This site now takes a second and final in-depth look at the upcoming Western video game, Call of Juarez: Gunslinger (2013), prior to its release on May 22nd. In this article, westernsreboot.com further examines the approach toward the historical figures included in the game and provides more insight from lead storywriter and voice director Haris Orkin. To read Part One, please visit this link: CoJ-PT1
Call of Juarez: Gunslinger is a first-person game, developed by Techland and published by Ubisoft, in which players take on the role of bounty hunter Silas Greaves in the American West of the 19th century. The narrative framework is one of flashback – gamers play out the past deeds of Greaves while he recounts them to patrons and staff of a 1910 Kansas saloon. Those deeds include the tracking of real-life Old West outlaws such as Billy the Kid, Jesse James, the Dalton Gang, and Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid – these historical figures and others appear in the game. Here is one trailer for the game (Note: contains mature themes and images):
As previously shared, players discover that there can be differences between what the Greaves of 1910 or a dime novel describes and what the player experiences during that respective event. A major narrative thread for Call of Juarez: Gunslinger is the mythic component of Western history, story-telling and the genre itself.
As part of the media outreach for the game, art cards were made to publicize how the artists created the character concepts. The game’s artists drew upon the history of a given figure to provide a stylized look – the cards share artist commentary as to why a figure wears certain items or colors. The following example relates to Butch Cassidy:
Call of Juarez: Gunslinger is offering an interaction with subject material that potentially can lead a player – significantly, a younger player unfamiliar with the Western genre and Western history – to further research historical figures. Players can then consider a figure themselves, building upon what Haris Orkin states is integral to the game, a process he describes as “looking at the evidence and the facts, and deciding for yourself what you want to believe.”
The Western genre is singular, to this writer, for its ability to engage with the actual history of North America. There has been a noticeable increase in Westerns across various mediums in recent years – from film to television to videogames. westernsreboot.com asked Orkin to assess the Western genre in relation to (North) American and popular culture today. This was his response:
“There is a strong niche audience that loves Westerns, but the Western genre is a bit out of fashion and has been for a while. At least for the mainstream audience. Great Westerns do break through occasionally though and some are big mainstream successes. Like McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove saga or the Berrybender books. Hell on Wheels on AMC is the first successful Western TV show since Deadwood and for me was kind of seminal, a throwback to those revisionist Westerns of the late 60’s and 70’s which I loved, like Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch, Eastwood’s The Outlaw Josey Wales and even Little Big Man. All three of those were inspiration for Gunslinger.
More recently there have been some popular and critical successes in the genre. 3:10 to Yuma. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Tombstone. Open Range. The Missing. Unforgiven. True Grit. Django Unchained was a huge hit.
Westerns are the mythology of America and those themes run deep. They are popular all over the world. A lot of films and TV shows that aren’t superficially Westerns are Westerns in their bones. I’m talking about films like Firefly, No Country for Old Men and The Book of Eli. So I think the Western is actually alive and well. There’s something primal about the genre. A lone man standing up against the forces of nature or corruption or his own worse nature. Finding justice in a place where there is no justice. It’s the world stripped of all its modern distractions and there’s something very seductive about that.”
Finally, this site asked Orkin to appraise the Western genre in relation to video games:
“Westerns have been few and far between in video games, which is strange to me, because a Western seems to be the perfect genre for a shooter. Outlaws by LucasArts was fantastic in its day. Gun was good. Red Dead Revolver. Most recently, Red Dead Redemption was brilliant and introduced the Western genre to a whole new generation. And, of course, the Western games I worked on; Call of Juarez and Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood.
I think video games are a perfect fit with the Western genre. You aren’t just an observer, you’re a participant in the world. Sure it’s virtual, but experiencing something is a lot different than just watching. It’s the closest most people will ever get to living the fantasy.”
Call of Juarez: Gunslinger will be available for a downloadable release on Wednesday, May 22nd for Xbox 360, Sony PlayStation3 and PC platforms. westernsreboot.com will return again to the game for further review and commentary.
(Copyright – Chad Beharriell)