Call of Juarez
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Game Reviewed: Call of Juarez
Platform: PC (also on Xbox 360)
ESRB Rating: M
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Fatherless and raised by his Mexican mother and abusive white step-father, Billy leaves the town of Hope armed only with courage and a riddle his mother told him as a little boy of the legendary treasure of Juarez. After his search turns fruitless, Billy “Candle” (known for the medallion he wears), returns to his home broke and weaponless.
Immediately he discovers Hope is still the same town he remembers, if not worse. Losing the only belonging he has to a racist Sheriff with more than a little dislike for him, Billy is forced to find some protection and slip through town to his family farm without running into those with bad intentions for him – the Reverend Ray and Clyde Forrester, a crooked saloon owner. Things turn dangerous when he visits the saloon to find a gun and he finds himself running for his life only to discover his mother and step-father murdered. Fearful that he will be accused of killing his own family, Billy flees for fear of his life yet again.
Enter Reverend Ray, the town’s only “fire and brimstone” preacher and brother to Thomas, Billy’s step-father. Hearing an alarm raised, Ray arrives at the scene of his brother’s murder only to see Billy Candle running and trying to hide from the Reverend or anyone that might accuse him of killing the man. Returning to a dusty strongbox, Ray dons the gear of a gunfighter and steps back into the life he swore to leave behind, all to exact vengeance on his brother’s murderer.
Thus begins the dichotomy nature of Call of Juarez, as the player fills the roles of Billy Candle and Reverend Ray. As Episodes alternate between each character, the player learns new skills and discovers that not everything is as it seems, for Billy or for Ray, eventually taking both to Juarez and each other.
What Parents Need to Know
True to its Old West theme, showdowns and gunfights are plentiful. There is little gore; however, there are splashes of red (blood) followed by stains and in some instances, arrows that stick out of wounded or killed enemies. Enemies not only shoot but also attack (in certain instances) with knives or hatchets.
Since Call of Juarez is a western themed shooter and the story takes place near the Mexico border, much of the explicatives are in Spanish (i.e.: p*ndejo) along with “hell,” “damn,” and terms like “son of a b*tch.”
There is no nudity in Juarez and the majority of the game is free of sexual content with two exceptions. The first is a portion of the first episode that occurs early in the game involving a “working girl,” Suzie, who the character Billy needs to visit in order to obtain a gun. In doing this, Suzie offers some oral pleasure but is interrupted before getting very far. This is seen from Billy’s perspective.
The second is various innuendos or terms used (i.e. trollop, “treat her like a whore”, etc) that are used during key cinematics or gameplay surrounding one of three female characters. Most of these terms or language is used in or immediately following the scene with Suzie, and brief cinematics referring to Molly, the girl to be rescued.
There is very little spiritual content. In one episode, Billy is rescued by a shaman, Calm Water, and is sent on several tasks to develop his skill and courage. Calm Water refers to the spirit of the river and to “bad spirits” that endanger Billy and himself.
Reverend Ray sometimes will quote “wrath of God” scriptures as he guns down his enemies or says prayers in the load period before the beginning of an episode. As the story progresses, we see Ray change from a hell-bent vigilante to a repentant hero.
While showdowns and gunfights are the driving action behind Juarez, there is an important boundary in the game – the player, neither as Ray nor Billy, are allowed to kill or harm anyone not attacking them. They are also prohibited from killing horses. However, there are moments in the game when it is required to kill attacking wolves or in the episode with Calm Water, hunt for rabbits using a bow and arrows.
There is also a multiplayer option. However, since the release of the prequel Bound in Blood, online play has all but ceased for the original game.
As an avid player of first person shooters, Juarez offers a new twist to the genre with period setting and twin storylines that I have not encountered before. There are several innovative actions in the game as well that truly set Juarez apart from many of the linear style First Person Shooters on the market, although some or many of these have been adopted or translated to function well inside Juarez. The player is able to ride horses, pickup and move objects, quick-draw (think slow-motion) and box. And while all of these combine with a fairly decent and engaging plot(s), and excellent graphics, the game itself certainly earns the “M” rating branded by the ESRB.