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Call of Juarez: The Cartel Review
Posted on October 06, 2011 by Eduardo

It is not unusual to see works of fiction borrow from recent real life events.  Video games are no different in this regard, but because of their current reputation as the destroyer of youth, they have to be careful when approaching real-life conflicts.  While the Call of Duty series has gone to some effort to show the harsh realities of war, more often than not we end up with laughably awful games like Fugitive Hunter. 

I mention this because first person shooter Call of Juarez: The Cartel is based on the current drug war going on in Mexico.  Because of this, the game has been the source of some controversy, particularly in border communities such as El Paso where the real-life events the game borrows from are taking place just a little too close to home.

Call of Juarez eschews the Old West setting of the first two games and takes place in modern times instead.  The Mexican drug war has spilled over onto American soil, with an attack having taken place in Los Angeles on the Fourth of July.  An independent task force is then formed to take out the Mendoza cartel responsible for the attack. Ben McCall, who serves as The Cartel's tenuous link to the earlier Call of Juarez games, and two other agents form the task force.



Partners - Your two partners are actually somewhat useful and will take out quite a few bad guys on their own.  Sometimes they are a little too good; early in the game they would take out enemies before I could even spot them.  Each of the three characters has their own story, strengths and side missions.

Move Along, Nothing to See Here - Since these are all cops on the edge that play by their own rules, their side missions often involve doing things that can get them in trouble, so care must be taken to ensure your partners in crime-busting don't bust you.  This isn’t too hard, but is a nice touch.

Bullet Time - As you take out bad guys, a meter fills up.  A press of the d-pad activates a few seconds of possibly hide-saving, time-slowing “concentration,” as the game calls it, but its really just bullet-time.


Linear and Repetitive - The Cartel is as straightforward as it gets: you go from point A to point B shooting all the bad guys as you go along.  Except for the previously mentioned side missions, and occasional driving parts, there isn’t much more to the game.

Recycled Dialogue - You will hear the same three or four sound bites from your partners over and over one over again as they tell you how awesome or crappy you are during the game.  Only the most patient of gamers will not be completely sick of the canned dialogue before long.

More “Anti” Than “Hero” - The characters are hard-nosed, gritty, and a bunch of jerks.  I found it hard to care about them or their struggles as they scowled, cursed and grimaced their way through the game.  They fight and bicker amongst themselves and it doesn’t take long for it to get old.





Unlike its protagonists, Call of Juarez: The Cartel plays it by the numbers.  It's a plain vanilla, by-the-book, first person shooter with bullet time.  There may be some replay value if you care enough about the characters to learn their stories, but for the most part its one-and-done.  Except for its ripped-from-the-headlines story, there isn’t much here to make it stand out, so don’t feel too compelled to answer this call.


*This review was based on the Xbox 360 version of the game with a review copy provided by the publisher.*

Eduardo - Editor / Voice Guy | all author's articles

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