I was browsing both Steam and G2A recently and I was looking for something to remind me of happier times. It randomly struck my mind that I miss Polish developer and publisher Techland‘s 2006 release – Call of Juarez.
Now, the game is not the greatest thing to look at by today’s standards. It is old, with visibly outdated graphics and very funnily rendered faces.
Its value, to me, is mostly subjective. It is one of the very first FPS games that I have ever played.
It follows the story of William “Billy” Candle and his borderline insane step uncle, Reverend Ray McCall.
It’s a story that relies heavily on building antagonistic perspectives. It tries to teach its players about the importance of communication and the dangers of self-righteousness. Racial discrimination makes an appearance as well.
Mexican characters are visibly shunned by their supposedly “pure” white counterparts and, despite its age, it very readily depicts issues of quite high interest in today’s social and political environment.
Each character has his own unique play style
Billy is a stealth character, relying on his athletic build, high mobility, bows, small revolvers and a whip to traverse the environment and best his enemies up to the very end.
Ray, on the other hand, is almost famous for his lack of mobility. It is beautifully presented as a consequence of his age, however. He wears a ridiculously medieval crusader chest plate that can magically deflect bullets. It is also often seen using a long double barrelled shotgun alongside his dual akimbo-wielded revolvers and his trusty pocket bible.
However, the central theme is not necessarily change, but running from our past.
Numerous cultures around the globe have the belief that fate is impossible to be changed and that the act of trying to change it is exactly what brings it to fruition. In Call of Juarez, we follow two parallel stories:
Billy, a Mexican teenager that, upon revisiting his hometown after running away from his stepfather, is framed for his parents’ murder. He is caught around the corpses by Reverend Ray, who immediately blames him without a single explanation.
In a phenomenally bad case of “OK, Boomer”, instead of telling his step uncle that he is innocent, he simply runs away. As he remembers that his step uncle, alongside his stepfather, would often beat the living shit out of him in order to “Make him a real man”, he automatically assumes that Ray would never listen to him.
This, obviously, reinforces the Reverend’s belief that the young adult is, indeed, a murderer.
And, oh boy, does it go on wildly from there. Not to spoil it any further, the trip takes them through places that Ray has visited more than twenty years before said events. His own monologue slowly explains to the player that he is running from his own past as well, having been a mercenary, murderer and drunk.
The game offers little in terms of exploration opportunities.
You go around hunting evildoers in the name of Survival or “Divine” Vengeance and that is it. Occasionally, one can find wanted posters with the faces of the developers, which serve as both bloopers and collectibles.
So, why am I still infatuated with Call of Juarez?
It’s been no less that twelve years since I first played it, so nostalgia has a big part in it. However, apart from the whole message, which I sincerely relate to, the game’s value stems from beautifully created irony, some very dark and discrete humor, horrific Mexican accents, and the fact that you can imagine beyond the game.
For example, it is really weird that you cannot damage corpses. Breaking this rule will end the game.
While the entire game is played by this condition for the sake of a very essential moment, the way Techland choose to enforce this rule is the subject of great fun.
Also, did I tell you that you heal yourself my drinking some red, rust based looking whiskey? I mean, we all know that alcohol cleans heartbreak wounds better than anything, but this is absolutely ridiculous, especially for Reverend Ray as he’s… well… meant to live it by the book.
For me, one of the greatest pleasures in Call of Juarez was blowing the heads off various bandits and baddies with a revolver in one hand while preaching from the bible held in the other.
It is meant to represent the evil hidden behind the misinterpretation of religious texts. All is done in an attempt to show that people oftentimes do not change because they want to, but because they need to, in order to survive.
Arrogance, greed and plain evil are all related to the theme, as they are all presented as leading to self destruction and madness.
And obviously, since this game is a Western, we have High Noon shootouts.
Most of the missions end in a duel between the protagonist and one of the main antagonists’ lackeys. You basically shoot your way up the ladder until you reach “el papa” of all those bandits and criminals. Those are actually quite something worth thinking about since, as far as I know, they were some of the first in the genre.
Basically, in order to shoot during a duel, you have to move your hand (mouse) down and up as if you would be actually picking up the gun from its holster. It is a minor detail, but a great one.
To sum up, this game is definitely worth playing at least once in your lifetime and a very good addition to your video game culture.
It has a strong educational value and is extremely witty and humorous. From very amusing, somewhat uninspired taunts, such as “Hey, yellow-belly!” or “Hey, cabron!”, straight to unnecessarily pushy prostitute pals.
The difficulty itself scales a bit unfairly, especially for the unarmored Billy, as on “easy” you barely get scraped by a head shot which is so rare you must probably walked into a bullet, to robots with aim hacks that kill you instantly from a bullet in one toe, on “hard”.
So don’t forget, we might not seem the same, but down at the core, none of us is above the other!