Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Don't ignore the Call... of Juarez.

Unless you've been living under a rock, video games have become mainstream, revenue generating, big business. It ain't just for kiddies anymore. In fact, the average age for most video game players is now... hold on to your seats - 33.

Back in early 1983 (at the impressionable young age of 15), my best friend at the time received one of the first ever "home computers" for a birthday present. It was a Timex Sinclair, nothing more than an over exaggerated calculator really. But we were both hooked - line an sinker. Not long after that we were honing our love for "PC's" on the myriad of Commodores that followed, eventually giving way to the big dual and quad core PCs we have today. That lil Timex led us to a path that we both still walk down to this very day. He's a hardcore programmer, and I'm a hardcore gamer.

Twenty four years later, PCs have clawed and scratched their way out of obscurity, rising from dark nerd infested basement's to become integral to everyone, everywhere, in nearly every facet of life. Businesses fully rely on them, houses now utilize them to operate everything from the toaster to the alarm system, and they're now becoming the centerpiece of our home entertainment systems. Can you imagine what kind of chaos the world would be thrust into if every computer around the globe suddenly just stopped working? Within a quarter of a century computers have evolved from a geek's plaything... to quiet literally running the world.

And with that evolutionary rise from the primordial semi-conductor goo to god-like status, so to has the computer gamer changed. Dorks, huddled in front of the green radioactive luminescence of giant CRT monitors endlessly playing with stick figured heroes as they side scrolled their way through crudely constructed castles evading demoniacally possessed Hitlers; spelunking through derivative dungeons trying to destroy dragons; and dodging odd looking objects that were supposed to be asteroids in space... are now considered normal. Many are making good livings being "professional" gamers and game developers. Colleges are eagerly offering courses on how to make games! Oh how the gaming landscape has changed.

I bring all this up because I recently played a game called Call of Juarez. In my review I not only call it the most gorgeous game ever designed, but go so far as to say this might very well be one of the best first person shooters ever created. It's that amazing. take for instance the image of this destroyed railroad bridge, which falls apart around you as you ride under it on horseback.

But there's an interesting lil side story to this Western shooter. Truth be told, think of it as a mystery. The game is developed by a Polish company called Techland. I've been a fan of theirs since 2003, when they released an unheralded game called Chrome, which I played for review during my early tenure with GameDaily. Even then they were on to making gorgeous games, as evidenced by this in-game scene...

Last summer both single player and multiplayer demos were released for Call of Juarez. They got me all hot and bothered because western shooters, for whatever reason, have been completely ignored. The birthplace of the term "shooter," and we got nothing to show for it. Activision's Gun does not count since it was a dismal failure. But Juarez had promise.

Then we discovered that while it had been released in Europe (of all places) in September of '06, and again in Australia the following month... there was no plans for it to be released in North America - the very home of "Cowboys and Indians" - until the ubiquitous second quarter of 2007. All attempts to get information out of Techland and Ubisoft (their French publisher) failed. I tend to think its Ubisoft pulling the reigns back on this thing. Why? Who knows. Who can figure out the French anyway?

So I improvised.

Jumping on eBay I managed to track down a legal Ukrainian (that'd be Russia) copy of this All-American Old West shooter... developed by Polish guys. Crazy, no? Thankfully it installed in English, and the rest as they say... is history. Pick up a copy of this game as soon as you possibly can. Don't wait for the lazy French to get off their arse and get it shipped Stateside (that's a big "if" and a bigger "when"). It's worth the fist full of dollars you'll spend on nabbing it early.

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