Call of Juarez: The Cartel
The first two Call of Juarez games were hardly great moments in video gaming, but they did provide fun, pulpy western shoot outs that satisfied on a visceral level. I assumed that Call of Juarez: The Cartel would provide more of the same, but was shocked and dismayed to discover upon receiving the game to review that this game completely abandons the western pretense in favor of a modern day shooter. Still, despite my opinion that the developers had taken complete leave of their senses in making such a decision, I decided to see if perhaps Call of Juarez: The Cartel could rustle up the same kind of raw pleasures the first two did. Sadly the change of setting is the least of the game's problems.
The basic idea behind Call of Juarez: The Cartel is that three separate law enforcement agencies are teaming up to take down a big time drug lord. The player gets to choose which of three he wants to play as. This isn't just a simple case of different stats or available weapons. While the overall plot remains the same for all three, each individual character has a network of contacts, and throughout the game, those contacts will get in touch with you to give you side missions. What's really interesting is that this isn't shared information among the three characters, so your side missions have to be kept quiet. If a partner catches you picking up a secret item or accomplishing a goal set up by an informant, you get no credit for doing it, and they get credit for catching you. If you're playing in co-op, you also get to try and catch out your partners. However, in single player mode, the other characters never get any side missions, meaning they're always watching you and you never get to watch them.
Unfortunately, this interesting mechanic doesn't live up to its promise, as a host of bugs litter Call of Juarez: The Cartel. You may get missions assignments you can't completel, or missions meant for other characters. You might get to the spot indicated to find an item, only to discover it's not there. Oh, and the side missions get delivered to you in-game, and you have no choice but to accept them, even if you're in the middle of a fight. You just stop what you're doing to take a phone call and hope you don't get shot in the head as you stand there like a rube.
These aren't the only issues. The levels are pretty open and spread out, which is great if you want to flank some enemies. But the developers didn't want you straying too far, because sometimes taking a step out of line ends the level in failure. Similarly, in the driving levels, it's very easy to lose the culprit or take a wrong turn, again failing you out of the level. Same thing with hitting pedestrians (sometimes, the game seems to have no logic as to what is acceptable in this regard). This problem is compounded by the fact that the game is so buggy that sometimes pedestrians will just pop up in front of you when they weren't there moments ago.
The game tries to up the ante further in co-op mode by instituting a challenge system for each level, such as shooting X amount of gangsters. Each character gets their own challenge, and when one of the three completes theirs, the other two fail. This adds yet another interesting twist to the co-op, but again the challenges are given to you in huge blocks of texts that block your POV. And since this is a first person shooter, that's a bit of a problem. It's as if they had one brilliant guy coming up with ideas, then hired monkeys to write the code.
Call of Juarez: The Cartel makes a lot of mistakes. Changing the setting from the wild west to the modern day was the first sign of trouble, but it was by no means the last. The game is, to put it simply, broken. I could only recommend this tedious and tiresome gaming experience to people I hate. For everyone else, give Call of Juarez: The Cartel a wide berth.