At PAX East in Boston, this year, we got the opportunity to sit down with Techland International Brand Manager Blazej Krakowiak to talk about their upcoming modern-day take on the Call of Juarez franchise, Call of Juarez: The Cartel.
During our talk, we dive into the game’s three playable characters, its new modern day setting, new features, whether or not there will be a demo, and what the developer has to say to fans who are upset with the new situation.
Call of Juarez: The Cartel boasts three very different playable characters. How did the whole idea for these three come together?
Obviously, the objective of the game is law enforcement trying to tackle the Mexican drug cartel. The story begins with a successful bombing attack on one of the U.S. government buildings and since there is a severe backlash from that, the political tensions really rise and people are calling for a military intervention to end the cartel related violence once and for all.
But that would mean war and international tensions, so as a last effort, they try to create this special team of three characters. Since the attack indicates that the law enforcement might have been infiltrated at a high level by the cartels, giving the investigation to just one agency would risk derailing it by the cartel. So the FBI and the LAPD decide which operatives are best for the job and the team has to learn to work together to pull this mission off, but the characters also have some dark secrets — well, maybe not secrets, but a darker side.
Eddie is a gambler, he needs money to fuel his addiction. Kim has some family ties to organized crime, she really tries to hide those, but they come back to haunt her. And Ben is a really bitter and disillusioned guy; he’s a war veteran and he’s driven by vengeance, so when he thinks justice isn’t served, he’s ready to break the law to make it happen.
So each character has their own situation, then? How much of an emphasis is being put on character development? Or, in lamens terms, developing the character into someone the player will come to understand?
The characters are basically played the same in terms of gameplay, but it really, as you get to know them, you’ll see that their personalities are completely different, they react to events differently, they comment on things differently — there is a lot of dialogue between them — so you can then see how they actually work together, how they collide, how their personalities collide. And it’s — I think you will see how they grow, how they develop their relationship, how they have to learn to trust each other,.
So this is an important part of the story, we don’t want to spoil it right now as this is just a first look.
What’s your goal with The Cartel as far as the franchise goes?
This is something new that we wanted to do with the series, that’s why we chose the modern setting, we have some interesting ideas for that. But we’re not saying that we did it definitely and forever. We may go back to the traditional wild west; we’ll see how this game turns out, I hope that players will like it because we believe that we can really make it a western experience.
Do you have any plans for multiplayer?
Yes, absolutely. This is a co-op game, of course, but there will be competitive multiplayer. We will reveal more on that in the coming months because, as I said, we’re just starting to talk about it so we’re trying to focus on the setting and the characters to get them right, and we will have multiplayer presentations later on.
Moving back to characters, I know you’ll be able to play as all three, each with their own unique viewpoints, but will there be any missions where the group must split up? So that there are stages players can only experience through the eyes of a certain character?
There are some interesting things for each character that only they can do. But we also have a whole exciting feature based around the characters, but we’ll just have to keep some secrets for later. In April, we’ll have a hands-on event in San Francisco; I hope that we’ll be able to show something more then.
Concentration mode, a slow-motion mode from the previous Call of Juarez titles, is back in The Cartel. Will we see any new features along those lines?
Well, first of all, the whole seamless co-op thing is something that the fans really really wanted to have in the series and a lot of work went into making sure it’s hassle free, it’s friendly to the players. You can connect, disconnect whenever you want. No one is loosing anything, it should work very well for the players.
Of course, we added the car [chase] sections, we also have some more exotic gameplay in the pipeline, but of course, we don’t want to reveal too much of the story because we want the players to discover and find out what happens.
How big of a presence is being placed on the car chases?
Only when they make sense. So when the characters have to move from one place to another and something happens on the way, you get to play it, you’ll see it in the game. It’s not like alternating a car [chase] level with a shooting level every time. You saw that here, on the same map, where we had indoors, outdoors, then the car chase. So there’s still plenty of options to increase the variety with it.
As far as co-op goes, why was the odd number 3 chosen? Why not 4, maybe 2? Why was the decision made for 3 characters?
This question can easily be reversed. Why always 2 or 4? We had this idea for this story for 3 characters, and since the story is so important, we decided ‘yeah, we can do a co-op for 3, why not?’. There is no good reason to keep it at 4 or 2. It just works for the story that we’re telling.
So, because it’s story-driven, you wanted to keep it at 3?
Yeah, exactly. We could’ve done 4 or 2; we are doing the co-op multiplayer for our other game, Dead Island, so that’s proof that we could do it, we just wanted something different here in Call of Juarez.
Is co-op solely online can you play together locally?
No, it’s online[-only], and there are good reasons for it. We can’t reveal them right now, but there are gameplay features that actually wouldn’t make much sense in local co-op.
Are you developing the game on a lead platform?
This is coming for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC in summer 2011.
To clarify: are you developing for one console, then porting it to the other two?
No. Our tools allow us to develop it simultaneously for all platforms. So we make sure it works and looks great on consoles, and of course, after that, it’s always easy to make sure it looks great on PC. All the previous projects we did were on this engine, but with the first Call of Juarez, that was also our first Xbox 360 game. The second game was also on PlayStation 3, and we released it simultaneously, and we develop all of our future products for all three platforms at the same time.
Is there anything specific about the Chrome Engine that gives you the upper edge in game development?
I believe the most important part is that we develop it in-house. We have a very very experienced team of engine programmers that are working on it, they know the engine very well, some of them were with us for years. This makes it easy to adjust the engine exactly to the project that we’re working on. It gives us a little more flexibility than we’d have using a third-party engine.
The first two Call of Juarez games had demos released on Xbox LIVE or PlayStation Network. Are you planning a demo for The Cartel?
There will be a demo, definitely. Probably a co-op demo, but I can’t tell you whether it will be before or after release. We are thinking about it, so you can safely say you can expect it, then.
What do you have to say to fans disappointed about the jump from the wild west to modern day?
We know how to make good westerns so I think you should trust us that this is still a wild west game. This is what we want to focus on and we know what elements are needed to make it a great experience. Yes, we hope that new fans will also come to see the new setting, maybe they will be encouraged by it, but we hope that we can keep the old fans satisfied.
Thanks for your time, Blazej.