Review – Call of Juarez: The Cartel
Nobody said anything about the Cholo!
Call of Juarez: The Cartel is a somewhat bipolar game. Not quite in the extreme sense of good-evil but more like the nice guy in class, a bit dim, although he will try really hard, he helps people if possible but will on occasion crack a stupid racist joke.
Although it’s the third in the Call of Juarez series it technically should just be called The Cartel, with the exception of Ben McCall being related to Ray from the previous games (if you’ve played you may wonder how this is possible), a few similar levels and the ability to slow down time in ‘concentration mode’, there’s really not much else to link it to the others and it certainly has no real ‘western’ elements other than dual wielding revolvers.
The story tells of an impending ‘war with Mexico’ due to the shenanigans of a few banditos and their terrorist activities, an inter agency task force is set up and they proceed to fight back against the drug Cartel. You choose one of three ‘good guys’, each of whom have only a very slight difference in the weapons they can use and their handling, you play through 15 levels, killing waves of identikit ‘gang bangers’ with the occasional driving section and the ability to unlock new weapons as you progress.
A real trick has been missed with the three playable characters, not only do they almost have identical abilities and weapons but rarely do they diverge from the route that everyone takes though a level, a few minor exceptions but in the end it all just felt horribly samey. Being that these levels are tackled with your ‘partners’ it’s really unfortunate that you will probably be better off without them, the AI barely makes a dent in the enemies, all objectives have to be completed by you and the AI doesn’t even attempt to take over during the driving sections with perhaps one exception – playing online is the way to go (if you’re lucky enough to find a game). The only way to play online co-op involves loading up a level and then waiting while you set up a lobby at the start, this is the only point people can join your game. The lack of ‘drop in co-op’ is a real shame and it often means starting a game with no human partners because you don’t want to wait long periods of time in the in game lobby.
The online co-op is far superior to playing offline and not just for the obvious reasons, “co-opative” challenges pop up periodically to reward you with extra xp and serve to keep players on their toes and playing their very best, or at least better than their colleagues. Challenges like ‘get five headshots first’ or ‘do most damage to the helicopter’ are a really nice touch and kept me playing the game after my first playthrough, easily the game’s most enjoyable feature but still a bit too limited.
The ‘secret agenda’ system serves to highlight the duplicitous and morally dubious actions of you and your comrades, these are unique side missions you try to complete without the knowledge of others, unfortunately these usually boil down to ‘go to place and press/hold x’. At best this is a glorified generic item collection mechanic with pretty lame rewards and at worst you get Benny Hill style chases where everyone tries to follow each other to see if they do something secret, or worse still, people running away during firefights to complete their secret agendas. This is only applicable to online co-op because as usual, the AI does bugger all.
As is standard in just about every FPS and its vs. MP mode nowadays, you level up with XP from your in-game actions, unlock new skins, weapons and as usual – perks. A nice new touch allows you to choose an ally in game on the fly to be your partner who will boost your abilities if you stay close to them. The MP mode is actually ok despite having only four maps, you’ll play as cops and robbers, use a few vehicles and complete objectives such as prison breaks.
Call of Juarez: The Cartel is not a well made game, it’s not wholly bad but at the same time too many people will be put off with its many flaws to see some of the nicer ideas. The levels are let down with their shocking similarity on each of the playthroughs, the same goes for the characters themselves. With a greater emphasis on the online co-op with levels that are more action packed or at least more suited to arcadey fun this would be a game that I could promote much more easily. Maybe next time, Esse.