If you play alone, you also miss out on another of The Cartel's distinctive assets. While playing with others, you occasionally get the opportunity to complete challenges. Each player might receive a different challenge for any given sequence--perhaps to land a certain number of headshots or murder a specific number of thugs with melee attacks. Succeed, and you earn experience. But there's a slight wrinkle: when one player meets his goal, the other players immediately fail the challenge, so you have to work fast if you want that extra reward. Challenges add yet another competitive dimension to cooperative play, though they too come with annoyances. For instance, challenge opportunities (along with other objective-related messages) are announced with big, unsightly blocks of text that can obscure your view during a firefight. In fact, Call of Juarez: The Cartel is big on cluttering the screen with unnecessary interface elements. Every time you need to reload, the game prompts you with a big eyesore key prompt. Forgot how to skip cutscenes? Don't worry: the garish text in the corner of the screen is there to remind you. And all those prompts use the same out-of-place, ugly pixelated font used in the menus.
6334831The Cartel is a gateway shooter. It might get you started, but you'll be longing for something more effective before long.None
Of course, Call of Juarez: The Cartel is a first-person shooter. Therefore, you fire guns a lot, and the shooting model is smooth and entertaining. Many levels give you a good amount of breathing room, allowing you and your partners to flank and take advantage of the terrain. In Sequoia National Park, you might clamber to a boulder above and take potshots while your partners remain in the forest and occasionally crouch behind cover to regenerate health. Other shoot-outs occur on the decaying streets of Los Angeles, in Mexican ghost towns, and within drug trafficking tunnels. There are a good number of rifles, pistols, and submachine guns, and they feel as they should. The AK-47 serves as a nice fallback at medium range; revolvers have oomph. And if you peer down the iron sights of certain weapons long enough, your view zooms in a bit more, which is a good touch. There are some corridor shoot-outs, but The Cartel is not a corridor shooter. Thus, it's rare that a teammate--AI or human--wanders into your line of fire simply because there's nowhere else to go.
To mix up the shooting, The Cartel leans on its limited tricks a few too many times for comfort. One such trick is the slow-motion room entry, in which you and a teammate breach a door and get a few seconds to gun down baddies without fear. Another is the car chase scene. In each level, you can count on a driving sequence in which one player gets behind the wheel and the others lean out the windows and shoot at vans and escapees. This is fun when you play with buddies, because you can vary your roles. But with only a few exceptions, playing with only the AI means being forced behind the wheel while your companions exhibit their ineffectiveness. You could drive flawlessly but fail the mission, which is never fun. Other problems can also spoil the driving. In one mission, you must catch up to a fleeing felon, but the vague waypoint makes it hard to figure out where to go. You might fail over and over again because you leave the mission area, trying desperately to determine exactly what the game expects of you. Actually, this can happen in any number of places if you wander too far off the beaten path; a sincere attempt to flank a group of hooligans might inadvertently trigger a game-over screen, simply because you went somewhere the game didn't want you to go. As a rule, losing conditions are poorly communicated. Sometimes, a teammate gets the chance to revive you if you go down. Other times, it's an immediate game over. Can you run over a pedestrian during a car chase? That might be fine, or it might lead to unexpected failure.
Somehow, Kim manages to scream out this line without adding some extra four-letter words.
The shooting is periodically strengthened by thoughtful atmospheric touches. Colorful graffiti scrawled on run-down walls stands in sharp relief against the evening LA skyline. As you trudge through the forest, dual waterfalls pour from the cliffs above while your fallen enemies stain the ground with blood. It's unfortunate that such sights are demeaned by the creaky engine that renders them. Vehicles and pedestrians pop into existence right in front of you. AI companions disappear from view and teleport to another location 50 feet ahead. Sunlight might shine into a room through a solid wall. These hitches are much more noticeable on the PC than on consoles due to the platform's higher resolutions. Furthermore, oversaturated lighting and an unattractive omnipresent blurriness make it difficult to pinpoint distant enemies. If you want to sharpen up the looks, you need to toy with your video card's software: The Cartel gives you precious few graphics settings to adjust. The game supports DirectX 11, but it looks so dated, you'd never notice the effects of that technology.
Just like the campaign, The Cartel's online competitive play has initial promise that never quite comes to fruition. You join a team of cops or criminals and fight the opposition, either in Team Deathmatch or in objective-based missions in which you must, for example, break into a warehouse and steal the drugs inside. The feature with promise in this case is the partner system. The game matches you up with another player to be your partner. You always know where your partner is, and when you spot an enemy, the game marks his location for your teammate. Stick together and you receive a bonus, such as doing extra damage. As good as these ideas are, multiplayer is still mundane. Flashbang grenades are thrown every which way, blinding you every few minutes, and opponents blend into the smeary visuals. And considering the low population just days after the game's release, you won't want to play The Cartel if sustained online competition is your primary goal.
You can tell that they're henchmen because they're all dressed in the same striped polos and have the same haircuts.
Call of Juarez: The Cartel, like many other Ubisoft games, requires an Internet connection to start the game. This might not be an inconvenience to most players, but it's a consideration--though in this problematic first-person shooter, online digital rights management is hardly the greatest source of woe. This first-person shooter shows the signs of potential greatness. Few games combine the elements of cooperation and competition so ingeniously. There's nothing like being a dirty double-crosser--and getting away with it. It's invigorating to fulfill a challenge, yanking the experience points from under your comrades' noses and flaunting your shooting skills. The Cartel is worth playing if you have a buddy or two along for the ride, given that you can't count on finding random players to join. Otherwise, the potential is hard to see hiding behind all the glitches and obscenities.