Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Call of Juarez: The Cartel

 Call of Juarez: The Cartel Review

Kid Safe: Very Low (1.5  / 10)                             Game Quality: Moderate (5.0 / 10)

Genre: First Person Shooter
-          These games are characterized by the viewpoint and weapons used in the title. In a first person shooter, you are looking down the barrel of a gun as though you yourself are holding the weapon. Likewise, as the term "shooter" implies, the game specifically uses guns and firearms.

Internet Requirements: Moderate
-          Call of Juarez: The Cartel features a moderate amount of internet requirements due to the presence of two online multiplayer options: a cooperative mode and a competitive mode. The cooperative mode allows up to three players to play through the game's storyline and help each other complete the title. The competitive mode allows up to 12 players split into two teams to go head to head against each other; one team playing as cops, one team as crooks.

Story Summary: In Call of Juarez: The Cartel, you take the role of one of three different characters:
Eddie Guerra, a D.E.A. agent with a dirty history and a gambling problem, Kim Evans, an F.B.I. agent with a complicated past and familial ties to the street gangs of Los Angeles, and Ben McCall, the descendant of the game's previous hero, Ray McCall, and an L.A.P.D. officer out for justice on a personal level. Choosing one of these characters, you embark on a journey to stop the Mendoza Cartel, a fictional drug cartel centered out of Mexico that has quickly been rising to power through violent means. The Cartel even goes so far as to bomb a United States Law Enforcement Agency, causing the government to throw together a task force consisting of the three aforementioned characters to sort out the dilemma before the United States declares war on Mexico to bring the Cartel to justice. Now you must not only fight through waves of gangsters and cartel members, but you must also sort out your own crooked past to stop the possibility of a war-torn future.

Kid Safe: Very Low  (1.5 / 10)
-          Foul Language: Very High - Not Recommended For Children
o   Call of Juarez: The Cartel features a very high amount of foul language in the form of the following words: "b*tch", "s*it", "w*ore", "s*ut", "f*ck", "motherf*cker", "a*s", and "p*ss". The game also contains a number of curses in Spanish such as "p*ta", "ch*nga tu madre", "C*bron", "P*ndejo", and more. These words are heard heavily throughout the game in both combat as well as regular dialogue. When in combat, Spanish curses are very commonly heard from your enemies while English curses are constantly exchanged between your compatriots. Likewise, I'm pretty sure that your partners in this game have added "curse word" as a new vocabulary type and will use "f*ck", "s*it", and "p*ss" about as much as they use nouns and adjectives. The foul language is at a near constant.

-          Violence and Gore: High
o   Call of Juarez: The Cartel features a high amount of violence and gore. As this is a first-person shooter, the focus is on the usage of guns and firearms. Players are able to use a wide variety of weapons to take down their opponents which include pistols, revolvers, handguns, shotguns, assault rifles, machine guns, sniper rifles, rocket launchers, and grenades. On top of the firearms, certain scenes will allow players to enter into fist-fights with enemies in which they will block attacks with their arms or punch enemies in the face. Players will also be able to drive or be witness to other characters driving vehicles in which the car/van/SUV can be used to run over and kill others. Players will be fighting only against other human enemies. Players will be encouraged to and able to kill gang members and cartel members that are attempting to attack them. Players will also be able to attack innocent civilians on the street, however they are penalized if they kill too many of them.

o   In combat, players will be able to shoot and kill or fist fight enemies. When shooting an enemy, they will spray a red splash of red; this spray is relatively unrealistic. However, after the enemy is shot, they will actually retain a realistic looking stain of blood/gore on their clothing or body where they were shot. If the enemy is standing next to or in front of objects or walls, blood will often be sprayed across that area and remain there. The same will happen if the player engages the enemy in face to face combat, often causing the surrounding area to be sprayed with blood when they melee or punch an enemy. When killed, the enemy will drop like a ragdoll and their corpse will remain there. Many bodies will retain the wounds they sustained in combat, i.e. blood stains from being shot.

o   Outside of combat, there are a number of references to violence and gore, however not a high amount. An example of one of these references include news reports talking about the bombing and death of police officers at the beginning of the game. Another example includes where, when they players get into a car accident, their driver has been killed; the players tell a character who is riding with them to not look at him and just run. The character is not visible in any fashion and, upon inspecting the wreckage of the vehicle, the vehicle is empty. The characters do however talk about the fact that the deceased individual was a father of a little girl.
-          Sexually-Related Content: High
o   Call of Juarez: The Cartel features a high amount of sexually-related content which takes place both in reference as well as nudity. To begin, there are multiple scenes of young women that are scantily clad, sometimes in no more than their underwear or lingerie, in which players are able to see a large amount of cleavage and buttocks. Likewise, there will be one scene in which players will see a woman working in a bordello is dancing topless, revealing bare breast. There is also a scene where a woman is sitting in a man's lap and he reaches inside her skirt; the scene then cuts away to the couple touching each other and kissing. Aside from nudity, there are a large number of references to sexual content including "being taken care of on Thursday", reference to sexually transmitted diseases like Hepatitis, references to a woman having been raped and murdered, and a fair amount of dealings with hookers, prostitutes, and brothels.

-          Use of Drugs and Alcohol: High
o   Call of Juarez: The Cartel features a high amount of drug and alcohol usage through both visual depictions of usage as well as reference. To begin, as the game is focused around the drug cartels of Mexico, one of the game's major topics IS illegal drugs. Players will end up finding and confiscating a massive shipment of illicit materials that were being ported into the Americas. Likewise, players will end up running through and burning several large crop fields of Marijuana. There are multiple references to drug usage or drug related activity, "Godd*mnit, he's already f*cking baked!" and "Yeah, let's get out of here before they get the munchies." Finally, there are multiple instances in which characters are depicted smoking cigarettes.
-          SPECIAL NOTE:
o   While this doesn't really fall into one of our standard categories, it seems worthy of note. Given the dirty histories of the three characters, they all sort of have their own demons that follow them around. Therefore, while playing, characters will gain "Secret Agendas" which generally encourage them to perform criminal activities despite being law enforcement agents. This can include stealing phones, wallets, drugs, etc. Some of this could be for personal use or some of it can be to support law enforcement, however none of it is officially condoned as lawful activity. Performing these "agendas" will provide players with the "Dirty Cop" achievement.

Game Quality: Moderate (5.0 / 10)
-          Graphics / Visuals: Low
o   There really is no nice way to put this, the graphics for Call of Juarez: The Cartel are just a mess. It seems like the game was still in the process of being developed and fine-tuned when it was released. Not to mention that the overall visuals for this game feel rather dated by today's standards, there are a huge number of polishing issues that really detract from the game's enjoyment. The environments are kind of interesting and some of the levels that players are exploring are a little creative, but that's about it.

o   One of the game's major issues are the character models, i.e. the overall quality of how people in general appear in the game. First, the game has a BIG problem with recycling character models. I ran into this problem several times in which I would run into a character in one location and then suddenly meet his identical twin brother/sister only 50 ft away. I can generally ignore this when it's a generic enemy that you are fighting or a random character in the background, however we are talking about people you deal face to face with. A perfect example is when my group was entering a club and we saw two individuals outside smoking; when we walk inside and look down the hallway, we saw the EXACT TWO standing there serving as bouncers to the club down the hall. I actually spent several minutes walking back and forth to verify. The same happened with several prostitutes that we had to talk to.

o   Aside from the character recycling, the models themselves are just poorly made and seem severely dated. A multitude of enemies and random are little more than basic 3D body models that have been painted; their faces or "features" are flat and stretched over a blank oval "head". While the main characters are little bit better, having actually been built to somewhat resemble a real human, there are still issues. The facial expressions are generally awkward and mechanical; either moving too slow or too fast and only portraying bits and pieces of the expression. Not only that, but often times the voice acting doesn't even match the lip movements, so it's almost like a bad ventriloquist's puppet is standing in for the voice actor.

o   Moving away from the characters themselves, the game features a number of other visual issues. Glitches and graphical "cracking" occur often, where the visuals are actually breaking apart in certain sections so it just reveals strips of white or color where it is not supposed to be. On top of that, while some of the lighting is commendable, most is not. I ran into several situations where shadows were literally going the wrong way, glares or shadows were just appearing out of nowhere for no apparent reason, and more.

o   Last, but not least, trying to use the firearms can be almost sickening. I can only presume that this was intentionally built into the game, but everytime you attempt to aim your firearm, the visuals will "focus" on whatever happens to be the closest thing in your aim. This causes everything else to blur out behind whatever your are aiming at. Not only does this mean that your gun may focus on a trashcan or a rock, thus blurring out your enemy that is behind it, but that also means that if you are moving and trying to aim, then the game is constantly blurring and focusing.
-          Audio: Moderate
o   Luckily, the audio and musical presentation in this game are a little better than the graphics and visuals. To the game's credits, a fair number of the voice actors, especially those in control of the game's main characters, are a fairly decent quality and portray their parts very well, emoting properly and really adding a depth to the character's emotion and being. Likewise, the music is decently done as well, lending a very old-west cowboy vibe to a majority of the scenes with an often soft, acoustic guitar test that lends to the atmosphere.

o   However, these positive aspects fail to uphold the audio quality as a whole. You can tell that a large number of non-major voice actors really don't care, simply reading off lines with improperly placed pronunciation and emphasis, strange timing, and more. Likewise, while the dialogue for the main characters is well done, the game runs into a major problem of repetition in combat. Your partners has a set number of things that they will say during combat, either praising your skill or bad-mouthing you; the major problem is that they NEVER STOP TALKING and will generally yell at you endlessly when you are in a fight. Likewise, whether praise or complaint, it only takes a matter of hours before you know everything that your partners have to say and, trust me, they will say these phrases over and over and over and over. It got to a point where I wanted to shoot one of my partners because they had said "if we weren't watching your back, you'd be motherf*cking dead" about 7 times in one firefight. Coincidentally, the music, while generally well done and lending to the off-beat cowboy feel, does little to really enhance the overly emotional scenes and push them over the edge; it just does its own thing.

-          Gameplay / Playability: Low
o   Much like the other aspects of this game, Call of Juarez simply suffers from poor gameplay designs and decisions. Starting off with playability, the game does little to cater to new players easily. This title literally starts you off in a massive firefight on the freeway as you are shooting at vehicles that are chasing you. That is your introduction: start shooting. The game doesn't even start telling you the main controls until a little bit INTO the fight, so there was a while there that I didn't even know how to reload my weapon as this title's fully correspond to the standard first-person-shooter control scheme...leaving me flailing in confusion. Finally, once the game does start introducing mechanics to you, you've learned most of them on your own already.

o   Now for the gameplay. The gameplay is actually kind of interesting and varied, often switching from driving vehicles to shoot-outs to fist fights and all sorts of stuff. However, the main problem with the game is not conceptual, but mechanical. This game is just unfinished. I ran into more than a fair number of glitches, some that literally broke the game. A perfect example was when I was chasing down an enemy onto the freeway. Suddenly, the enemy just disappeared, however my teammates kept talking as though he was still there. I proceeded to get stuck on this freeway because the enemy literally no longer existed and, as I found out later, I was supposed to catch him in this area and interrogate him. Instead, I spent 15 minutes wandering around an empty gameplay area trying to figure out what to do. I later found out, after I had turned off the system for a while and replayed the section, that the game itself had broken.

o   Another widespread problem with the gameplay is "triggers", i.e. a player will walk over an invisible trigger which will cause something to happen in the game. The problem with this is that a number of these triggers were broken, thus causing poor gameplay response. An example of this would be that be that I walked up to two bouncers who simultaneously started cat-calling the woman I was escorting...this woman wasn't even IN the building yet, much less near them. I then proceeded to fist-fight these individuals as I knew I had to and keep going. It was only after my partner and the young woman walked PAST their bodies almost a minute later that there was suddenly a dialogue between the young woman and these bouncers....the knocked out, bleeding, unconscious bouncers. There were multiple instances of things like this happening throughout the game.
-          Dollar-Value: Moderate
o   Overall, Call of Juarez: The Cartel has a moderate dollar-value. If you can get by all of the graphical and gameplay problems, Call of Juarez can actually provide you with a fair amount of game-time; somewhere in the range of 8 to 12 hours in the story-mode depending on the player. Plus, counting all of the weapons unlocks, secret items, and the ability to play three very different characters, you could probably get a fair amount more out of this game. The multiplayer option, so long as you enjoy the fact that it has smaller matches versus games like Call of Duty or Battlefield, is decent enough and can add some more game time to this title. All in all though, I would recommend til it drops to at least half-price before spending your cash.

-          If you are looking for a game with less mature rated content, I would highly recommend taking a peek at Battlefield Bad Company or Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter. If you are itching for a more shooter-intensive experience, I would check out either the Call of Duty series or Crysis 2.

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