geek(n): An intelligent, eccentric person with an interest in the perceptibly useless and esoteric.
asylum(n): 1) A place offering protection and safety; a shelter.
2) An institution for the care of those requiring organized supervision.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Call Of Juarez

I dont play a lot of games - I have too many projects, and games always seem to take up a lot of valuable time. Thats not to say I dont enjoy a good gaming session whenever I have the chance. A couple of favourites over the years have included Neverwinter Nights (looking forward to playing the sequel too), and Freelancer. Ive also played the original DOOM, Quake, and Ureal First Person Shooter (FPS) games (and the sequals, and the multi-player deathmatches etc) and really enjoyed them.

So anyway, Im building a new PC for 3D modelling. Having tried out the new AMD X2 Dual core processors and Nvidia SLI graphics on the PVR, I wanted the new machine to be built for graphics power and speed. I was not looking for a new game to play. Really.

The Gigabyte 7600GS graphics cards that I bought included the new game "Call Of Juarez" to show off the cards capabilities. I figured it was just a crappy bundled demo, and pretty much ignored it. Finally I decided to load it up to try out the Dual GPU SLI mode, and see what it could do. I was amazed not only by the graphics appearing on my screen, but by the game itself. The new machine gave me a frame rate of around 60 fps on a single card, before I enabled SLI mode, so I figure Im probably getting almost double that now - way overkill, but I havnt benchmarked it yet.

Call Of Juarez is awesome!. At first, I didnt expect to get into it, since the Western style isnt really my thing, but as I played it drew me further and further into it, to the point where I just had to write this review.

Call Of Juarez is based on the old classic western genre of movies such as "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly" or "Fistful of Dollars" where the west is a hard and dirty place, and justice is served swiftly with a Colt 45. It is set near the Mexican border and features all of the classic things you would expect from a great western - Indians, hold ups, train robberies, quickdraw duels, outlaws, the wrongly accused hero, and of course the righteous gunslinger.

Whats most impressive about Call Of Juarez is the attention to detail in every aspect. Not only does the game look and feel like a Western movie, but all of the expected First Person Shooter features are there, plus a few innovative additions, such as a "bullet-time" mode which represents the seasoned gunslinger's advantage over the common outlaws. All of the classic weaponry has been faithfully reproduced, from the basic whip to the classic Colt 45 and Winchester rifle, and even a Gattling Gun, which you get to play with for a while.

The scenery and characters did not escape the level of detail applied to the rest of the game. The characters are superbly modelled with a hard and chiselled appearance from their life on the plains. The scenery is brilliant with water, grass, and even heat haze all realistic and believable. The overall look is enhanced by the superb cinematography - every scene is picture perfect, adding to the whole movie-like experience. The game's engine is the best I have seen so far, for its versatility and ability to create many unique features and challenges.

At times, I was surprised by the level of violence and blood unfolding before me. Even here the detail is high. At one point while walking to a nearby farmhouse, I was attacked by a wolf, and having almost killed it with a swift crack of my whip, I watched it quiver for a minute or so until it finally died - not a pleasant experience, but one that highlights the level of realism that this game has achieved.

Game play alternates between Billy, the young hero, who is falsely accused of murdering his own family, and the Reverend Ray, who is Billy's uncle, and seeking revenge for the death of his brother. Billy must try to escape, while Reverend Ray, a former gunslinger who has reverted to his old ways, tracks him every step of the way. Often their paths cross briefly, though usually via a slightly different route.

At first, I enjoyed playing Billy - figuring out who he was, learning how to control the game, and solving all of the challenges to advance through the levels. When the game first switched me to Reverend Ray, I really missed him, but the more I played as the gunslinging reverend, the more I enjoyed his character, and realised that he probably wasnt as bad as Billy thought he was. Now, its hard to switch back to being Billy again.

Im about half way through the game at present, and can't wait to get back to it.

You can buy Call Of Juarez via the official web site - its a bargain at only $US30, or get it like I did, for free, with a Gigabyte 7600GS PCI-Express SLI video card.

Highly Recommended

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