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Call of Juarez: Gunslinger

Reach for the sky?

Old Silas Greaves has seen it all. Or at least, that's what he wants his audience to think. A one-man army on a lifelong mission for revenge, he's tangled with all the legends of the old west, and in this Arcade-only title, he recounts events and rewrites his own history as actions play out onscreen.

In a bar and surrounded by an audience ranging from the amazed to the incredulous, Silas spins a decades-spanning tale of how he came to be a bloodthirsty bounty hunter. It's an enjoyable narrative device that sees the landscape bend and change as details are remembered and recreated on the fly by Silas and the other characters present.

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Entire episodes may be stopped, rewound and replayed differently depending on the author of the tale and how they recall conflicting events. The technique also calls into question the validity of such tall tales - at one point during a tense action sequence, Silas suspends the story and staggers off to the bathroom. In his absence, we hear the other characters debate off-screen on whether he's telling the truth or if he's just an old drunk looking for some free whiskey.

Whilst Silas is gone, the game simply cycles through empty train carriages, but as soon as he returns, so too does the over-the-top gun-toting action. The ability to find and unlock 'nuggets' - real-life historic facts from the old West - throughout the game also encourage you to compare what you know with what you're hearing.

Available character upgrades are split into three paths - Gunslinger, Ranger, and Trapper, which represent short-range, long-range and close-range specialisation respectively. Upgrading your way through trees will unlock both special moves and unique weapons, including gold-plated rifles and revolvers. Short-range specialisation includes the ability to duel wield revolvers, whilst long-range allows you to zoom in down your iron-sights or even slow time for easier headshots.

Silas also has a 'sense of death' ability which allows you to dodge the occasional bullet when the gauge is full. Kills will fill Silas' Concentration gauge, which, once activated, will slow down time and highlight all enemies on-screen for quick, successive takedowns. In addition to these, the game will occasionally throw 'reflex' sequences at you - quicktime events where inputting the correct face buttons will see Silas draw on a flock of surrounding enemies.

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Ever the unreliable narrator, Silas often paints himself as impossibly outnumbered, but this fits perfectly with a game that is essentially one long shooting gallery. The combat is enjoyable enough, if repetitive after a time, but you might find that enemies are sometimes hard to spot and a touch too accurate - there are a few points in the game where they'll pepper you with revolver bullets from so far away you'll find it difficult to even make them out. To make matters worse, every hit taken obscures your view of the battlefield further, so at those moments a rather unheroic blind scurry for nearby cover is often the only method of survival.

Gunslinger offers three game modes in all - Story, Arcade and Duel. Completing Story mode will unlock New Game +, where you can attempt Silas' journey again with all the skills and weapons you've unlocked, but in the new 'True West' difficulty - which features a minimalised HUD. Duel mode, which strings together duels from the story mode, features fifteen stages and limits you to five lives to complete them all - failure will mean beginning again from the start.

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