Set in 1864, before the events of the original Call Of Juarez, Bound In Blood is another Western-themed shooter, following the fortunes of the McCall brothers, during and after the American Civil War. Playing as both Thomas and Ray (who ends up as the pistol-wielding preacher of the original game), two Confederate soldiers who desert the army of William Tecumseh Sherman when their family homestead comes under attack, the player is quickly embroiled in a gun-totin’ lawless adventure that takes them from the cotton-fields of Georgia to the ancient Aztec temples of Mexico. All the while, they’re pursued by the deadly Colonel Barnsby, their former commanding officer who vows to hang the brothers for desertion, while some form of moral guidance is provided by the third McCall brother, former priest William, who unexplainably continues to wear his robes and collar despite having left the seminary.
Both playable characters have different strengths, including different gun-slinging styles – Thomas is more stealthy, while Ray often relies on brute force and stamina to get the job done – while Thomas can also use his trusty lasso to reach higher vantage points. Both brothers have the ability to enter -Concentration Mode’, basically a form of slo-mo bullet time, which allows you to take out multiple enemies in a very short timeframe, a la a Max Payne. And there are plenty of enemies to shoot at, from Civil War soldiers to rogue lawmen (who admittedly only lose the rag when the brothers’ charm their way into their daughters’ beds), nefarious businessmen to native American tribesmen. You will also get to use a variety of weapons to achieve your goals, including the deadly Gatling gun, dynamite, cannons, knives, pistols and rifles, as the body-count starts to rise exponentially.
The graphics throughout are superb, with incredible cinematics on the cut-scenes calling to mind recent big screen successes like 3:10 To Yuma or The Assassination Of Jesse James, with great character models and the dusty landscapes rendered in stunning detail. The game also provides some memorable Wild West stalwarts, including duels, bank robberies and stagecoach rides, as the tale of the brothers reaches its unhappy conclusion: there’s more backstabbing and betrayal in this game than in an entire season of Eastenders. The characters are pretty well-developed, with cracking voice acting and extensive cut-scenes detailing their derailment from brave soldiers of the south to ultra-violent mercenaries whose only concerns are gold and women.
There’s plenty of variation in the gameplay, with each mission involving a lengthy mixture of exploration and shooting, and a decent array of locations to explore and characters to encounter/shoot. The lack of a co-op mode is a drawback, but the online game promises a host of multiplayer modes, including deathmatch and bounty hunter modes, where the more kills you amass, the bigger the price on your head. All in all, arguably the finest western shooter to date. Great fun.