The third and presumably last chapter of the Call of Juarez franchise is here, updating it for the modern era, Call of Juarez: The Cartel. Gone are the blood brothers fighting over cursed treasure and a senorita, the game has been updated to showcase the bloody drug war that goes on every day back and forth over (and under) the Mexican border. Does the updating work and maintain the unique storyline of the previous two titles, or does the game just feel like poorly executed Call of Duty: Juarez?
The storyline is anything but simple: an interagency task force consisting of the LAPD, FBI and DEA are called in to investigate the bombing of a DEA building by the Mendoza drug cartel. You choose to play one of three of main characters: “Detective” Ben McCall, an angry veteran homicide detective with a heart of gold. Ben looks like he was pulled directly from Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood as a long lost cousin to the McCall brothers. He even looks like Preacher Ray McCall, complete with giant metal cross over his new era bulletproof vest, but that’s as far as his “preacher” roots extend except for a shot of a cutscene with a Bible on his desk. Then, there’s Eddie Guerra from the DEA, a womanizing gambler, and finally FBI agent Kim Evans who is trying to keep her gang banging brother out of trouble.
Bottom line with the story is the three “heroes” are forced to work together, but you have a hard time really backing any of the characters as none of them are particularly likable. As someone who prides himself on being big into story, I had to pause cutscenes and take an effort to figure out who was who and which character was double crossing which. The backstabbing and secret agendas come fast and furious, and by the end of the game, it’s fairly difficult to remember everyone’s motives for being dicks to one another.
One of the largest missteps the game’s story makes is the whole treasure angle. One of the only endearing characteristics of the previous two Call of Juarez games was that the entire cast of characters was attempting to lie, cheat and steal to get their hands on the cursed lost treasure of Cortez. In The Cartel, the treasure is barely a speed bump along the highway which you quickly run over in your bullet-ridden SUV; the treasure is simply a museum artifact collection now, which is lifted by the Cartel and used to pay for a large shipment of weapons from a private military contractor. Come on.
Let’s put a bullet in this on the next page.