- The Washington Times - Monday, May 27, 2013

Couch desperados looking for shootouts with some of the toughest hombres to ever wear a 10-gallon hat need only answer the Call of Juarez: Gunslinger (Ubisoft and Techland, Rated Mature, reviewed for Xbox 360, 1,200 Microsoft Points or $15).

Since the release of the near universally hated Call of Juarez: Cartel (moving players from the American Old West to a modern-day Los Angeles and Mexico) back in 2011, fans of the original series gave Ubisoft a needed verbal kick in the chaps for the flagrant faux pas.

The company has obviously heard the cries of “hang ‘em high,” as we return to late 1800s and takes on some of the greatest outlaws from that period of history in this downloadable, Xbox Live Arcade adventure.

A solo player becomes Silas Greaves and over eight episodes gets a glimpse into the making of a bounty-hunting legend in this revenge-fueled, bloody first-person shooter.

Roaming the gorgeous lands of the Southwest leads to a linear story narrated by Greaves and highlighting his unbelievable exploits while finding this grizzled-hero up to his poncho in buckshot, whizzing bullets and exploding sticks of dynamite.

Our cowboy’s constant stream of name-dropping leads to encounters with a who’s who from the time period including Johnny Ringo, Billy the Kid, John Wesley Hardin, Bat Masterson, Wyatt Earp, Pat Garrett, Jesse James and Butch Cassidy. The story plays off his tall tales hilariously as he changes his version of a story midstream (were those apache or the Cowboys gang raining lead down on me?) and give the player an upper hand in a fight.

With eight weapons to choose from and options to carry duel six-shooters, rifle and shotgun, the player hunts his prey and can even duck bullets via a magical Matrix-style, slow-down maneuver called the Sense of Death (make sure the skull-dice-shaped indicator is full). He can also target multiple enemies as the action further slows down with a trick called Concentration (kills fill up that meter).

In this spaghetti western, many a tale ends with a boss showdown as a player uses his controller’s triggers and analog stick to hone in his senses to focus (down to hearing a rapid heartbeat) and wait for any twitch for an opponent to pull his gun before a player pulls a six-shooter and fires. 

Successes with various kills also (headshots preferred) leads to spending skill points to upgrade and hone Greaves‘ long and close range gun fighting.

Presented throughout the action is a cell-shaded wonderland complete with waterfalls, mountain vistas, colorful canyons and babbling brooks that director John Ford would have proudly used for many of his famed films in Sedona, Ariz. The stunning game design is further complemented with comic-book-panel-style illustrations that introduce many of the villains.

Additionally, scattered among the tumbleweed and mine corridors are cards called Nuggets of Truth filled with educational information tied to the real-life characters.

It’s 54 packets of historical data that offers the myths and realities of some of the people, places and events from the era — such as Bannack, Mont., was the home of The Innocents gang, believed to be responsible for more than 100 murders; or Dirty Dave Rudabaugh (a compadre of Billy the Kid) was shot and decapitated by a Mexican machete in 1886.

Those still hankering for a fight after the main event can move over to the Arcade mode and choose from three classes of rogues (Grizzled Trapper, Daring Gunslinger and Cold-Blooded Ranger) for some shootin’ and point-accumulating fun or the more intriguing Duel mode. Here, challenge up to 15 of the nastiest legends in the ole’ West to those excruciatingly tense shootout showdowns with only five lives to get the job down.

Ubisoft finally delivers justice to fans of the franchise with the inexpensive and entertaining Call of Juarez: Gunslinger, and it was worth the wait.

Parental advice: The ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board), after watching the amount of ways Silas Greaves can shoot guys in the face while constantly cussing up a storm, decided to label this game “M” and that stands for mature — cowpokes 17 years and older need only take part in Call of Juarez: Gunslinger. So don’t let your 14–year-old convince you that “I’m the coolest virtual Clint Eastwood dude in the West, and those bad guys got what they deserved.” A player guns down in cold, gushing blood a variety of outlaws that look culled from the WWE with zero leniency.

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