Call of Juarez: The Cartel is jaw-dropping, but for all the wrong reasons. Its basic concept had plenty of promise: a first-person shooter that transplanted the outlaw vibe of the Wild West into the drug cartel wars of the present. But its execution is so sloppy that it repeatedly shocks with its displays of ineptness.
The title screen’s DOS-era typeface offers the first hint of how unpolished this full-price game is and the retro-computing vibe continues in-game with an objective marker that looks as though it escaped from a Commodore 64. Until the closing stages, when the action moves to the Mexican border, the environments are muted and dull.
But the flaws are more than cosmetic. The three playable characters are hammy stereotypes with a vocabulary that is more Tourette’s than badass, a feeling reinforced by their tendency to repeat misguided lines like, “These arseholes are starting to chap my ass,” over and over.
In single player mode, your companions run around aimlessly, repeatedly fail to shoot the enemies and then tell you how they saved your “ass”. The driving sequences, with their cars-on-ice feel, are the worst we’ve endured since Deadly Premonition.
The list of flaws stretches on and on. Even the bright idea of giving each of the three characters a secret agenda to carry out without alerting his or her companions boils down to a tedious item collection exercise.
Call of Juarez’s sole saving grace is its occasionally spicy combat. But even that’s spoiled by enemies that pop in and out of cover like targets from a fairground shooting gallery.
And with so much choice out there for anyone who wants a first-person shooter, Call of Juarez’s fleeting moments of enjoyable shooting are nowhere near enough compensation for the hash that is the rest of the game.