Release Date: 21/05/2013
Played On: PC
Available On: PC / PS3 / XB360
Time Played: 4h 30m
Progress: Completed Campaign
Developer: Techland
Publisher: Ubisoft

Let me tell you a story. You know the one about those games that big studios like to make every now and then as short experiences packed with quality production. Call of Juarez: Gunslinger stands as a tightly paced tale of compelling gun-play and some interesting ideas. These short AAA games are a good example of how it's not the size of a game, it's the way you use it.

This is the story of a bounty hunter spinning a tale of revenge and redemption played out in the old west. It's a series of linear levels, each focused on tracking down and eliminating famous outlaws who wronged you.

By the end you've traversed through rickety gold mines, fought on speeding locomotives, and raised desolate towns to the ground. When you've found your prey (be it Billy the Kid, Butch & Sundance, or some other infamous bandit), you become locked in a tense duel that only ends when one of you is dead. 

I really enjoy it when AAA developers and publishers create short polished experiences that aren't concerned with having the biggest stats. However, I'd love it if they pushed the envelope a little further to really flex some creative muscle and expand on some of the more interesting elements.

Throughout Gunslinger, you're playing through events as they are told by an unreliable narrator, which happens to be one of my favourite literary devices. At a couple of points in the story, the gameplay changes drastically because the narrator remembers it differently, or corrects a mistake. This shift in the world has real impact during a level as paths and enemies appear out of thin air as the narrative is edited.

Part of me wanted to see more of this throughout the game, to really take advantage of a good idea. Then I wonder if it would have the same impact and be as interesting if it were constant and even overplayed. 

It's that fine line between having a good idea and turning it into a gimmick that interests me, and I have to believe that they tried every option and settled on the best.

By the time the story had been told, I felt like it was time to wrap it up, so the pacing worked well overall. I would have liked to have seen some more of the shifting narrative, but what the game provided was enough to be satisfied. The only let down was a duel at the end of the game that introduced an entirely new mechanic, simply to never use it again. 

Turns out that despite being a somewhat older game (last generation at least), Call of Juarez: Gunslinger holds up very well and I am eager to recommend it as it's often super cheap to pick up in a sale. There's not a lot to say about a short game, other than whether it's worth the investment and this one definitely is.

This is one of those "do yourself a favour and play it" games. So do yourself a favour…

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