A really good wild west shooter seems like a pretty easy game to make. Considering you can wander into any video game store and buy a number of excellent war games or titles that pit you against invading aliens, a guy shooting a few enemies in run-down desert towns doesn't sound like a game design nightmare. Yet, it more or less has been. Other than the entertaining Outlaws, released on the PC in 1997, and perhaps Red Dead Revolver and GUN at a push, there's been a dearth of quality games that let you pretend you're a cowboy. The original Call of Juarez almost got it right, but too many forced stealth sections made it a game of two halves. Does the sequel, Bound in Blood make things right?
Bound in Blood, set years before the events of the original game, does away with stealth character Billy completely, focussing on brothers Ray and Thomas McCall. You're in the midst of a civil war, yet the brothers desert their regiment to head to their family home to protect their mother and other brother, William, from the enemy. It's not a move that goes down well with their commanding officer, who makes it his life mission to bring the two men to justice. The story takes the three brothers across Mexico and the United States as they proceed to make trouble and eventually go on the hunt for a medallion that holds the key to finding the long lost treasure of Juarez.
Ray will be familiar to fans of the original and his character is largely the same here, although he's yet to find God. He's strong, good from close range with dual wielded pistols, can bash through doors and plant dynamite. Thomas, on the other hand, is better from range with a rifle, can latch onto certain objects with a lasso and can use a bow and arrow. William isn't a playable character, but he plays a major part in the story, with his religious beliefs acting as a counter to his brothers' less than moral values.
You can choose whether to play as Ray or Thomas in more or less every level, with each character's abilities often meaning that you can take different paths and experience the game slightly differently. Due to Thomas' ability to reach higher ground and his skill with a rifle, he'll often get into position to offer support to Ray while he's taking down enemies from close range on the ground. Strangely, and quite disappointingly, there's no co-op play, despite the campaign being perfectly designed to offer a two-player experience.
For the most part Bound in Blood plays a lot like your average FPS, albeit one with sharpshooters, the odd bit of knife throwing and sticks of dynamite. To spice things up a bit the brothers have a special concentration mode ability, allowing them to take out a number of enemies in a flurry of shots. When Thomas has filled his special meter he's able to paint targets on enemies and then automatically shoot all those who are tagged. With Ray you pull the right analogue stick back and then push it forward (on consoles), shooting as many enemies as possible without having to target them manually.