Call of Juarez: Gunslinger, by Ubisoft, platforms (download only) PS3, XBOX 360, PC, first-person shooter, 2013, $14.99
“This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” This oft-quoted line from John Ford’s 1962 Western The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance seems to have inspired the Poland-based developer Techland, the team behind this fourth game in the Call of Juarez series. Gunslinger frames its story around a scene in an Abilene, Kan., saloon in 1910 in which old bounty hunter Silas Greaves tells of his Wild West adventures. The player shoots his way through Greaves’ tales of confrontations with the likes of Jesse James, the Dalton Gang and the Wild Bunch, and Techland creates fun scenarios, such as the Gunfight at Iron Springs and Billy the Kid’s escape from the Lincoln County Jail, by drawing from both cinematic interpretations and the history books. The game uses these blurred lines between fact and fiction as a gameplay device—perhaps the most interesting and original aspect of Gunslinger.
This device is brought to the player’s attention during the first level, in which Greaves aids Billy the Kid and gang, who are surrounded by a Pat Garrett–led posse. At this level’s climax you shoot and kill Garrett in a duel, but when a saloon patron points out this couldn’t have happened, Greaves corrects himself, and the game literally “rewinds” to the point in the level before the duel. This time the old man tells it straight, and both he and Billy surrender and wind up in jail.
That cool device is more interesting than the actual plot, and the game packs so much into its 10 levels that you don’t grow attached to any characters. The shooting mechanics are solid, as is the sound, but the game’s action repeats itself. One of the less-than-riveting boss battles has Emmett Dalton walking slowly toward you with a shotgun while you repeatedly shoot him in the head until he dies. Greaves’ meandering story, fact or fiction, becomes tiresome.