Blood is thicker than water, even in the desert, so when Confederate soldiers Ray and Thomas McCall discover their farm in Georgia is endangered by Union forces, they flee the front lines to defend the family home, risking execution as deserters. This sets in motion a chain of events that sees them explore the darkest depths of their personalities in pursuit of the legendary Gold of Juarez.
In Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood - the first Wild West shooter to appear on PlayStation 3 - at the beginning of each section you can choose to control either of the brothers and utilise their different abilities. Ray is much stronger than his sibling and can dual-wield revolvers and throw dynamite; Thomas is more agile, can use throwing knives for stealthy kills and is able to climb using a lasso.
The arsenal of weaponry available is extensive and in keeping with the setting, with various revolvers, shotguns, rifles and a bow and arrow all available. Guns come in different grades, so a Prime Ladies Gun, for example, is much more effective than a rusty one.
The game begins at the front lines of a battle between the Confederate and Union armies, setting the scene for the McCall brothers' desertion and their subsequent trek across the West and into Mexico. Gameplay is a mix of classic first-person gunplay in a unique setting and thrilling set pieces that nod to Spaghetti Western movies.
An example of this is a scene where you are chased out of town in a stagecoach after killing the sheriff. Enemies chase you on foot and on horseback as your coach ploughs through buildings and weaves through exploding barrels of gunpowder.
Fighting the sheriff himself calls upon one of the game's many unique mechanics - Duelling. It's one-on-one at high noon and you use the left stick on the Wireless Controller to circle around your enemy, and the right stick to control your right arm. When the bell tolls, you must reach for your revolver and pull the trigger before he does.
Concentration Mode also adds variety to your attacks; when you've killed enough enemies, you can press the Circle button on the Wireless Controller to slow down the action. If you're playing as Ray, you can highlight any foes in sight and then dispatch them all with rapid-fire. As Thomas, you hold the R1 button on the Wireless Controller and use the right stick as the hammer on your gun, flicking it back and forth repeatedly to fire at each bad guy in turn. Cover is also important during the tougher gunfights, and walking up to any crate or wall allows you to stick to it and peek around the corner or over the top.
The graphics are very impressive, mixing an art style that believably captures the context, with its one-horse towns and Native American reservations scattered around a desolate yet beautiful landscape, and an impressive game engine that let you see for miles. As the map opens up, transport becomes more important and you're able to ride horseback, steal stagecoaches and even paddle canoes to get to the next objective.
Online multiplayer features five competitive modes, some of which will be familiar, such as Posse, which is essentially Team Deathmatch, while Wild West Legends, for example, is unique, giving one team the task of completing objectives from a famous historical scene while the other team tries to stop them. There are many different classes to play as such as a Sniper or the stealthy Native, some of which have to be unlocked.
Despite the beautiful American landscape and dozens of Hollywood movies to take inspiration from, there have been relatively few games set in the Wild West. Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood captures the look and mood of this time with great authenticity and is a great action game that also tells a mature, intriguing story.