Call of Jaurez- Bound In Blood
PS3/360 Gen Game
First Person Shooter
What an unexpected gem this was. Building on the gunslinger tale that made Techland a worldwide name, Bound in Blood bolts a bandito prequel onto the franchise. Small tweaks and more modern design choices smooth over the awkwardness of the first game, but there is still enough of that unique character to make it stand out amongst this crowded generation of first person shooters. First and foremost are the gun mechanics, which are snappy and powerful. Ray is one of the earliest akimbo shooters in gaming, and while it’s simple enough, using both triggers makes you feel like you are actually shooting two guns. Both of the Bound brothers you can play as have an ultimate-like ability, which predates the rise of the class shooter by about a decade again, and gives you a way to suddenly clear a room full of people and get out of dodge without creating a resource to horde (I never use the BFG ammo I find). Many chapters end with gunslinger duels, which are frustratingly quirky but effectively convey the feeling of drawing down on the bell with gesture requirements, an idea which remains quite rare in games. Finally there is the crack of the gunshot, the huge leering gun model, and the fact that every shot makes the enemy stumble if it does not kill them outright. This is gunslinger fantasy done right, casting you as a deadly bandito whose wiles keep you and your brother one step ahead of the firing squad. I can’t think of another game that comes as close to putting you into the Sundance Kid’s boots.
This is helped in part by an interesting story and great voice acting. Ray’s sardonic gruff asshole is tinged with just the right amount of humor, completely selling the slightly murderous amoral heavy of the brothers. Thomas is more straightforward but works as the foil to Ray, here as the put upon Southerner. The two of them have the kind of brotherly love where they might shoot each other on occasion, and the banter between them toes the line between angry resentment and respectful teasing. For once, it seems like these two couldn’t just get over their issues on the porch with a beer. Somewhat out of place, their third brother William tags along trying to keep the family together as the moral compass. The loading screens play his internal musings, as he frets about how to stop his brothers from becoming cold blooded criminals as their situation worsens. Though awkwardly wedged in here, he provides the necessary galvanizing tension to a plot that would otherwise just be about murdering everyone in a level.
Now, it’s not a pretty game. Sludgy and identikit, Bound in Blood is definitely a product of its 2007 time. The models are gawky, although the cutscenes generally only ask for people to talk to each other and save the shooting for you. The lighting is curiously dynamic though, people will get lost in the shadows and explosions will change the hue on screen. There’s also justification for the simplicity; we’re in the empty wild west desert after all. Alongside the functional graphics, modern checkpoints, control schemes, and forgiving health regen all guarantee you can keep charging forward with minimal frustration. There are a handful of instances where you can instantly lose upon npc escort death – I am glad this is gone in our advanced and enlightened future – but it will necessitate a few reloads.
In the modern gaming era, being a cowboy means riding a horse around for hours and gazing up at the big empty (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Bound in Blood harkens back to the grittier core of the western fantasy, the power to make things happen by force and a big metal gun, while still allowing for us to question their actions in the middle of the fray. Much like its cousin, the game Gun, this setting- action combination was and remains very uncommon, such that Bound in Blood still provides a uniquely bracing experience a decade on.
Originally published on Synthetic Error November 21, 2020