Call of Juarez: The Hard Sell

User Rating: 6.5 | Call of Juarez: The Cartel PS3
Call of Juarez is a rare anomaly. It's a series with no real fan base, mediocre reviews and lacklustre sales; yet The Cartel marks its second sequel, and a reboot of sorts for the franchise. Unlike the Wild West setting of previous instalments, this takes a modern day approach. The billing of `the new wild west' is never fully justified; it's mostly a shooter that revels in the seedy underbelly of gang culture. With set pieces ranging from ghetto shootouts, strip club brawls and enjoyable (if repetitive) car chases. Whilst this isn't necessarily a bad thing, it's so far removed from anything that has gone before. Only loose links are made to previous games; a return to Juarez does feature, and one of the protagonists is a descendant of the fire and brimstone Preacher of the originals.

The plot revolves around an inter-agency task force that is formed to catch the bombers of a federal building. Kim Evans is a long range specialist who works for the FBI; Eddie Guerra is a smooth talking DEA agent, whereas Ben McCall is a no-nonsense cop. To further tensions between these characters, secret agendas can be found on most levels. Successful completion requires that you are not seen by the other characters, and tasks can range from bugging a phone to stealing something valuable. Additionally, secret items can be picked up on each level. For Kim these are firearms, Eddie steals bags of marijuana, and strangely, Ben collects walkie talkies. Completing these objectives earns XP, which in turn unlocks more guns. Because the plot lumbers from one set piece to another, this mechanic adds some intrigue, and much needed depth to the characters. It also explains their motivations, even if they are extremely heavy handed. For example, Ben's secret agendas benefit a prostitute whose child has contracted Hepatitis C.

As a co-operative experience, The Cartel is actually quite fun. But sadly the online community is non-existent, and getting into a game can be a frustrating affair. In addition to playing the game co-operatively, competitive multiplayer is also included. Despite only 4 maps, they are well designed and varied. Furthermore, The Cartel deserves credit with its lobby designs, which allows players to interact with each other before the level loads; anything that improves upon cold, clinical menu screens is greatly appreciated.

Visuals are functional, but never spectacular, and the majority of gameplay elements are blatantly lifted from other titles (like Team Entry). The Cartel is also riddled with glitches, although they are rarely game breaking. On a few occasions, I couldn't advance to the next objective because a character got stuck on a piece of scenery, or the objective itself wouldn't update. However, these were all solved with a checkpoint reload. There is also a baffling difference between in game dialogue and the corresponding subtitles. At one point a character says "that gives us probable cause", but the text reads "probably cause". It's a minor issue, but a schoolboy error nonetheless.

Despite requiring 3 playthroughs (including one on hard), this is a relatively easy Platinum, and at a budget price it's a FPS worth playing.