Call of Juarez: The Cartel Preview (PC)

A new direction is never an easy thing for a franchise. On the one hand, you risk alienating what fans you already have who've been there from the beginning. On the other hand, your new direction may not be all that good, or at least, not good enough to attract new audiences. That's not to say the new Call of Juarez game - The Cartel - is looking like it's going to go that way, but it's a very real danger.

The Three Musketeers? Maybe?
You can tell the guys over at Techland are taking this seriously though. As we sat through the opening presentation, they really wanted you to believe in this new modern 'wild west' that had been created. From a sociological perspective, there are many parallels between what the world was like in the original Wild West, and what certain areas and cultures are like today... forgetting for a moment the fact that Juarez and Mexico are actually to the south, but whatever. You'll have seen all of the 'Call of Juarez Duty' and other COD-referencing jokes at the time of the announcement, but in all honesty this looks more like a first-person GTA than anything. A first-person GTA that's filled with Mexicans and other Hispanic stereotypes.

From what we know of the plot so far, there are three protagonists to the game, the main one being Ben McCall. Descended from Ray McCall (Somehow. They didn't want to explain the genealogy to me), Ben is an LAPD officer who also took part in the Vietnam War, is the son of a pastor and has a very big chip on his shoulder... if they'd made this guy any harder, he'd be the lovechild of Mr. T. and Chuck Norris. Eddie Guerra, not the wrestler, is a DEA officer who's the archetypal Hispanic smooth-talking womaniser, who knows how to manipulate people into getting what he wants. Finally, there's not-so-token female FBI agent Kim Evans, who is ambitious, a rising star and who might have daddy issues.

At first glance, the story seems to be your a-typical gangster conspiracy and drugs story, with the added bonus that someone from within one of the three agencies is a mole (I bet it's Guerra). These three individuals, thrust together not out of choice but circumstance, must try and co-operate to find the mole and also bring down the Cartel. It's probably not going to win an Oscar, but it's hard to mess up formulaic plots like this, so it should be enjoyable enough. As they introduced in Bound in Blood, in The Cartel, whenever you start each level you get to choose who to play out of whoever's available. Other staples, such as the slow-down shoot-em-ups also make a return.

Gameplay wise, this three-way coop that Techland are making the cornerstone of the game seems to be one of the more interesting aspects of the game. Each character naturally has their own play style, but each character also experiences the main plot in subtly different ways. This was demonstrated to us in a level where, whilst on the way to reach an informant, Eddie received a phone call, but only Eddie (and thus the player controlling Eddie) knows what was said. It's obviously brought up through in-game conversation, but we're lead to believe that there's no real way of knowing what Eddie tells the others is true. Obviously, if Eddie is player controlled, that player can just tell the others what was actually said, but at its core this seems quite interesting. Reminds us of those Murder Mystery games where someone knows something the others don't, but they need to play along anyway.

We understand multiplayer will be making a return, although no details on what form that will take. Maybe that will be a bit COD-like, who knows. Still there's some interesting stuff here, and their justification for taking the franchise into the modern seems well thought out and as we've already mentioned - they believe it, so maybe you will too.
I wonder if that hat falls within LAPD dress regulations...

There really wasn't much to see, which is odd considering the game is supposed to be out later this year. Still, you all know how these things work, so we'll have to keep an eye out on this and wait and see how it handles. We don't mind saying right now that this is unlikely to set the world on fire, but with any luck it still may yet be a worthy addition to the Call of Juarez name. Call of Juarez: The Cartel will be coming to all platforms in summer 2011.

Most anticipated feature: Hard to tell at this point, but where they go with three-player co-op could be interesting.



By Eversor (SI Elite) on Mar 07, 2011
PC version. For a while I thought that there would only be PS3 and Xbox360 versions.