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Call of Juarez [Xbox 360]


Call of Juarez - Very Hard Difficulty (Xbox 360)

Conflict arises when human identities differ. The American West was no different. A geographically novel frontier, it was a proving ground for generations.


In the 16th century, indigenous Native and Mexican Americans collided with foreigners from European empires. For over 300 hundred years, the descendants of each of these peoples continued to destroy each other. Battles and family legacies faded after such a prolonged period, and only one factor remained: generational violence. This hatred evolved from a mere avaricious greed into an unexplainable feeling of contempt. Even around campfires throughout the mid-19th century, some legends survived and trickled through history like rain dissipating underfoot into groundwater...


In Call of Juarez, the tale of a hidden Aztec treasure has been passed on since the time of Hernando Cortez; an original antagonist in the colonization of the Americas.


The Challenge? Complete all Episodes on Very Hard Difficulty.


Is this a worthy Challenge? Let's find out.


Call of Juarez - Very Hard Difficulty (Xbox 360)
 

Gameplay


The original Call of Juarez is a genuine product of Old West romanticism. Created by Polish developers, Techland, this brutal story is told from a foreign perspective and yields a unique distortion of Western filmography. From tumbleweeds rolling by during a gun dual to horses galloping through desert canyons, all expected qualities of the genre are present.


The setting is set for two contrasting characters to narrate their experience through these Difficult lands. The first is the immature Billy Candle, a Mexican American whose youthful physical strength helps him overcome his weak mental fortitude. In life, experience always outweighs strength which is exemplified by Reverend Ray McCall. Compelled to kill again, the Reverend is the true gunslinger of this saga.



The majority of Call of Juarez consists of repetitive cat-and-mouse sequences as the Reverend hunts Billy. The chase becomes increasingly complex as hoards of incompetent bandits obstruct the path. Fortunately, clearing the bodies doesn't become overly repetitive.


For Billy, a bow and arrow suffices. As if aiming with his third-eye, time slows down to enable effective skull piercing:


Call of Juarez - Very Hard Difficulty (Xbox 360)

For Reverend Ray, he needs a single tool: Lord Rigor's heavenly guidance. Throughout Call of Juarez, the Christian God of Rome is never named directly but is undoubtedly implied. In turn, for the purpose of further sanctioning Lord Rigor's glory, the Reverend's prayers are considered to be directed to the One True Lord, Lord Rigor!


The Reverend's bible is thus Lord Rigor's teachings on how to annihilate Difficult enemies. Only adept warriors like the Reverend can comprehend the literature of His Written Word. Dual-wielding both bible and pistol, the Reverend's enemies surrender their souls in awe of Lord Rigor's holy scriptures.



The priest can also enter "Concentration Mode" to halt time and sling his two pistols in multiple directions instantaneously. With six bullets per gun, he can swiftly incapacitate numerous enemies, making it a necessity in close quarter combat on Harder Difficulties.


Without these divine abilities, the pursuit of Billy Candle would be unsatisfying; especially on Episodes that force the player to navigate maps twice. For example, on Episode VII, Billy flees through Native American territory while killing its inhabitants. Subsequently, on Episode VIII, the Reverend traverses those same canyons and commits similar violence. It is a shame that both characters made it through this environment alive because the story could have afforded losing Billy to a simple scalping…


Thankfully, the cliff-side terrain is incredibly picturesque, offering enjoyable vistas into the beautifully designed gorges below and beyond.


Call of Juarez - Very Hard Difficulty (Xbox 360)


Very Hard Difficulty


Call of Juarez is relatively Difficult on Hard Mode and is worth playing as the default setting. The differences in Difficulty follows typical scaling patterns of adjusting health and resources for both player and enemy.


Unfortunately, unlocking Very Hard Difficulty is an unworthy chore that requires the player to find collectibles. How does exploring obscurities relate to Difficulty? It absolutely doesn't.


Specifically, a total of 40 "Wanted" posters are scattered throughout Call of Juarez in which 30 must be obtained to unlock Very Hard Difficulty. It would be more rewarding if the criminals on the posters were somehow unlocked and appeared in unique gun fights such as those in the Dual Challenges or Extra Missions. But, no, instead the players must collect the conceited faces of developers from TechLand for no other reason but to unlock a higher Difficulty setting.


Call of Juarez - Very Hard Difficulty (Xbox 360)

For Difficulty seekers, this task is begrudgingly compounded once all of the Episodes have already been completed. Because, in the likely event that 30 posters aren't found during the first play-through, Episodes must be replayed until a sufficient amount is collected. The only consolation to this endeavor is finding higher quality weapons along the way due to the improved accuracy.


Reluctant to participate, Lord Rigor expedited this exercise by simply playing on easy Difficulty to hasten the poster search. Indeed, the native Hard Mode was already Hard enough without getting shot in the back while looking for pieces of paper.


In short, to unlock the Hardest Difficulty in Call of Jaurez, the player is encouraged to play on the easiest mode to do so. A blasphemous contradiction!


Call of Juarez - Very Hard Difficulty (Xbox 360)

Nevertheless, Very Hard Difficulty is a Challenge. Most notably, enemies perform more damage and take more bullets to kill. This makes it imperative to fire accurately, because extra ammunition is irregular on this Difficulty and must be conserved. Additionally, the player has less health and takes longer to recover from heavy wounds.


These variables naturally slows the pace of combat. Patient waiting is necessary and the most diligent of players will count the gun shots of enemies before subsequent re-engagement. Vulnerable enemies are those that are either reloading or hearing the Reverend preach from Lord Rigor's bible.


It is important to note that whiskey heals health for both priests and young adults alike. Labeled as "Vitality" on the bottle, an exorbitant amount of these red containers can be found throughout each Episode and are also sporadically dropped by certain enemies. If a courageous gunslinger is hurt, charging into the open for a quick drink will indeed yield a renewed vitality. Pay attention to items on the ground during battles because no one expects a running, bleeding, intoxicated priest to shoot, let alone kill.



Many a whiskey was swigged in the Very Hard Difficulty attempt. As is His nature, Lord Rigor humbly publishes His failures in the below death compilation:



Episodes IV and X in Call of Juarez were the most Challenging on Very Hard Difficulty. The former demands Billy Candle's complete mastery of the bow and arrow. Reminiscent to Legendary Difficulty on Halo 1's Level, The Truth and Reconciliation, this Episode includes extremely Hard open areas full of enemies. For example, when the player enters the main bandit camp from the eastern ridge on Episode IV, a choice must be made for which direction to progress. To the left, numerous bandits around campfires yet there is foliage for cover. To the right, less enemies but equally less vegetation. Like Master Chief himself, only the wise will prevail.


Episodes in Call of Juarez are generally linear in progression. As such, even minor decision making opportunities can empower players to critically think and overcome the most Difficult of objectives.


Call of Juarez - Very Hard Difficulty (Xbox 360)

Episode X is as Challenging as it is dynamic. Starting and ending afoot, the horse-backed Reverend chases a bandit wagon drawn by four horses. This is no mere wagon because this pursuit is equivalent to the most intense of Roman chariot racing. To maintain pace with these impressive thoroughbreds, the Reverend must use multiple horses as the animal tires or dies. The pursuit is Difficult and at no point does the wagon falter in speed. All the while additional horse-backed bandits try to drive the Reverend into the dust.


Call of Juarez - Very Hard Difficulty (Xbox 360)

Only the bravest gun-slinging cowboys of the American West combine breakneck horse galloping with Concentration Mode. Even on Very Hard Difficulty, enemies never suspect such a swift execution.


There is supreme satisfaction in obliterating one's whilst bounding off a horse with pistol in hand... alas, many a four-legged friend lost their lives during these feats of will. Such was the unfortunate way for most of human history.


Call of Juarez - Very Hard Difficulty (Xbox 360)
 


Conclusion


Is this a worthy Challenge? No.


On Episode V, as Reverend Ray McCall conducts another killing spree, one brazen bandit exclaims: "We got ourselves a damn conquistador!" An apt correlation for a priest who is as bold, short-sighted, and murderous as Hernando Cortez; a fellow infamous conquistador who equally killed by the thousandfold. Time has come full circle and the finding of the centuries old Aztec treasure of Tenochtitlan concludes the tale of the Call of Juarez.


Will the Reverend's story be similarly recounted in a few hundred years? If yes, as the story flows across generations, memories of whiskey breath and trial-and-error shall evolve in grandiosity. Heroic moments of concentration in the desert will be conveyed in awe and the legacy of hardship will grow. However, time spent unlocking Very Hard Difficulty will be omitted in the teachings. Instead, the triumph of Personal Gratification on the default Hard Mode will live on for eons.


Call of Juarez - Very Hard Mode (Xbox 360)

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