Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood builds upon the multiplayer mode from the original Call of Juarez by adding a lot more character classes.
The new classes are trapper, gunsmith, spy, officer, duelist, veteran, scout, native and hombre. The spy, officer, duelist and veteran are all locked initially, but the four original classes – gunslinger, sniper, rifleman or miner – are still around and keep things interesting.
What Is It? Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood is a prequel to the 2007 PC/360 shooter-adventure, Call of Juarez. Players alternate between playing one of the two McCall brothers throughout the singleplayer game and choose a generic character to play for online multiplayer which supports up to 12 players.
What We Saw I played the Wild West Legends mode and the Manhunt Mode. I believe there's only one other mode, a standard deathmatch. In Wild West, the players were divided into red and blue teams. One team would be Lawmen and the other Outlaws; the Outlaws' goal was to rob a bank and steal horses to escape and the Lawmen's goal was to stop them. At the end of the first round, the red and blue teams traded roles to replay the map. In Manhunt Mode, the same division of teams apply, but the goal is for the Lawmen to take control of points on a map and eventually capture the Outlaws' hideout.
How Far Along Is It? Bound in Blood is due out June 30.
What Should Change? I Don't Like The Cover System: This is a matter of preference more than a design issue – rather than tapping a button or making a conscious choice to go into cover, a character will stick to cover if he's close enough to the cover object and it's an object that actually counts as cover. This made cover confusing for me because I'd run to something that looked like it could be cover while being shot at, only I wouldn't stick to it and then I'd get shot and die. Or, I'd be trying to go around back en route to the stables and somehow I'd stick to the side of a building just as I was trying to fling dynamite, causing me to blow myself up.
Leveling Up Is A Risk: Multiplayer matches move fast, but it's imperative to level up your character. This creates a conflict when you know you've earned enough cash to level up, but you're in a firefight that doesn't leave any time to tap the menu button, select your class, press A, then press A again to confirm before exiting the menu. It's almost easier just to wait until you're killed before leveling up – but that's kind of counter intuitive.
What Should Stay The Same? The Bounty System: The bounty system applies to all multiplayer modes and adds a VIP gameplay element to each of them. Every time you kill someone (even if it's by well-timed dynamite going off after you've already been killed), the bounty on your head rises by a dollar amount. Whoever kills you gets all of that money to spend on class levels. The VIP part comes from the sad fact that the guy who does the best is going to wind up the victim of everyone else's financial needs.
The Wild West Legends Mode: I enjoyed Manhunt mode and deathmatch is a requisite for multiplayer – but I truly appreciate a game that works with its theme to create a multiplayer mode that feels unique. The bank robbery match in Wild West Legends played up Bound in Blood's uniqueness as a Western-themed shooter and evoked my Texan childhood memories of playing cops and robbers.
Leveling Up Actually Matters: There's nothing more frustrating than pouring points into a character only to find it makes little to no difference in gameplay. This not the case with Bound in Blood; just one level in the miner class made me the most powerful player on my team because I suddenly had more ammo and more health than them. Then the other games journalists found time to pause and level up and that was the end of my short-lived superiority trip.
The Ethnic Classes: The native American can kill people in one hit (the downside being that his bow takes forever to draw) and the Mexican hombre has not one but two sawed-off shotguns. But the bigger part of it is that I'm glad to see Call of Juarez sticking to its Spaghetti Western guns. If only they'd add top-heavy, Derringer-sporting saloon girls. Then they'd really be representing every Western archetype I learned about during Go Texan day in school.
Final Thoughts I'm looking forward to this game for a lot of reasons – and I confess most of those are part of the singleplayer game (dueling? Sign me up!). But it definitely sweetens the deal to have a solid multiplayer mode, especially if it honors the Western theme as thoroughly as the singleplayer. The only thing I can't weigh in on is the balancing: it'd take a lot more time than I had on hand to get a feel for all 12 character classes. But given that I never got bored playing multiplayer, I'm going to have lots of time to figure it out and I will probably enjoy every minute of it.