Call of Juarez: The Cartel or Why did you leave the Western setting?

Call of Juarez: The Cartel leaves you there with many questions: Why does the game feel unfinished? Why was stuff removed we could witness in trailers (dual wielding Uzis, team commands) ? And why, for John Wayne’s sake, why did Techland abandon the Western setting?

First things first. It is possible Techland thought that any Western themed game might feel stale after Red Dead Redemption. Well, this thought is understandable. But if you think “hey, we shouldn’t compete with ONE game”, is it logical to compete with DOZENS – a year? And here’s the thing: Compared to the many, many other modern shooters, The Cartel falls flat on its reshaped face. Don’t get Rabidgames wrong, it is not a terrible game, and yes, it has some good ideas: The team entry is always fun (all members enter a room all guns blazing), the hidden agendas are a great idea (although the execution gets boring after two levels), the game is a decent coop experience and some shoot-outs are fun to play. Even the cliché-ridden story turns out to be entertaining.

But for one achievement, there are two drawbacks: The driving is abysmal (if you play the campaign alone, you are always forced to drive yourself while your A.I. buddies shoot holes in the sky rather than into your pursuers), the mandatory bullet time is ordinary and feels out of context, some levels ARE unfinished (from the inside of a house you walk into a desert and the town magically disappears). The settings are underwhelming, too: L.A. looks all the boring same (hoods and freeways), the national park and a cemetery are mere corridors – only the city of Juarez with its Mexican flair and the opulent villa near the end are well-chosen backdrops with some personality. But they are not more than empty backdrops: It seems the developers randomly decided which doors are functional – which adds to the unfinished sour feeling of this third incarnation of Call of Juarez.

The three protagonists of The Cartel are walking stereotype bombs: You have the old-fashioned (brutal but honest) justice seeking cop, the corrupt swaggering Latino DEA agent and the black female dodgy FBI officer with a hood past – it ain’t easy finding a character to identify with! If you want to get to know the whole story, good luck – you have to play the entire game three times. Most of the time, all three protagonists work closely together which means you’re bound to play the very same 90% of the game three times. Fun? It depends – some levels are alright but then again, there are the many ropy driving sequences …

And one more thing, Techland: If we play a team-based shooter, please, for fuck’s sake, give us some basic commands. Rabidgames doesn’t demand that much: take cover, attack, follow – that’s it. Remember Freedom Fighters? This addition alone would have made the game a whole lot more enjoyable than those moronic A.I. partners.

One word about the multiplayer: If you wait for 5 minutes and there are only 2 people waiting for the game to start, it can tell you two things: Either everyone is busy playing the campaign or no one bothered to buy the game at all. The multiplayer itself is fun only because of the partner system: Take care of your partner and assist him, and both of you will get more EXP. Apart from that good idea, it is generic.

Rabidgames says: Yes, Call of Juarez: The Cartel is fun sometimes. But if there is not one single element in the game which stands out and is more than just mediocre in comparison to top notch-shooters, there is just one thing left to say: Techland’s move to leave their niche and throw themselves into the shark tank of contemporary shooters was not an act of bravery. It was a suicide commando with the expected outcome – another promising series bombed.

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