Review: Call of Juarez: The Cartel (360)

Review: Call of Juarez: The Cartel (360)

Call of Juarez: The Cartel comes from developer Techland. That name might sound familiar to a lot of folks out there as the developer of the soon to be released Dead Island. The game takes place during the modern day, which is quite a jump from the first two set during the 1800’s. You have to wonder what Techland was thinking when they did this…Did they say to themselves, “We can never compete with Red Dead Redemption and how good it was so let’s try modern day, maybe it will give us a leg up on the competition.” Well it didn’t; instead it gave the developers a bland and uninspired first person shooter.

The only connection the game has to its previous incarnations is a vague reference that the characters, Ben McCall and Juan Mendoza, are descendants of Ray McCall and Juan Mendoza, characters from the first two games. Beyond that game doesn’t touch base with its roots at all. The plot is straightforward: you are part of an inter-agency task force set up to take down the Mendoza cartel. There are a few twists and turns in the story but nothing shocking like the developers were hoping for. You can play through the game as one of three characters: Ben McCall, an LAPD detective with a connection to the crimes; Eddie Guerra, a DEA agent/Iraq war vet who decides to hide his identity with a Barack Obama mask; and Kimberly Evans, an FBI agent who used to run with a gang.

The gameplay is pretty by the book: shoot enemies, run to next area, shoot enemies. That would be all well and good if there weren’t so few checkpoints within the game. Spend 20 minutes going through an area and die? Well, restart at your last checkpoint which might not even spawn in the enemies for you. The guns seem to be deadly accurate the majority of the time. That is for your enemies, of course, and not you. The AI will always target the player it seems and not the 2 NPC partners you have with you instead, making it more difficult than needed. On that note the NPC’s are virtually useless, not able to kill any enemies themselves. There are secret objects and objectives laying around you can pick up or do for experience. If you get caught picking up these weapons or doing the mission you get none of the experience. Get in a group of players who have went through the game already and you are out of luck on getting any of the experience items. Experience is used to level up and gain access to new weapons you can use. You also have the ability to slow down time using concentration mode. Kill enough enemies and you get bullet time. The driving sequences are one of the few enjoyable parts. The mood for these sequences are just right making everything feel tense and on the line if you screw up too bad the rest of the game was not able to keep this feel.

The graphics are what you would expect out of current gen games for the environments. It doesn’t push any envelopes with the details it puts into the levels nor does it take any steps back. Now, the guns are bland and look very fake even by video game standards.  The characters look fine and there is nothing spectacular or disfiguring to look at when it comes to them. At times you can see the lines where the buildings were not put together properly and see out into the vast abyss of nothing.

The voice acting itself sounds like it is in a tin can the majority of the time. Add this with the character lip syncing not adding up you will get moments when one of the characters lips are not moving but you still hear voice over work in the background. It gets even worse once you realize that the voice over work does not even match up with what the subtitles are saying. This get frustrating when you actually are trying to follow the convoluted story the game calls a plot. What are supposed to be quippy one liners that happen when you activate concentration mode instead become an extra annoyance as you have to listen to the repetitive lines be said over and over and over again.  The music they go for is this modernized western music kind of like the cover of Riders on the Storm they used for Ghost Rider. It isn’t bad and it fits the mood and setting they are going for. The sound effects themselves are not as horrible as the voice acting but still not as good as most current gen shooters.

I would avoid this game if I were you. If you are wanting to play a western themed game go play one of the previous Call of Juarez games or Red Dead Redemption. You’ve got to wonder if this is any indication as to the quality we can expect in Techland’s next game (Dead Island) or if during Call of Juarez’s development they weren’t giving it their all and instead putting all the effort in Dead Island.


Driving sequences intense and entertaining. Music fitting with setting.Horrible voice acting. Unusable friendly AI. Very few Checkpoints. Bad weapon design. Little to no connection with previous installments.
47 out of 100

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