It’s been a while since I actually put a playtest up on the site – instead often using my Twitter account to offer feedback on the games I have been playing, but I figured that it was high time I got my arse off of the micro-blogging cube and sat it squarely back on the pretending-to-have-an-opinion-that-matters-blogger cube. Today I bring you my playtest of Call of Juarez: The Cartel – the modern day threequel to the Old West set series. I liked the first two, and was keen to get my grubby mitts on this game, surely the addition of the gritty modern setting, with all of it’s new weaponry and vehicular action would make a fairly decent series better?
Well in short no.
Not at all.
In fact, it was nothing short of painful to play.
To start things off we are treated to -sadly the best part of the game – a retro tinged typeface/loading/saving warning screen set before heading into a prologue that was as confusing as it was pointless. You are in a car, driving the wrong way up a freeway section while ‘bad guys’ are shooting at you.
I know… cutting edge eh?
It appears – from the garbled dialogue heard between swearing, grunts and gunshots – that they are after a passenger in the car, and that it is obvious that you have to defend yourself with extreme prejudice. This is achieved by thumbsticking yourself out of the window and into the out-of-focus and blurry world of The Cartel.
Now I must be clear on this – unlike the game – I don’t mean that thematically the game is blurry, I mean literally. Everything has a soft focus to it, and when you get shot this gets worse, while also adding in those obvious red lines that appear when anyone is shot in real life. As a result of this design choice aiming at something specific becomes quite irksome, but is made worse when you are supposed to be shooting at a few cars on a busy highway. They are not marked with a HUD icon in any way and the only way to really differentiate them from the other innocent road users is to look out for larger vehicles with a man popping out of the top – or if you are REALLY ‘lucky’ you see his red dot sight right before you get shot, again – and then squeezing off a few rounds into the vehicle. Shooting the engine is effective, but for those in front of you it is a harder task and one that is made no easier by poor design.
The section is mercifully brief and then we are whisked off to three weeks earlier and witness the formation of a team of ‘super cops’ – actually, stick ‘team’ in inverted commas also, as it is clear that these three will work together under duress alone – in an attempt to investigate a bombing and take down a cartel before all out war is declared between the US and Mexico.
Nothing wrong there I hear you cry.
Well no, if anything the plot if just about crazy enough to get some feel of being an episode of The Unit – or any other special ops based TV show/movie involving a crack unit who work to their own rulebook – but there is one huge, GLARING issue that I took with it.
Namely the actual sound recording itself.
Set inside an office the dialogue sounds as if each actor was recording their lines while they had their head inside a particularly cavernous vaginal cavity – or a portaloo if you are not fond of picturing extremely huge vaginas.
Does that word offend you, if makes some men uncomfortable.
Yes, they don’t like hearing it and find it difficult to say whereas without batting an eye a man will refer to his dick or his rod or his Johnson.*
So, as I was saying, the new group of rough around the edges tough guys – and gals – are in their offices/orifices providing a healthy supply of plot discussion before we realise that the gnarled detective is standing in the shadows. The descendant of the original McCall/Candle bloodline this detective is key to solving the case – it seems – as a result of fighting in Viet Nam (as it is written in the game’s subtitles) with a victim of the previously mentioned bomb attack AND the bad man of the piece. Oh and he also survived the bomb attack.
Yeah, he was the lone survivor.
Anyways one we get away from the echoey office of despair – sadly leaving behind the nice dust effects in the projector’s light beam – and head off to the ‘lobby’ with another cutscene.
Lobby sections offer the chance to buddy up for some co-op action as well as selecting the weapons that you wish to use on the level. Once you have selected your weapons you then get into the car… and drive off… wait… what..?
Yeah, as nonsensical as that seems you have to select your weapons from the vehicle you are about to drive in.
Which then throws up another little irk.
Now some shooting games – namely those that don’t wish to be bold enough to expunge the staples – still feel the need for pointless vehicle sections, but at least they add in some action. The driving section I played was a straight run from point A to point B, through a gate and up to point C off-road. Problem was that the trip was dull, still all played out in the game’s patented soft-focus asthetic while restricting your viewpoint to one of two in-car angles. One lets you see most of the road through a windscreen and the other seems to want you to admire the rather woeful interior of the car, while driving, at speed (although you can barely tell if you are driving at all).
I could just about accept these niggles if the car handled with any competence, but that was woeful as well. In fact I let go of the accellerator button (seemingly either trigger) and noted no drop in speed at all. So trapped in this generic, soft-focus crap wagon I am forced to listen to the characters coming up with a plan involving causing some shenanigans and blaming it on another gang, thus bringing out the ‘top dogs’ – hopefully no-one has a camera set up. Or a mobile phone. Or a brain.
So parking up we see some generic criminal types who start shooting at us, and hitting with far more accuracy than I was able to do given that my eyes seemed to be attacked by a rogue comedian with a paper plate covered in Vaseline (topical eh?). I killed one, was killed by another and then… then found the game’s most innovative feature.
It seems that when you get fed up you can just turn it off, eject the disk and play something better.
The one good thing about the game is the fact that I still have choice of whether or not I play it, and as I played it for free it has allowed me to offer this warning.
Do. Not. Buy. This. Game.
I managed to play for roughly twenty mins before my soul was in a real danger of heading off to a suicide booth, and I fear that some of you may not have had the right conditioning to deal with a game as half-finished as The Cartel. I care about you, dear reader, so please, don’t buy this. But something else, ANYTHING else, but not this.
I didn’t want to loath this game, I wanted to find some redeeming feature, but I can’t bring myself to play more in the hope of finding a flickering flame of hope nestled deep inside the mire of slack game development.
It’s frankly insulting that Bizarre Creations gets closed down on the back of great games and yet studios still get paid to put out this crap, this dirge-filled mess isn’t even worthy of an article really so allow me to offer you this picture instead. This picture is worth more of your time than Call of Juarez: The Cartel.