside which prevents deviation on all sides. We've seen better. You get the sense this almost nebulaean level of bloom is covering for the overall visual murk - players are better blinded than underwhelmed - and, as we push on, we discover Gunslinger's newfound hyper-stylisation is less makeup than flaw-covering camouflage.
The camera wrestles control and pans across a gold and burgundy steam train perched precariously over the edge of a massive drop. Only a gravity-ignoring idiot would venture inside.
We venture inside, and it's here we get to grips with combat. As two duster-wearing thugs pop out from behind a conveniently-placed stack of wooden crates like targets at a gun range, we raise our pistol's iron sights and shoot them dead. Then two more pop out. Bang. Bang.
And so it goes on. A few goons per carriage shoot from behind boxes, knackered seats, and protruding panels, and you return the favour. That's not to say it's dull - at least in the early stages. Each kill doles out praise and score bonuses, while the pace, feedback, and even button layout recalls Call of Duty mixed with those frothy light gun games that gulp down quids in knackered arcades.
It's like COD mixed with the kind of frothy light gun games you get in arcades
Bang, duck, reload; bang, duck, reload. As to if to hammer home the point that this is definitely not a History Channel Wild West special, you've even got a dedicated dynamite throw, with sticks of red explosives functioning exactly as military-issued frag grenades will 150 years later.
Still, we keep pushing on through the train. Between carriages, and indeed within them, a thought comes to mind: there have been many great games set under, over and inside trains. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow. Mirror's Edge.