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Call of Juarez: The Cartel

Call of Juarez: The Cartel

The game starts quite excitingly, in the middle of a car chase, with a lot of interesting gun fights. The game throws you in the middle of the action immediately. So like any true epic, Call of Juarez: The Cartel starts in medias res. But does it deliver its promise and fulfill its potential as a great modern western game? Read this review to find out. But if you’re looking for the short answer, the short answer is “no”.

After two games set in the wild west, the third game in the franchise takes us to modern times, and it puts you in the role of three gunslinger cops who are fighting a Mexican drug cartel. All three of these cops have a skeleton in their closet, and a personal backstory. These three misfits are Ben McCall, a grumpy old bitter LAPD cop who has a personal beef with the villain also descendant of Ray McCall (the main character from Bound in Blood), Kimberly Evans of FBI whose brother is among the gangsters they’re slaughtering, and Eddie Guerra of DEA whom everyone suspects of being a corrupt cop. The offices of the DEA are bombed. Assistant Deputy Director Shane Dickson enlists our three buddies as part of a cross-agency unit to track down the culprits which belong to a certain cartel. She informs them of the late Patrick Stone, who was investigating the Cartel up until his death in the bombings. They are also tasked with protecting Stone’s only daughter, Jessica, a key informant in the investigation, whom they place under witness protection. Kim reveals that the Cartel has been purchasing military-grade hardware from an unknown source.

The game is exciting, suspenseful and entertaining, however it suffers from deep flaws and it’s tediously cliched and fails to be innovative in any aspect. And therefore, at its best, it’s a mediocre game.

The merry trio of misfits

The Good

The story is the best thing about The Cartel. Not that it’s anything special or deep, but it’s entertaining, and personally I didn’t stop playing the game because I wanted to see what’s going to happen. The three main characters may grow on you, and you may sympathize with their personal stories. The graphics have their shining moments, and the voice acting of the main characters is very interesting. The game is replayable as you can experience the game from the point of view of other characters, and see if you can find all the hidden items. The collectibles and the hidden items of the game, which you must collect without your partners noticing you, are emerged in the plot and don’t stand out like a sore thumb, and this is a merit games rarely enjoy. Plus, with each character you have different cut scenes and plots. In a way, a new story telling method is merged with a co-op possibility, and this is really good- a great experience. The locations are at least varied. And most importantly, the AI delivers. Unlike Resident Evil 5 where you dreamed of killing your companion more than the zombies, here your companions deliver in the battle. They fight well and as an equal to you. Plus, the enemies are intelligent too, taking cover and such, and being more than meat for you to shoot, and they create the illusion that you’re fighting real humans. The guns are varied and designed realistically.

These are all the good things I can say about this game- and the list of the bad things are going to be much longer. However, let me stress this here. This game is not a Duke Nukem Forever or a Kane and Lynch 2, it’s not that terrible. It’s entertaining, fun to play at least once. But unfortunately…

She looks a bit like Halle Berry….

The Bad

The game remains mediocre through and through, and everything is ultimately half-assed.

I said that the graphics had its great moments, but overall it’s dated and average. At some parts it’s just OK and at some parts it drops below the average or it becomes terrible.The graphics is not bad per se, but it’s not polished. The game freezes every now and then and inexplicably gives your enemies a chance to shoot you down. (And boy, they CAN use that chance). Textures pop in all the time and destroy you suspension of disbelief, and clipping happens a lot to your enemies and your friends.  Sound also can unnerve you. Some characters are acted terribly. And the sounds are repeated throughout and they lack character. The sound cuts from time to time as well. Plus, the controls are annoying, and this really raises eyebrows, as who would’ve thought an FPS could mess up its controls. This game does.

Plus, who wrote the subtitles to that game? Not only they mess up the words and mistake the dialogues, (in many instances you hear something but the subtitle is different), but they fail to follow the most basic English grammar rules. Guys, you know the difference between “their” and “they’re”, no? We teach that in the language institute I work in the very first term. Right after the alphabet.

The driving missions are simply horrifying and not in the good sense of the word. They are not fun, really stupid, and annoyingly you fail too easily. The car chases force you to drive in a predetermined path, and if you lose your path you lose the mission. Plus, there are things that a car, and an SUV at that, are supposed to hit and crush and run and not stop as if they’ve hit a brick wall. But you hit the smallest obstacle, one you could drop while running, and your car stops moving. If you’re spared the pain of driving you must shoot the countless enemies attacking you, and that’s a pain too. Plus, the hand to hand fighting sequences are sloppy and not entertaining. In short, whenever the game leaves shooting and tries to inject some variety, it messes it up.

And when it sticks to its main gameplay- shooting, it’s mediocre. It’s just shooting, as you’ve seen a million times before, with no innovation. The gameplay is devoid of any thought, completely linear. Shoot, kill, go there, spray that, steal that. Nothing more. It’s flat and uninspiring. The slow motion mode could be as well absent, it’s too short and no fun. Sometimes you have to advance from cover to cover to flank an enemy while your teammates lay down fire, but because the game tells you exactly where to go, it’s not much of a challenge.

It’s also a shame you can’t go back and replay past levels without it completely erasing your saved data.  The game is designed to allow three friends to work together, yet the game finds a way of undermining that every step of the way. Plus, now that we’re on the topic of saving, why don’t we have the option to quicksave? This is one of the most unnerving things about any game. LET ME DECIDE WHEN TO SAVE DAMMIT! It’s also really annoying that you have to repeat the whole mission if you quit mid-game. Grandma is dying, man. I have to take her to the hospital. I don’t have time to finish this mission. Let me SAVE!

But the worst, the single worst, thing about the game is the punchlines. Your partners are wagging their chin non-stop, and the comment on everything you do. There are some stock sentences they use. (“Shoot, dammit”, “Try aiming!”, “Do you ever practice with that piece?” “You don’t have to do this all by yourself you know”, etc). The first ten million times you hear those it’s fine, but after that you want to throw something at your monitor. No, I don’t like someone constantly complaining about my gameplay, and if they do, not by repeating the same sentence over and over again. Thank you, but no. This DID cause me to turn off my speakers at some points.

Driving is a pain in this game.

And the Ugly

There are two things you rarely find me to complain about. Swearing and racism. About foul language, I’m a fan of it. About racism, I think being a tolerance Nazi and looking for the signs of racism in every thing, and actually trying to be politically correct is stupid. I hate sissy people who think we’re all equal and all cultures are good more than anything- even actual racists and sexists. Because racists and sexists are our enemies in the open while the pacifists and pluralists are a plague infecting our own ranks, and making the ideas of democracy and equality look ridiculous. However, I’m digressing, I just want to stress that I’m not one of those guys.

However, I have to complain about both swearing and racial stereotyping in this game. The swearing is so over the top and without internal logic arising of the plot and characters that it gets embarrassing and funny. The writing becomes juvenile because of that.

Secondly, why all the bad guys in the game are either Latino or African American? The Latino community have every right to be offended by this game, as it portrays them really negatively, and it’s racist because their race is emphasized, by their broken English and occasional drop of Spanish words.

The game tries to pretend that it deals with deep issues- it doesn’t. It remains a conservative game, supporting the stupid war on drugs, with an emphasis on marijuana which is somehow a harmless substance (less harmful than tobacco and alcohol which are legal anyway) and it portrays the minorities in a negative way, and it seems to be a propaganda against immigration reforms. I know, you are going to quote certain lines and scenes and endings, but this is the overall message of the game- not a beautiful one.

And there’s also a strip club in the game.

So should you buy this game? You might rent it, as it’s worth one playthrough. Not more than that though.

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