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I wouldn’t want to be thought of as an unconstructive critic. I like to think that, while I have been known to liken games to dirty pants, I can always suggest methods of fixing the dirty pants issues. Like laundering, say. That would be a good start.

But there’s rarely enough time in a video to pull down every pair of dirty pants on a game and run them through a spin cycle, so here we are again in Extra Punctuation to fill in the blanks. I had a lot to say about Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood’s frustrating ‘showdown’ minigame, so I would like to challenge myself with the question: what would I have done to fix it?

To be honest, I like the idea, and I appreciate the effort. It must have been very tempting to just stick in a Quick Time Event. Wild West showdowns are probably as close to a real-life Quick Time Event as you can get, especially if anyone ever had to pull the trigger of a Walker Colt several times in order to push something heavy. But no, showdowns in Call of Juarez are practically a science. You sidestep back and forth to keep the baddie in the centre (because otherwise your crosshair isn’t centered when you draw), move your hand with the right analog stick so it doesn’t touch the holster (why aren’t we allowed to keep our hand on the gun while we wait? Bloody cowboys making it difficult for themselves), then when a bell rings, move your hand onto the gun and hit ‘fire’ when the crosshair travels up to the baddie’s scrotum.

For a while the minigame works and I can even sort of understand having it instead of a boss fights; in other Western games I’ve always had trouble accepting an evil cowboy who can take fifty shots to the face. What I don’t like is the fact that they use it for every boss fight. In every single chapter. It’s not just that it’s repetitive; with difficulty curves being what they are each one has to be harder than the last, and the only way to do that is to make the baddie draw faster. By the end of the game they’re doing that whole Gene Wilder in Blazing Saddles thing and you’ll fail over and over again until you memorize the timing.

The other thing is, these are main story baddies. We hate each other. They’ve spent the entire game chasing us, ruining our lives, sending wave after wave of black-hats to gun us down and cut our throats, and we’ve offloaded enough lead in their direction to replace a church roof. At any other point in the game, we would have killed each other without a second’s thought. But at the end of each chapter, as predictable as the tides, out comes baddie du jour making up some excuse about how his gammy leg’s hurting and he’d like to do a showdown now. And I’m trying to pull the fucking trigger all while he’s talking but my characters have come down with cutscene stupidity.

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It’s not a good idea to have a gameplay mechanic that requires one’s reaction time to be at a very specific level. It’s like refusing access to the next level because of the player’s height; a lot of people can’t do much to fix that. I’d suggest reducing the number of showdowns to about three or four and end the other chapters with, I dunno, a boss fight with a giant robot spider.

Or better still, keeping with the two-brothers routine, how about giving us a choice? If we want we can play the brother who actually does the showdown, or we can choose to play the other one. Your job then would be to stand in the baddie’s line of sight and reflect sunlight into their eyes, point and yell “What’s that over there?!”, or maybe whip your willy out just as the bell rings. Then press X to wave it back and forth.

Anyway.

“Anyhoo, I have Wii Sports Resort and think it’s a very fun little game. Certainly not one for the uber-hardcore crowd, but if they had their way, Marior [sic] would be a dull as dishwater space marine and Link would wear gritty chainmail and be covered with blood.”
– JacOak, from the Wii Sports Resort comments

Well, you’re pretty much describing Zelda Twilight Princess there, but otherwise, fuck you. ‘Hardcore’ doesn’t mean ‘Halo-playing twitchy fourteen-year-old douchebag.’ ‘Hardcore’ gamers means the gamers who get into it. The gamers who have gamed since 256 colors were a distant wet dream. The gamers who follow all the hype and who want games with depth and innovation. The gamers who read websites like this one and ultimately the gamers who give a shit. Hardcore gamers are the ones who want the Mario and Zelda games Nintendo can’t be bothered with anymore because they’re too busy making popcorn nothings like Wii Sports Resort for their new ‘casual gamer’ friends.

Casual gamers are people who buy a Wii because the TV told them to and play it for about an hour before going off to mow the lawn or watch Days of our Lives or whatever else normal people do with their time. And pandering to these insipid fucks is only going to bite Nintendo in the arse when the Nissan iFurby or whatever the next tech trend will be lures them all away. Because after that they’ll have nothing but a broken gimmick and all the long-term hardcore players they betrayed. Hope it was worth it, guys.

Yahtzee is a British-born, currently Australian-based writer and gamer with a sweet hat and a chip on his shoulder. When he isn’t talking very fast into a headset mic he also designs freeware adventure games and writes the back page column for PC Gamer, who are too important to mention us. His personal site is www.fullyramblomatic.com.

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