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Late Ass Review: Pale Rider and Call of Juarez

June 21, 2011

Yeah. I’m thinking the same thing that you all are: It’s about time I got my shit in gear and got last week’s review done. I’m kind of pissed at myself for not getting this done earlier. I mean, it’s not like I haven’t had the time. I just keep getting distracted by the wealth of PC games I have, and well…I’ve been procrastinating.

Anyway, all my fault. Here’s Pale Rider and Call of Juarez.

I’m not usually a fan of westerns, but I am a fan of Clint Eastwood. In fact, that’s a good way to get me to go. Pale Rider is just such a movie. It starts out with a group of miners near the town of Lahood, California being terrorized by a gang of thugs sent by major mine operator Coy LaHood. After the thugs kill a girl’s dog, she prays to God for help, which arrives in the form of Clint Eastwood.

Eastwood’s character, known in the film as “The Preacher” due to his style of dress and that he arrives unarmed, helps the miners by keeping the thugs out peacefully, and by panning for gold with them. He later meets with Coy LaHood and his son Josh. After negotiations, LaHood offers $1000 per claim, which the miners ultimately refuse.

The mercenary Marshall Stockburn, hired by LaHood, shows up with a gang to force the miners off their land. Meanwhile, The Preacher and Hull Barret, the leader of the miners, sneak into LaHood’s mine and blow it up with dynamite. The Preacher goes alone to the town to face down Stockburn in a classic western shootout.

He outdraws Stockburn and empties his pistol into his body. The Preacher then pulls his backup pistol and finishes Stockburn with a shot to the head. Coy, who had been watching the shootout, levels his rifle and aims at The Preacher, only to be shot by Hull, who had come to back up The Preacher. The Preacher rides off into the Sierra Nevada mountains, never to be seen again.

I really did like this movie. It’s well-paced and the visuals are very good, and the story is a classic. Plus, Clint Eastwood. In addition to acting, he also directs and produces, and it works very well. All in all, a great western, and I highly recommend it.

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I’ve never mentioned this before, but I’m going to go through my game review process for the zero of you who’ve asked. Because I do one a week (usually), I only have so much time to spend getting to know a game. So I tend to look at it like test driving a car: I see how it handles (controls), I get the feel of the interior (visuals and story), and I take it out on the road (performance). By all of those standards, Call of Juarez is a very good game.

There are two protagonists, and for most of the game they run counter to each other. First is Billy, a Mexican-American who never knew his birth father, and left home to seek the Gold of Juarez, finding nothing before his return home two years later. He finds his mother and stepfather dead, and is falsely accused of murdering them by his step-uncle, and second protagonist, Reverend Ray McCall.

McCall chases Billy to the Ferguson farm, encountering bandits, a train robbery, and an Apache medicine man along the way. After a group of bandits (who tricked McCall into believing they were Texas Rangers) kidnap Molly, an old friend of Billy’s, Ray decides he was wrong about Billy, and pursues the bandits all the way to Juarez.

I won’t spoil the ending, but suffice it to say that Reverend Ray ultimately saves Billy with a dying shot, and is given a respectable burial in the Juarez cemetery. Billy comes to the decision that he isn’t going to run from his destiny anymore.

Taken as a whole, the game is pretty enjoyable. It controls very well, even with the risky dual-wielding of pistols. That’s really something that a game either can or cannot pull off, and Call of Juarez manages it expertly. The visuals are stunning, with faithful re-creations of the American South-West, and even looks amazing on the lowest graphics settings. The story sounds like it could have been a John Wayne movie (He’d play Reverend Ray), and when you combine it all together, it’s just fun. Which is really what you have to ask a game to be.

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