After playing - and liking - Gunslinger, I wanted to get into more of the Call of Juarez series that I missed. The Cartel was the natural next entry to try because other than Gunslinger (2013) it was the most recent (2011).
I can only imagine that ads for this game claimed it was "high-octane" or contained "explosive firefights" and while there is the occasional fun moment, for the most part it is a boring, bland affair.
Despite some cool concepts and set pieces, the graphics are subpar, even given when it came out. The animations are choppy, textures low-res and flat. The skyboxes are particularly grainy, like they were JPG compressed.
The sound is even worse, with horribly repetitive dialogue delivered by some of the worst voice acting I've ever heard in a game.
The menus are especially painful because of a terrible font choice and the fact that the mouse speed there is not affected by the sensitivity setting. It crawls across the screen and turns anything you want to do in a menu into a belabored chore.
And the story is a jumbled mess of cliches.
Where a run-of-the-mill FPS normally shines when it falls flat in other areas is the gameplay. As you might expect, that's not the case here. The enemies are predictable and easy to outmaneuver even on the highest difficulty. The weapons and controls are very standard. And there are driving sections that are more frustrating and annoying than they have any right to be.
Unlike all the other games in the series this one takes place in modern times instead of the Wild West. The only thing it has in common with a Call of Juarez game is the name and a concentration mode. It's like they were trying to boost sales on a project they knew would fail by randomly attaching it to this pre-existing franchise.
So if you want to play a Call of Juarez game, you're better off with Gunslinger. If you want a better FPS from 2011, then go play Homefront.