Backlog Quest: Day 22 – Call of Juarez: The Cartel – No one wins

Dear Journal,

Today I was a modern day cowboy/crooked cop on an adventure where it really didn’t feel like anyone won.

Call of Juarez: The Cartel cause a stir when it was announced that it would be abandoning the game’s roots as a franchise set in the old west (read: cowboys) and instead focusing on the new west (read: crooked cops).  The change not only upset long time fans, but also the country of Mexico which has been dealing with a little drug-war problem the last few years and didn’t appreciate the publicity.

A trio of cross-agency crooked cops busting up a drug cartel may make for good TV or a good B-movie, but the premise falls flat as a video game.  Together, the three cops make their way through the seedy underbelly of the new west and disrupt a drug cartel’s operations after a bombing that kills several DEA agents.  Their fight eventually leads them to Mexico where dozens of gangsters and an attack helicopter later they finally corner one of the men responsible and end up in a Mexican stand-off deciding what to do.

Sure, burning fields of marijuana sounds found, but the entire experience is lackluster.  I mean it in the sub title when I say, “no one wins.”  Flawed characters can add a lot of depth to any story: game, movie, or otherwise. These characters though are all so full of crap without much in the way of redeeming qualities (or even charisma) to make you like them despite the flaws.  Spending an hour and a half with characters that you don’t really like can be difficult in a film, but spending six and a half hours with three characters that are really just one shade of gray above being the bad guys themselves quickly loses its appeal.

The game features a solid voice cast though, and even if convoluted the story behind the game is fairly well put together. Three player co-op is a nice feature, and obviously the way the game is meant to be played (playing solo often has the AI telling you to go and flank the enemies for example), but the gameplay itself is so-so.  Combat overall is mixed, and it is somewhat unfortunate that I found my favorite gun in the game to be a scoped pistol that was unlockable with a version of the game from Wal-Mart (code appears to be universal, but unfortunate if the best gun isn’t wildly available though). The final couple of levels are the most exciting, but also don’t fit with the rest of the game very well and the driving levels are excruciatingly bad.

If you are looking for a co-op experience with a couple of friends, The Cartel is a good bet. If you are looking for a depressing game about crooked cops, once again go with The Cartel.  Not sure I can really recommend the game much beyond those two aspects, as it really just doesn’t have much to offer.  It was a mediocre FPS with a storyline full of characters that are just plain depressing to play as.  The most impressive part about Call of Juarez: The Cartel is that I was able to avoid making a “Where have all the cowboys gone?” reference while reviewing it.

Tomorrow I take Dreamworks: Superstar Kartz for a few laps.

Final Rating: 6/10

CBR Break Down:
Console Played On
: Xbox 360
Time to completion: About 6 hours and 45 minutes.
Gamer Score Earned: 380/1000
Price Bought at: $12
Current Price: $13.70 (Amazon)
Recommend Purchase Price: I’d say under $10. Maybe $15 if you have people to co-op with.
Why you should buy it: Need a new game for co-op night.
Why you shouldn’t buy it: The horrible/horribly depressing set of characters.

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