"Call of Juarez: The Cartel"
Reviewed for: Playstation 3 and Xbox 360
Also available for: Windows PC
ESRB Rating: Mature (blood, drug reference,
intense violence, partial nudity, sexual
content, strong language)
By Billy O'Keefe
Those who stroll unknowingly into "Call of Juarez: The Cartel" are in for a serious case of video game culture shock. The third game in a series of gunslinging first-person westerns takes place in present-day Los Angeles amid a looming war between the United States and a Mexican drug cartel, and while the national park setting is slightly novel, the game's first shootout would otherwise feel at home in that other series that has "Call of" in its title.
"Cartel's" chief protagonist has ancestral ties to the previous game's protagonist, but otherwise, this may as well be a new series altogether. If you played previous "Juarez" games precisely to get away from assault rifles, C4 explosives, launching rockets at choppers and small armies constantly firing on your position, "Cartel's" embrace of all that in the first mission alone will leave you deeply dismayed.
Whatever attempt "Cartel" makes to justify this change isn't helped any by its storytelling. The leap to present day doesn't strive for novelty, opting for a pedestrian cops-versus-gangs story instead of something that calls back to the Old West or makes the main character a fish out of water. You can play as one of three characters — "Cartel's" online co-op functionality lets you assign two other players to the other two — but all three are dull caricatures who blather in cliches and (along with their enemies) repeat themselves way too often.