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Call of Juarez is loosely based on a number of Western movie hits from the last four decades, particularly the Spaghetti Westerns that became popular in the sixties and early seventies. The game features two different characters: Billy Candle, a young fugitive accused of murder and the Reverend Ray, an ex-outlaw who turned to religion, believing that God himself has chosen him to be the instrument of his wrath. He often presents himself as \\\"God\\\'s wrath\\\" and \\\"God\\\'s right hand\\\".
Billy\\\'s character provides stealth and sniper elements to the game. With his whip he can latch onto objects to get into hard to reach locations. Later in the game, Billy acquires a bow, which can be used for ranged stealth kills. Reverend Ray can enter Concentration Mode allowing him to hit multiple targets in a drawn-out second. Along with his other weapons, Ray wields his Bible and spouts fire and brimstone scripture while he blasts the enemy with his trusty six shooters. The reverend also wears a cuirass that protects him from all bullets hitting his chest. Some of Reverend Ray\\\'s levels will end in a quick-draw gunfight between him and a main antagonist in the level.
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The story follows the adventures of both characters, switching from one to the other from mission to mission.
In the opening, the narrator tells the legend of treasure of Aztecs, which was allegedly meant as ransom for Montezuma held hostage by conquistadors. The treasure was lost long ago and never found again. Nevertheless, many daring souls set out to retrieve the riches of Aztec Empire, but the treasure is rumored to be cursed and anyone looking for it will find nothing but death.
One of the protagonists begins the story with his memories of his past life. His name is simply Billy; since he has no idea who his father was, he has no real last name. His mother gave him a medallion in his early childhood which had a candle on it, so the other kids nicknamed him \\\'Billy Candle\\\'. Due to his Mexican ancestry, he suffered racial prejudice from the local population. He especially hated his stepfather Thomas, who beat him every day. Billy soon had enough of it and left town to go after the rumored treasure of Aztecs, but after two years of fruitless searches he found nothing. So Candle finally returned to his hometown of Hope to see his mother. Unfortunately, he is greeted by the sight of his dead mother, lying underneath the words \\\"Call of Juarez\\\" written in blood. Whilst he is there, he is spotted by the other protagonist Reverend Ray (essentially Billy\\\'s antagonist at first as he works against him). On seeing Billy standing over his dead mother, the Reverend presumes that Billy is the murderer; a view which is encouraged by the fact that Billy runs from him in fear, rather than claiming his innocence. The Reverend decides that it is his duty as God\\\'s emissary to track down and kill Billy for the crime.
Ray is confronted by the sheriff, who says Ray should let him catch Billy. However, some bandits attack the town first, and Ray ends up saving the town. Clyde Forester sides with the bandits, and Ray has to beat him in a draw and then burn down his saloon. Meanwhile, Billy runs through a camp of bandits to escape Ray\\\'s pursuit. He learns they plan to raid a train the next morning. After sneaking through their camp, he is confronted by Ray, who has fought his way to Billy, but Billy escaped by leaping onto an oncoming train. Ray follows the train, only to find the bandits raiding it. Ray saves the train from the Bandits, and learns where Billy went. Billy meanwhile, decides to go to the ranch of Molly Ferguson\\\'s father, where he used to work, as he believes she is the only one who will believe he is innocent. He steals a horse and sneaks into Molly\\\'s room, only to be confronted by her father. However, Molly convinces her father to let Billy leave with his life. Ray meanwhile, tracks Billy to the ranch, where he meets a group of Texas Rangers, who tell him they are attacking Ferguson\\\'s farm because he is a rustler. Ray helps them seize the farm, then chases Billy away into the fields, and ends up shooting Billy, causing him to fall into the river. His job seemingly done, Ray returns to the ranch to find that the rangers were in fact bandits, under the command of a man named Juarez. He beats the McLyde brothers in a draw, and then the dying Mr. Ferguson begs Ray to rescue Molly, who was taken by the bandits. Ray races after them, but fails to catch them. Realizing his mistake, and that Billy was innocent, he breaks down in tears, believing he has failed in his duty.
Meanwhile, Billy survives the fight with Ray, and is nursed back to health by Calm Water, an Apache medicine man. Calm Water sends Billy on various errands, but when he returns, he finds Calm Water dead and the bandits ready to catch him. Meanwhile, Ray is pursuing the bandits in an attempt to redeem himself by rescuing Molly. He has a horseback chase with the bandits, and ends up killing Ty Steward. As he dies, Steward reveals the coach is headed for the town of Juarez on the Mexican boarder. Billy, meanwhile, is Juarez\\\' prisoner. On meeting Billy for the first time, Juarez reveals that he is Billy\\\'s true father, but then demands he find the treasure of Juarez, otherwise he will kill Molly. Billy manages to find the secret tunnel to the treasure room, only to be captured once again by Juarez, who expected him to run away. Billy runs from them, but is only saved when Ray arrives and fights off the bandits. Telling Billy to run, Ray fights the bandits and wounds Juarez, who manages to escape, telling Ray he will kill Molly if Ray doesn\\\'t bring him the gold.
Ray storms Juarez\\\'s fort with a cart and Gatling Gun, and then fights his way on foot to the prison, where he kills Tom Manson and opens Molly\\\'s cell. However, Juarez traps Ray and Molly inside, and sets fire to the cell. They are rescued by Billy, who puts out the fire, and then runs down to let them out. Before, Juarez challenges him to a duel, and Billy shoots him, then frees Ray and Molly. However, during their reunion, Juarez walks in and shoots Ray. He reveals he was wearing armor, and fist fights Billy. Billy defeats him, and embraces Molly.
Ray, dying, realizes that the whole affair was his own fault, and prays that his actions will not cause Billy and Molly to die. He also begs for one last chance to redeem himself. His prayers are granted, and he recovers for just long enough to see Juarez spring a knife and attack Billy from behind. Ray finally kills Juarez, and then dies happily. The game ends with Billy and Molly standing in the Juarez cemetery over Ray\\\'s grave, and Billy saying he will take Calm Water\\\'s advice and no longer run from his destiny.
* William \\\"Billy Candle\\\" Mendoza: A young drifter of Mexican descent, and one of the story\\\'s two protagonists. Anti-social and flighty due to his upbringing and the constant prejudice he experiences from those around him, Billy has been on the run for most of his life. After returning home after searching for the legendary Gold of Juarez, he finds his mother and stepfather dead and flees, giving his step-uncle the idea he was the one who killed them. Though he is on the run for most of the game, he eventually must face his enemies in order to protect those he cares about.
* Reverend Ray McCall: An old gunslinger turned preacher, and Billy\\\'s step-uncle. Mistakenly believing that Billy is responsible for the murder of his brother and his brother\\\'s wife (Billy\\\'s parents), Ray takes up his guns again to hunt down Billy in the name of justice. Though he is Billy\\\'s antagonist for much of the game, he eventually realizes the truth and assists Billy in his quest.
* Juarez: The main antagonist of the story. A powerful bandit leader, known only as \\\"Juarez\\\" after the town he is from. He is also Billy\\\'s biological father, and responsible for the deaths of Billy\\\'s mother and stepfather. Juarez is after the legendary lost treasure of Juarez, and is after Billy\\\'s amulet which holds the key to finding the treasure. His true name is Juan Mendoza, as revealed in Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood.
* Molly Ferguson: The daughter of a wealthy rancher, whom Billy fell in love with. Her father is killed by Juarez\\\'s men, and Juarez holds her captive in order to force Billy to locate the treasure of Juarez for him.
* Calm Water: An old Indian medicine man who rescues Billy and nurses him back to health after he falls into water, after having been shot by Reverend Ray. Formerly known as \\\"Running River\\\" as is presented in Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood.
* Clyde Forrester: The owner of the local Saloon in Billy\\\'s hometown of Hope. A racist, religion-hating, violent trouble-maker, and a long-time enemy of both Billy Candle and Reverend Ray. Shot dead in a duel with Reverend Ray, who also burns his saloon.
* Tom Manson, Ty Steward, and the McLyde brothers: Juarez\\\'s main henchmen, the men responsible for killing Billy\\\'s parents. Pretending to be Texas Rangers, they deceive Reverend Ray into helping them launch an assault on Ferguson\\\'s ranch in search of Billy.
* Suzy: A prostitute working in the Hope Saloon, and a childhood friend of Billy\\\'s.