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Call of Juarez: The Cartel Review

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On 09/28/2011 at 10:33 AM by Rob DiMola

I'd try to name a worse shooter, but nothing comes to mind.

Not Recommended

Call of Juarez: The Cartel is the third game in the Call of Juarez series, with each game preceding it being decent, albeit with some minor problems. They have always had a western theme which made the series differ from many other shooters today, something I've appreciated. The Cartel drops the Western theme and, coincidentally, all of the fun as well. I almost felt like I was playing Dog the Bounty Hunter the video game rather than Call of Juarez. If that's not enough to dissuade you, I don't know what is.

The story begins with three FBI Agents (Ben, Eddie and Kim) on a mission to take down a huge Mexican drug cartel. Each of these characters can be selected as your playable character and you can beat the game with each of them. Each of them have their own personality during the game – but it's consistently overridden by their annoying banter. Repetitive lines, exaggerated comments, and statements that make no contextual sense become annoyingly frustrating to listen to.

Despite the change in setting, the game still could've succeeded in its approach. Unfortunately, The Cartel just isn't a good game. The only time you are engaged in doing something towards the story is during cut scenes and phone calls. At no point during the action are you doing something productive towards the mission. You would think that they could come up with better ideas rather than going through streets, buildings, and alleyways with every enemy taking cover behind barrels and cars, only popping up to shoot. It's boring, repetitive, and takes next to no skill to beat any mission at hand.

Each mission finishes abruptly with a cut scene, which makes it feel as if you never actually beat the mission. It's almost as if they didn't want to come up with a worthy conclusion to the mission and instead produced a cut scene to cap it off. It's sloppy and it makes everything seem unfinished. Occasionally boss battles are thrown in the mix, but they're pathetically easy no matter the difficulty setting.

Controlling the game feels equally unpolished - aiming is terrible and the control mappings don't align with most current shooters. Grenades are thrown with LB on the Xbox 360 and L1 on the PS3, with weapon changing mapped to RB and R1, respectively. I found myself constantly throwing grenades by accident and killing myself when all I wanted to do was change my gun.

Breaching doors is another misstep for The Cartel. It seems to attempt to mimic the same function in Modern Warfare 2 but does an awful job of duplicating it. In Modern Warfare 2, performing a breach can be a risky move. Upon kicking the door open, everything is in slow motion and there are many enemies. It's tough to take them all out, which will subsequently expose you gunfire. Here, it's almost impossible not to kill everyone and you're able to aim much quicker than what should be allowed given the slow motion.

At various points in the game you'll need to box an opponent. When you punch, the whole screen goes out of whack and it becomes very hard to see what you are doing. It's almost impossible to lose a fight, but it's frustrating because you can't see what you're doing. As such, instead of being a unique asset, it's a detractor from the experience.

The health bar is also very inconsistent. At times you can last a while without dying, but sometimes it takes just a few shots and you're dead. This is aggravating at times because the checkpoints are also random. There are times where you have to run from one section of the stage to another and listen to a phone call before you can get back to the point you once were. Sitting through cell phone calls is the worst thing I have ever experienced in a video game. It reminds me of Gears of War where you are forced to walk really slowly, without being able to walk faster or skip the phone call. Gears of War 2 got rid of this idea because it was such a terrible idea to begin with. Why Call of Juarez decided to bring it back is beyond my understanding.

Aside from the poor story and gameplay, the graphics are also a part of why the game just fails to be good. The graphics are not nice in any way and look like they are almost 10 years old. Edges, cars, guns, and characters all look unpolished and very jagged. These shortcomings only accentuate the many other issues of the game.

There are tons of things to complain about when it comes to Call of Juarez: The Cartel, but too many to even begin to cover here. Of all the games I've played, this has been one of the toughest to complete from start to finish. Not because of the challenge, but because of how repetitive from mission to mission the game is. The bottom line is that this is not a shooter I would recommend picking up, nor is it a game anybody should have to play. If you want to play a western shooter, look elsewhere or pick up one of the first two games in the series.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:

All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.

These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.

This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.

Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.

Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.

A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.



Esteban Cuevas Staff Alumnus

09/28/2011 at 11:27 AM

Never been a fan of this series but I guess this one takes the cake of bad ideas. Why would you map the weapon selection button to LB / L1?


09/28/2011 at 04:44 PM

glad I passed on this 1

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