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Call of Juarez is a series of First Person Shooters set in The Wild West and (as of the most recent installment) the New Old West, and revolving around the cursed gold of the eponymous Juarez and The Gunslinger family of the McCalls whose fates seem to be tied to it.

Call of Juarez (2006)

Billy Candle has had a crappy life: his dad is gone, his mom married a guy who beat him up regularly, he was mistreated by other kids for being a Mexican; when he ran away from home to find lost treasures, he didn't make it far; a girl he loved had an Overprotective Dad and he lost both the girl and his job. He returns to his hometown of Hope, "the most hopeless place on Earth", because he has nowhere left to go... and finds his mother and stepfather shot dead in their home, "Call of Juarez" written in blood above their bodies. Worse even, he is seen by his step-uncle Reverend Ray who assumes he is the murderer and gives chase to him...

Call of Juarez is a fast-paced, adrenaline-driven Western First-Person Shooter, where the player alternatingly assumes the roles of Billy and Reverend Ray, who is after his head. Billy is more of a Fragile Speedster with heavy emphasis on stealth, whereas Ray is a Mighty Glacier and The Gunslinger, which allows for an interesting twist: revisiting the same level (Ray is chasing after Billy, after all) never grows boring, thanks to the vastly different gameplay styles of the two.

Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood (2009)

 "Yesterday, we were a family..."

Call of Juarez was a critical and financial success and a prequel, Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood, was developed and released mid-2009, centering on Ray and his brother Thomas' exploits in their youth. After deserting from the Confederate Army shortly before its defeat, the McCalls find their old home burned down, their youngest brother William being the only survivor. To rebuild their home, the three travel to Mexico to find the legendary treasure of Juarez but William worries that his brothers are becoming outlaw murderers who only want the money...

Bound in Blood keeps the fast pace of the original, but shifts the narrative focus towards the intense Family Drama of the McCalls. Gameplay-wise, the game adds Regenerating Health and a cover mechanic, and also does away with the stealth segments from the first game. It also revamps the old concept of playing through the same level twice: you can choose to play most levels either as Thomas or Ray, as they fight together at the same time (the other is controlled by AI). Sadly and perplexingly, there's no cooperative mode. Additionally, BiB introduces more realistic quick-draw duels.

Call of Juarez: The Cartel (2011)

 "Welcome to the new wild west."

Less a sequel and more of a Spiritual Successor with the same name, The Cartel moves the setting into the modern day and criminal underdealings in Mexico and East LA. The new protagonists are Ben McCall, a Cowboy Cop from LA and Ray's distant descendant; Kim Evans, a tough Action Girl from the FBI; and Eddie Guerra, a Card Sharp working for the DEA. They investigate a terrorist attack orchestrated by the eponymous drug cartel and kick a lot of ass. Features the Co-Op Multiplayer mode that the previous title strangely lacked, allowing teams to control up to all three characters at once.

Got a lot of flak for its irreverent, inaccurate portrayal of the (very real and still ongoing) Mexican drug war, as well as for its gameplay.


Tropes in the game:

  • AKA-47: Rather surprisingly, given that all the guns involved are almost 200 years old, and are presumably no longer covered by trademark. Although it may simply be for simplicity's sake, as "lever rifle" is a lot shorter to write than "Winchester 1865".
    • Averted in Cartel, as all the guns are given real names and are modeled closely after their real-life counterparts.
  • American Civil War: The oldest McCall brothers participated in it quite a lot... on the Confederate side.
  • Anachronism Stew: The prequel uses all the guns from the first game, including SAA revolvers, which weren't due to be invented for at least another decade after the Civil War.
  • And Now for Someone Completely Different: The original game.
  • As the Good Book Says...: William is fond of citing The Bible in Bound in Blood. In the original game, Ray picks up the habit to do that... in all the wrong situations.
  • The Atoner: The reason Ray became Reverend Ray.
  • Ax Crazy: Ray McCall has this in spades in Bound in Blood. At one point Thomas even remarks that Ray enjoys his work way too much. Even after renouncing the gun and becoming a preacher, Ray still gives off this vibe in the first game after he starts going on the warpath to avenge Thomas and Marisa.
  • Badass Preacher: Ray can hold The Bible in the left hand and read passages from it even as he guns down mooks with a revolver in his right.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: Bound in Blood has both Juarez/Juan Mendoza and Colonel Barnesby acting as the main antagonists. The Cartel has Cartel leader Juan Mendoza and Corrupt Corporate Executive Michael Duke, as well as Assistant Deputy Director Shane Dickson acting as Mendoza's partner inside the Justice Department, and Psycho for Hire Antonio Alvarez playing all sides against each other for his own advantage.
  • Big Sister Instinct: Kim in Cartel is very protective of her last surviving younger brother, Deon. Her intro cutscene shows Kim using her authority as an FBI agent to prevent Deon from imprisonment due to a DEA drug sting, and she asked Ben to jail Deon for public intoxication to prevent him from getting caught in the crossfire of a gang war setup.
  • Bittersweet Ending:
    • In the extra story on the original Call of Juarez The unnamed sheriff kills his corrupt boss, County Commissioner Grizzwald, and the bandit, Vasquez, is executed leaving Round Rock in peace... but the whole town saw him gun down Grizzwald and Vasquez was the only person who knew he was corrupt, forcing the sheriff to flee to Mexico, or get hung by the citizens.
    • The main endings in both games count as this. In the first, Juarez is killed, Billy and Molly get married, and Billy has finally found the treasure, but Ray dies. In the second, Ray becomes a reverend and marries Thomas and Marisa, but William is dead, Juarez is alive (possibly unknown if you haven't played the original), and then there's the fact this is a prequel...
    • The "good" ending to Cartel is also this: Alvarez testifies to Dickson's involvement with the Cartel, resulting in her being arrested. However, the team wasn't able to prevent Jessica from being killed, and Kim and Eddie both turn out to be dirty and are arrested at the end as well.
  • Black and Grey Morality:
    • In Cartel all three main characters have their own personal agendas: Eddie owes a lot of people money and runs a network of street dealers selling drugs for him to pay it back, Kim tries to cover up Alvarez being a mole for the FBI and kills a retired FBI agent who may or may not have been working for the cartel, Ben McCall is the most "moral" of the group, and he's engaged in petty theft against criminals to help pay for a child's medical expenses, as well as willing to kill Alvarez regardless of how many lives are lost in the process.
    • It's also ambiguously implied that Eddie and Kim may have been complicit in Jessica Stone's murder, Eddie due to his heavy debt and Kim in order to protect Alvarez.
    • Playing through the campaign as all 3 characters will reveal that Eddie Guerra was very nearly a Villain Protagonist; he was The Mole and helped the Cartel kidnap Jessica Stone, because they had purchased his gambling debts. He also set up his drug dealer/informant Flaco to be killed by the Cartel to silence him. In the finale, he doesn't give a damn about justice and just wants to steal all of the Cartel's money and start a new life for himself. Kim, in contrast, was actually an idealistic Good Cop and really an Unwitting Pawn who was Just Following Orders... she murdered the FBI agent because the corrupt FBI director had (most likely falsely) told her he was a Cartel assassin, and while she was actively protecting Alvarez she didn't know just how murderous he was, including his intention to kill Jess.
  • Breakable Weapons: All guns eventually explode after a few dozen shots. How quickly this happens depends on the condition of the weapon, with "rusty" weapons exploding in your hands a lot more quickly than those in good condition.
    • Removed in Bound in Blood, in favor of more weapon quality levels and stats.
  • Bullet Time: Ray can go into it when armed with revolvers. Billy can do it, too, after he acquires a bow. Both players can do it in Bound in Blood, to different effects.
    • All the main characters in Cartel can do this with any weapon.
  • Cain and Abel: Ray and Thomas almost go this way in Bound in Blood but William's Heroic Sacrifice makes him the Abel and both of them, the Cains, in a way.
  • The Call Knows Where You Live: In the original, this is what starts the entire story, appropriately enough with "Call of Juarez" even being written near the bodies of Billy's parents. Since the prequel, Bound in Blood, has been released, however, it essentially turns into a case of Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Quite literally. At the beginning of the game, Ray and Thomas kill an entire Company of Union troops atacking their family estate. Later, Colonel Barnsby and his men come by and collect all the rifles off the dead troops. These rifles become a major MacGuffin later in the game's main plot.
  • Church Militant: Ray in the original game explicitly considers himself the Wrath of God.
  • Cold Sniper: Kim in Cartel. She has a stat proficiency in sniper rifles, cutscenes usually show her wielding a Dragunov, and she frequently snarks back to her teammates.
  • Colonel Badass: Barnsby is a villainous example.
  • Combat Stilettos: Kim spends The Cartel engaging in gunfights while wearing a pair of high heel boots.
  • Continuity Nod: Juarez wields a pair of Volcano Guns in Bound in Blood, which he also described as his signature weapons in the first game.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Michael Duke in Cartel, the CEO of Private Military Contractor Peacekeepers International. He started supplying the Mendoza cartel with high-end firearms after PI went backrupt. Shane Dickson turns out to be one as well.
  • Cowboy Cop: Ben McCall, figuratively and literally.
  • Crucified Hero Shot: This is how Ray imagines William in Bound in Blood epilogue (while directly comparing him to Jesus, no less), though it was somewhat different in reality.
  • Disappeared Dad: Billy's dad is the titular Juarez.
  • Dirty Cop:
    • Kim Evans and Eddie Guerrera in Cartel. Both have their own agendas to pursue; Eddie steals drugs to sell on the streets and Kim steals rare guns to give the F.B.I. for her own investigation and is also actively working to undermine the investigation into Alvarez in order to protect him, due to him being an FBI mole. She also kills one witness to Alvarez's crimes and it's implied she might have been complicit in Jessica Stone's killing. In comparison, Ben McCall steals wallets from gangsters to help pay for medical care for the child of one of the hookers in his jurisdiction that he's protecting. You can also get an achievement with this title by getting 15 secret items as any of three characters.
    • The Cartel has a pretty dim view of federal bureaucrats performing law enforcement duties in general. Besides Task Force Director Shane Dickson being revealed as The Mole, in the endgame the FBI director and DEA director both order the assassination of the competing agency's agent.
  • Dead Guy, Junior: Thomas obviously named Billy after his youngest brother.
  • Death From Above: After the task force catches Juan Mendoza, the Cartel leader, Shane Dickson sends a Predator drone to silence Mendoza from testifying against her in court, as well as attempt to kill the task force since they know too much.
  • Dodge the Bullet: In the first game, quick-draw duels take place in slow motion, and (if you're quick enough) you can even lean left or right to dodge incoming enemy bullets.
  • Domestic Abuse: Thomas Ray has beaten Billy up regularly.
  • Fake Difficulty: The single-player campaign of The Cartel can be like this at times, as it is balanced for 3-player co-op. If you're playing single-player, your A.I.-controlled teammates are limited to the weak starting pistol, and are unable to perform objective-based actions. This is especially a problem in scenes where you're supposed to fulfill co-op based objectives, such as two players moving bags of money against a time limit, or one player carrying the money while the other two cover them. Since your A.I. teammates are incapable of doing any of this stuff, you end up having to do it all yourself, which the game isn't balanced for.
  • Fisticuffs Boss: There are two in the original game, the bigoted farmhand leader and the final boss.
  • Foregone Conclusion: If you've played through Call of Juarez up to Ray's confession, you already know how Bound In Blood is going to end. Although there is a final duel against Colonel Big Bad Conflict Killer Giant Space Flea From Nowhere whose appearance at the end is something of an unexpected surprise.
  • Fragile Speedster: Billy.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: While in Hope, before being accused of murder, Billy, armed only with a whip, can, if the player is skilled and determined enough, kill just about the entire town population, without any long-term repercussions.
  • Gatling Good: Ray can pick up a gatling gun and carry it around.
  • Generation Xerox: It's something of a surprise, but in Bound in Blood Thomas McCall plays quite similar to how his stepson Billy Candle did in the original game, including the inability to dual-wield and instead using a lasso and a bow as signature equipment. The reason for this is open to any amount of Wild Mass Guessing.
  • Giant Space Flea From Nowhere: Subverted, as Col. Barnsby's appearance as the Final Boss of Bound in Blood turns out to be a plot point that underlines the absolution motif in the game, since Running River finds the inner strength to forgive him for killing his village and his son.
  • God Is Good: William believes that firmly and Ray comes to believe in it in the end.
    • Eventually proven true at the end of the first game, where Ray prays to God for a chance to save Billy and is given it, shooting the Big Bad before he can kill Billy. Or it may have been a case of Heroic Resolve and Dying Moment of Awesome.
  • Guide Dang It: It's not immediately obvious that you have to make the final shot on Juarez as a duel - i.e. flick the control stick to draw - because every previous duel was announced openly.
  • Guns Akimbo:
    • Ray's most powerful weapon are his trusty dual revolvers, even in the final stages, though everyone else can use them in general. You can even do it with Sawn Off Shotguns.
    • All the characters in Cartel can do this with pistols, though Eddie can also dual-wield SMGs.
  • The Gunslinger: Ray is a mix of Trick Shot and The Woo. And there are others, too. His brother Thomas is similar, though more of a Trick Shot.
  • Hated Hometown: Billy hates his hometown (as well as everything from his crappy childhood, except his mother), but has to return to it in the beginning of the first game.
  • Heel Faith Turn: Ray.
  • Heroic Sociopath:
    • Ray and Thomas in the prequel. Both out to amass fortune to rebuild their family home, but gleefully engaging in as much chaos as possible as they do it. Especially Ray.

 William: Do not violate the word of God! The Fifth Commandment: 'Thou Shalt Not Kill'.

Ray: [gesturing to the numerous corpses] It's a little late for that, little brother!

    • Ben, Kim and Eddie in Cartel also qualify.
  • Hey, It's That Voice!:
  • How We Got Here:
    • Bound in Blood begins with the opening scene from the final mission, and the rest of the game is William's narration of how his caring and more-or-less responsible older brothers became brazen murderers ready to kill each other.
    • Cartel opens with a frantic chase on a freeway, and the first half of the game leads up to that point.
  • Identical Grandson:
    • Ben McCall in Cartel is pretty much his ancestor Ray with a bulletproof vest instead of a metal cuirass, right down to his kicking ass while reciting scripture and fear of heights.
    • The leader of the Cartel is Juan "Juarez" Mendoza, who's pretty much identical to his 19th century counterpart (although he ultimately dies in a very Anticlimax Boss manner).
  • If You Kill Him You Will Be Just Like Him: William tries to prevent Ray from killing an unarmed Devlin with this and the story of Jesus forgiving one of the murderers crucified alongside him. Ray's reaction? "The Lord forgave him... a cold-blooded murderer? Well, that's good to know." Then he shoots him dead.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Concentration mode causes Bullet Time and lets the player fire and dodge bullets by ducking and leaning while doing so. Ray eventually has to shoot dynamite falling toward him and hit a flaming lamp away from him with bullets alone.
  • Instant Death Bullet: Only in quick-draw duels. Except when it isn't.
  • Interservice Rivalry: Between the FBI and DEA in The Cartel, to the point that a detective from the LAPD is brought in to keep the peace between the two. This goes so far that in the final level the FBI Director authorizes the assassination of the DEA agent.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Ben McCall gets Jesus to talk by threatening to hang him with a noose, and Kim, Ben and Eddie repeatedly punch and kick strip club owner Javier until he gives up the location of the missing girls.
  • Joke Item: The Ladies Pistol (Derringer) in Bound in Blood. It's the weakest firearm in the game, and only holds 2 shots. It takes at least 3 or 4 hits from it to kill most enemies. At gun stores it's the cheapest weapon available, and rightly so.
  • Karma Houdini: Alvarez escapes punishment for his crimes regardless of what ending you get. If you try to kill him and your partners, he uses a grenade to escape and you end up in a shootout with your partners. If you take him alive, he gets complete immunity in exchange for his testimony against Dickson. Also, if you choose to kill your partners, Shane Dickson also gets away with her crimes and even becomes promoted to director of the Justice Department, although it's implied in Kim's ending that despite her apparent success, the stress that she may one day be found out is getting to her.
  • Large Ham: Michael Duke in Cartel turns into one during your boss fight with him.
  • Made of Iron: Mostly averted, as all boss battles are quick-draw duels that end with only a couple shots. The only exception is Juarez himself when you fight him as Ray inside the treasure cave, and his ability to take a few dozen bullets before retreating is later explained by the fact that he's wearing armor just like Ray.
    • He does it again in the sequel, too, which is notable because all the previous bosses were standard one-shot-one-kill quickdraw duels.
    • This actually happens a few times in Bound in Blood. Both battles against Col. Barnsby are this, along with some random bosses thrown in during the sandbox segments.
  • Mayincatec: The final prize in the game are the cursed Aztec treasures.
    • The treasure is identified as the ransom for Montezuma, seized by Cortez's men. The Mayincatec temple near Juarez, roughly 1000 miles north from the territory of the Aztec is another thing though.
  • Mighty Glacier:
    • Ray combines the toughness and power of a Mighty Glacier (and he is immune to frontal attacks thanks to the cuirass he's wearing) with speed of a Trick Shot, thus being effectively indestructible in combat. Think Death Star on legs.
    • But he was nerfed somewhat for Bound in Blood.
    • Ben McCall from Cartel is also this.
  • The Mole: Shane Dickson in Cartel.
  • Multiple Endings: Cartel has four different endings, though only one of them is "good" and you can only get that one by choosing not to kill your teammates at the very end. Interestingly, the "bad" ending for each character can only be unlocked by getting a high enough Secret Agenda score playing through the entire campaign.
  • My Greatest Failure: In Cartel, a recording by Patrick Stone reveals that he never forgave himself for not testifying with Ben against Alvarez for the rape and murder of a Vietnamese girl. This would cause Ben to sever ties with Patrick, despite Patrick still thinking of Ben as a friend. In fact, Patrick entrusts his daughter Jessica to Ben because he's the only person Patrick can trust due to Ben's unwavering sense of justice, which makes Jessica's death sting even harder.
  • Never Bring a Knife to A Fist Fight: Subversion: Juarez pulls out a knife after being beaten in a fistfight by Billy. He still loses, but only because Reverend Ray draws a gun and shoots him.
  • Never Found the Body: You fight Juarez as a Climax Boss in the second-to-last level of Bound in Blood. At the end, this trope is invoked so he can return to be the Big Bad in the original game, twenty years later.
  • New Old West: The setting for Cartel.
  • Non-Action Big Bad: The Cartel leader, Juan Mendoza, in The Cartel doesn't take any real action throughout the entire game, and is killed in a very Anticlimax Boss fashion at the end without any real fanfare.
  • Non-Action Guy: In Bound In Blood there's William, the youngest McCall brother, a non-violent priest.
  • Overheating: Happens to guns in the original game.
  • Power Trio: The McCalls in Bound in Blood. William is the Super Ego; Thomas, the Ego; and Ray, the Id.
  • Railroading: Early in the game, as Billy enters Hope, sheriff on the bridge will take his gun away. If you try to trick the game by dropping your weapon before the bridge encounter, you'll discover afterwards that it has "mysteriously" vanished.
  • Redemption Failure: Ray becomes a priest after killing his brother William in Bound in Blood. In the original game, he goes right back to being The Gunslinger after his other brother is killed.
  • Remixed Level: In the original game.
  • Remember the New Guy?: Inverted. In the first game, neither Ray nor Juarez act as though they recognize each other, despite the fact that they're meeting under extremely similar circumstances as before, and neither has changed that much over the past 20 years (Ray is still even wearing his signature armor).
  • The Remnant: In Bound in Blood, Colonel Barnsby and his Confederate remnants are undaunted by the end of the American Civil War, and start up a gun-running operation in the hopes of putting together enough money to finance a second rebellion.
  • Rollercoaster Mine: The original game had some, the prequel doesn't.
  • Sassy Black Woman: Kim Evans in Cartel.
  • Sequel Difficulty Drop: Bound in Blood has Regenerating Health, and also does away with the stealth segments and platform jumping which were the primary source of Fake Difficulty in the original game. This is balanced out somewhat by making Bullet Time slightly less common (you have to earn it by killing enemies, instead of it regenerating automatically every few seconds), and also by having Ray be somewhat Nerfed.
  • Sibling Team: Ray and Thomas in Bound in Blood. William, too, though he is a Non-Action Guy.
  • Sinister Minister: William is a rare full-on subversion, while Ray occasionally dips into this trope.
  • Sins of Our Fathers: It's much more clear if you read the tie-in comic, but the reason Thomas beat Billy mercilessly throughout the poor kid's childhood is because he saw Billy's father Juarez in the kid whenever he looked at him, and was also afraid Billy would grow up to be just like the guy.
  • Shoot Him! He Has a Wallet!: Invoked by William in Bound in Blood, when he acts as if he is reaching for a gun to make Ray shoot him, whereas in reality, he pulls out his Bible.
  • Shout-Out: One of the achievements in Cartel is called "The Border Crossed Us".
  • Showdown At High Noon: Ray and Thomas get into these regularly.
  • Soft Water: Averted.
  • South of the Border: The primary setting.
  • Springtime for Hitler: In The Cartel, Jessica Stone points out that the anti-Cartel task force is so dysfunctional, and all of its members so obviously corrupt and/or crazy, that it seems like it was intentionally set up to fail. She's right. Deputy Asssitant Director Shane Dickson, the head of the task force, is the Cartel's mole inside the U.S. government. Yet, despite all that, the 3 crooked cops eventually do succeed in bringing down the Cartel.
  • Stealth Based Mission: Most missions involving Billy, whereas Ray's are primarily action-heavy.
  • Stern Chase
  • Story Overwrite: Even if you kill Juarez with a headshot in the first game, he will always be back, claiming that his chestplate saved him.
  • Talking Is a Free Action: Some of the bosses.
  • Throw Down the Bomblet: Ray can throw sticks of dynamite, whereas Thomas can't.
  • Title Drop: "Call of Juarez" also doubles as Arc Words.
  • Unexpected Gameplay Change:
    • After several levels of linear cowboy slaying, Billy wakes up from a headshot to the face to find himself dumped into a Wide Open Sandbox spirit quest taking place in a huge continuous forest and lake map.
    • Happens again in Bound in Blood. Chapters VI and VIII are like mini-sandboxes that pop out of nowhere and then are never seen again.
  • Unnecessary Combat Roll: Averted in Bound in Blood. This move, used by enemy gunfighters, is actually fairly useful for dodging your gunfire due to the low rate of fire of the period weapons of the time. Their A.I. is also smart enough to use it mostly for diving behind cover, instead of just doing it randomly out in the open.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential:
    • Ray can shoot an enemy a couple of times, reload, go into Bullet Time and unload two pistol magazines into said enemy. Plus a couple to the head if you're accurate enough.
    • It's also possible to kill civilians in Cartel and your teammates won't call you on it, but you will fail the mission if you kill too many.
  • The Vietnam War: Antonio Alvarez, Patrick Stone, and Ben McCall of Cartel are veterans of Vietnam.
  • Wake Up Call Boss: The second duel in Bound in Blood. There is zero margin for error, and you will die repeatedly until you learn the duel mechanics properly. This is a huge jump in difficulty compared to the first duel, an old man who's slow as molasses.
  • We Can Rule Together: Juarez makes this offer to his son Billy at the end of the first game. Seeing as how Juarez recently beat him unconcious as well as kidnapped his girlfriend and threatened to rape and kill her, Billy isn't remotely interested.
  • The Western: All of it.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Whatever happened to Susie? Ray burns down the bar/brothel where she works to kill all the town thugs, does that mean he also killed her and all the other working girls? Almost certainly so.
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