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Review: Call Of Juarez: The Cartel - Xbox 360, PS3

by Steven Williamson on 28 July 2011, 15:00 2.0

Tags: Ubisoft (LON:UBI), Action/Adventure

Quick Link: HEXUS.net/qa6ri

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Join a special task force to hunt down and stop the drug cartel.

Gameplay generally involves taking out pockets of generic enemies, though the occasional slow-motion room clearing sequences and boss battle does help to break things up. An underlying EXP system gives you some motivation to keep ploughing through too, giving you access to better weapons as a reward for carrying out tasks and killing the bad guys. And the EXP system works independently in co-op mode, so although you’re all on the same team it creates a competitive edge against each other as you partake in a secret agenda, such as stealing an object. The fact that you're rewarded for catching your team-mates in the act proves to be quite an entertaining distraction. Teamwork objectives such as breaching a room together, or providing cover fire while your colleague moves up the battlefield is another decent feature, but it’s totally overshadowed by the majority of the gameplay, which involves moving through bland environments shooting wildly at even blander enemies.

The inconsistencies and technical inadequacies are ten-fold. There's the weak, dated cover system, for example, that isn’t really a cover system at all but involves cowering behind objects until it’s silent enough for you to risk breaking cover. There's the way that enemies kill you with a few shots from a pistol, making you restart from the last checkpoint, yet you’ll just get straight back up from the ground after a enemy drops a grenade at your feet. Poor depth of field makes it difficult to target enemies at distance too, while concentration mode (bullet-time), which is supposed to give you more time and greater accuracy in taking down foes, doesn’t really help at all unless you’re very close to your enemy. In fact, the only way to make COJ: The Cartel slightly more exciting is to literally run-and-gun your way through the game - even then you'll struggle to get the accuracy you need due to a poor targeting mechanic.

When things do start to get a bit more fast-paced and exciting, Techland rips the heart of it by forcing you to carry out one of the most pointless and mundane tasks we’ve ever had to carry out in a videogame. The process of heading through the woods seeing off pockets of gangsters is quite fast-paced and occasionally worthy of a play-through, but when you reach a gang’s camp it takes a bizarre twist. After being tasked to plant and set-off a ticking bomb to blow up buildings, you’re then told to make your mark on the area by leaving your spray tag behind. This is to make the drug cartels think that other gangs have invaded their hideouts and involves you moving to three designated spots, pressing the ‘X’ button and watching yourself spray a spider logo. We’ve had more fun taking a virtual piss in Duke Nukem Forever, and that’s saying something.