Call for digital distribution was the right move.
If you wrote off Call of Juarez: Gunslinger by the franchise legacy alone, no one would blame you. After a mildly positive reception for Bound in Blood, the folks at Techland gave a modern day Western a shot with The Cartel. Big mistake. It wasn't enough for Ubisoft to let go of the franchise, but rather than a retail release that could spell major financial risk with low reward, Techland reloaded their six-shooters and took aim at digital distribution.
The result is a game that takes itself a lot less seriously and appeals more to the fans of old coin-op Wild West shoot-'em-ups of yesteryear. There's still a story and campaign, loosely based on historic outlaws, such as Jesse James or Billy the Kid. But there's also a strictly arcade mode meant for wracking up high scores and just having a blast. Or both.
The tales are told by the gunslingers themselves in their own words—their own take on what really happened. Essentially, since they were the only ones to live to tell their side of the story, it's theirs to mold into a tale of heroism rather than notoriety. The narrative was good for a few laughs—it turns out these ruthless killers have a lighter side.
Meanwhile, they had no trouble pistol-whipping, gunslinging, and taking a whole lotta lives in the process. In my short playthrough, I had to have killed over 100 enemies. At least. There's little downtime; instead, you push through the action with a swift pace solely to put holes in as many bodies as possible.
It's still a first-person shooter with some navigating between areas. But from what I saw, the shooting—what being a gunslinger is all about—is front and center. I went through six-shooters and shotguns quickly as I ran through train cart after train cart filled with shootout after shootout. I constantly ran out of ammo, but it was fine since there are so many dead bodies laying around that I could scoop up their weapons to use on their still-breathing buddies.
A couple explosions here, a chaingun massacre there, and then it all ended in a duel at dawn, dramatic Old West-style—which I absolutely loved. I also rather liked the new art direction. Crisp Wild West environments, with a slightly cel-shaded effect. None of it at all resembled the last Call of Juarez, and you won't hear any complaints about it. It appears that taking away the pressure of big-budget retail release has led Gunslinger to some fun and fresh ideas, mixed in with the old Wild West.
Call of Juarez: Gunslinger doesn't have a release date beyond "coming soon," but we do know that it will be for Xbox 360 and PS3.