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New 'Call of Juarez' is unforgiveable

Sept 22, 2011

By Daniel Barron - G4 Canada

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Call of Juarez: The CartelEvery so often, a game comes out that nearly defies explanation; a game that's in a class all its own. One can only wonder how a group of developers managed to put together something so ... mind-boggling.

For the current generation of games, Call of Juarez: The Cartel is one of those titles. Don't think for a second, though, that it's mind-bogglingly amazing or that the class it's in is comparable to the Halos, Battlefields, or other great first person shooters.

This third instalment in the Call of Juarez series is, simply put, a complete and utter mess from top to bottom. It's full of problems from the opening chapter, right to the final showdown. The only reason you'd ever want to finish this is so you can say you played through one of the worst games to be released in the last decade. A virtual badge of honour, if you will.

While the first two games in the series took place in the tried and true Wild West, "The Cartel" fast forwards to the 21st century. Players take control of one of three characters, all of whom are part of a task force that's been asked to track down a drug cartel that has bombed a U.S. law enforcement agency.

All three are equally some of the most unlikeable protagonists (if you can even call them that) ever put into a video game. Players can choose to take control of any one of the three. There's Ben McCall, a gruff, cowboy hat-wearing member of the LAPD; Kim Evans, a no-nonsense FBI agent; and my character of choice, Eddie Guerra, a smooth-talker who works for the DEA.

Although the developers at Techland attempted to flesh out the characters by giving each of them their own storyline that plays out during throughout the game, the campaign itself is as dull as a person could ever imagine.

Call of Juarez: The Cartel For the most part, players will simply be going from checkpoint to checkpoint taking out waves of enemies. There are a few objectives to complete in between, such as spray painting walls with gang symbols or carrying suitcases to vehicles, but it adds exactly zero excitement to the game. Even the numerous car chase sequences are bland and completely unmemorable in every respect.

One of the biggest problems with "The Cartel" is the combat itself. The game uses the ever-popular Call of Duty health-regenerating system, where the screen becomes redder the more hurt you are. You can always simply get behind cover to regain power and get back in the fight.

The problem is, players barely have any health to begin with, and it takes way too long to regenerate. Far too often, firefights result in taking pot-shots at a couple of enemies while you get shot once or twice by AI that always has surprisingly good aim. Then, it's duck into cover, wait about 10 seconds (an eternity in a shooting-heavy game like this), and repeat.

Call of Juarez: The Cartel Although many guns are unlocked throughout the campaign, very few of them are actually satisfying. The six shooter harkens back to the previous games' Wild West roots, but is rendered nearly unusable because of its painfully slow reload time.

Hit detection is also shady at best. There was one moment in the game where I entered a room using a slow-motion breaching technique. This is typically a chance to mow down numerous enemies before time begins to speed up. I had my shotgun aimed at one particular enemy who was about four feet away from me. Try as I might, he would not go down despite my filling his midsection with too many shotgun bullets to count.

Then there are the completely unfair and teeth-grindingly frustrating battles involving helicopters. For the first one, you're at least given a rocket launcher. Another one, though, takes place in the middle of the desert, and all you have to shoot with is whatever machine gun you're equipped with. Your only cover is a dilapidated trailer with barely any cover opportunity, and enemies are attacking from one side. It will take a minor miracle to down the chopper before your fifteenth death.

There's more though. "The Cartel" includes such exotic locations as a strip joint, several alleys, a random hotel, and a club full of people. Interestingly, the first mission that's in any way enjoyable is one that's wild west-esque. You only spend one chapter there though, and then it's back to the drudgery or Los Angeles, or somewhere like that ...

Call of Juarez: The Cartel The game itself looks absolutely horrendous. It seems as if the developers mo-capped wax museum castaways for the character models, and the environments themselves are as bland and uninspired as they come.

The voice acting isn't terrible, but the dialogue is atrocious. Characters spit out the same vulgar one-liners over and over again ("if it wasn't for me, you'd be muthaf---in' dead") and as the game progresses, it's like each member of the task force is trying to one-up the other in terms of being offensive.

Then there are technical issues like glitches that stop the player from even progressing to a new checkpoint. At one section of the game, I had to clear the area around a hotel building of enemies in order to allow one of my AI partners to leave her room safely. Despite clearing the area, the character never left her room, and I was unable to progress. The only way to fix the problem was to restart the chapter completely.

There are also smaller - but just as annoying - problems such as terrible grammar, such as when a tip pops up onscreen telling you to "quickly advance to a next cover." This is just sloppy stuff.

It came as a huge surprise that the multiplayer portion of the "The Cartel" is actually half-decent. Teams are split up into cops and robbers, and each team has to complete an objective, such as recovering cash-filled suitcases (or defending them), or breaching a safe house (or protecting it). There's also classic team deathmatch for those who just have one thing on their mind.

Call of Juarez: The Cartel There's a full ranking system that unlocks new weapons as you level up, a cool between-game shooting range where you can practice with different guns while a new session loads up, and a good list of stats after each completed game.

That's the one good thing Call of Juarez: The Cartel has going for it. For those who want a solid single-player and/or co-operative campaign, this is the last FPS they should look to.

This is a travesty of a video game, plain and simple.

 

Call of Juarez: The Cartel
Format: PlayStation 3
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Techland
ESRB Rating: M for Mature 17+
Official Site: http://callofjuarez.ubi.com/the-cartel/en-GB/home/

Rating: 3 / 10

 
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