Although Call of Juarez has already shipped in Europe on the PC, Ubisoft and developer Techland have been working on an Xbox 360 port of the game that will ship alongside the PC version in America this summer. We recently had the opportunity to try out the multiplayer features of the Xbox 360 version of this Wild West-themed shooter, and staggered away from our high noon duel with these impressions.
Before you can hop into multiplayer here, you'll have to pick a class. Call of Juarez offers up four character classes for online play: the rifleman, the gunslinger, the miner, and the sniper. The rifleman wields a carbine or light rifle, moves at an average pace, and packs a pair of revolvers for close-range encounters. Miners can dual-wield a variety of weapons, including pistols and shotguns, but they're going to be best known for the five sticks of dynamite that they can throw. Gunslingers are a faster character that can also dual-wield revolvers, but they have speedloaders, which lets them reload their weapons much quicker than any other class, and get to move more quickly to boot; they also get a couple sticks of dynamite to throw, but not as many as the miner. Lastly, snipers wield a long-range and highly accurate scoped rifle for distance work, as well as a slow-firing revolver for close-range encounters.
The classes are varied enough to give you a variety of experiences when you switch between them but not enough to be confusing or off-putting. The sniper and the rifleman both reward somewhat deliberate play, in that they can engage opponents from a distance (which makes it fun to try and find ladders to climb atop the buildings in the multiplayer levels and pick people off from above). The miner and gunslinger are both a bit more frantic, in that you'll be trying to get up close and personal with your foes to shoot them down like dogs with your revolvers or make a beeline for the biggest melee to throw your dynamite into the fray.
We tried a few of the game modes on display here, which are mostly riffs on the standard multiplayer modes you're probably already familiar with. There's deathmatch; team deathmatch (called skirmish here); a wanted mode, which plays similarly to juggernaut mode from Halo; and a few capture-the-flag-style robbery modes. We started out with some basic team deathmatch on a map called High Noon, which featured a large, open, dusty street between two lines of storefronts, along with a couple of alleyways behind the stores for surreptitious movement. It's a simple map, but it still offered up a good variety of shooting, as we were able to track down foes as they crossed the street while we perched on a balcony with our rifle.
Next up, we tried the wanted mode. In it, one player at any given time is wanted and appears on all other players' minimaps; when this player is killed, the player who killed him becomes wanted and can begin scoring points. So it's the job of the wanted player to earn points by killing everyone else, but everyone else is also focusing on him, causing most of the action to be concentrated in a small section of the map. This made for some really hectic gameplay, even in a smallish six-person match, as most players wound up becoming miners or gunslingers and used their dynamite to barrage the wanted player until he died. It created a vicious circle of nonstop gunfire, with most players only acting as the wanted for a few seconds, but it's still a lot of fun.
There are plenty of maps available, including a half-dozen or so based on real events. For instance, to try out the robbery game type, we flipped over to a map that was based on one of the famous train robberies by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. In robbery mode, one team of lawmen attempts to protect bags of gold from encroaching bandits, who have to grab the gold and bring it back to their starting area to abscond with it, basically making this a one-sided capture-the-flag game.
As you might expect from a game based on the Wild West, the gunplay in Call of Juarez is noticeably different than what you might be used to from modern shooters. There are no machine guns or high-tech gadgets to rely on, so you'll have to acquaint yourself with the antique shooters of the period if you want to get your kill on. That said, not everything is slow and methodical; the revolver action of gunslingers, in particular, will allow those of us who don't possess pinpoint accuracy with a rifle to get some kills. The game uses the same health system as Call of Duty, so if you find yourself taking damage, you can duck out of sight for a few seconds and come out blasting.
All things considered, Call of Juarez's multiplayer looks like it should be an amusing counterpart to the heaps of World War II or sci-fi themed shooters you have on your shelf. While it doesn't appear to be trying anything incredibly groundbreaking, the unique selection of weapons will make it worth checking out. Keep an eye on GameSpot for a full review of the game when it launches in June.