Call of Juarez: The Cartel

Game review by
Chad Sapieha, Common Sense Media
Call of Juarez: The Cartel Game Poster Image
Violent first-person shooter deals in sex, drugs, profanity.

Parents say

age 3+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 3 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

This game sensationalizes gang and police violence. Its entertainment value lies primarily in the fun players derive from killing scores of bad guys with guns. Despite a strong female protagonist, some of the scenes and dialogue objectify women and make them appear to be helpless. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

While each of the primary protagonists is clearly a "good guy," they use violence to solve virtually all of their problems. What’s more, the narrative forces them to keep secrets from and lie to their partners, sometimes resulting in the unintentional deaths of civilians. 

Ease of Play

This game should prove fairly easy for veterans of the genre. The first-person shooter controls are more or less standard, your heroes can take quite a beating before succumbing to their wounds, and your enemies aren’t particularly clever. However, depending on the diligence of your fellow human players, accomplishing hidden agenda objectives can prove much harder.


This first-person shooter sees players using modern weapons -- including pistols, rifles, machine guns, shotguns, and grenades -- to kill hundreds of enemy gangsters. Bright red blood sprays from victims, who grunt when struck. Players can also kill enemies with their fists and run them down with cars. Some cut scenes depict torture, including hitting and, in one case, strangulation by noose.


Two levels in the game are set in strip clubs where women can be seen topless and performing for men on stages and tables. Players see prostitutes on the streets of Los Angeles. In one scene, the protagonists walk in on a topless woman straddling a naked man in bed, with frank dialogue suggesting the two had just been or were about to be engaged in sex.


Frequent profanity can be heard throughout the game. Examples include: "motherf--ker," "s--t," "asshole," "bitch," and "c--k." Some characters also swear in Spanish.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Containers filled with drugs occasionally appear in the game. One scene sees bags of marijuana catch fire and begin to smoke, prompting the protagonists to joke about not inhaling. One accuses another of getting "baked."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Call of Juarez: The Cartel is an adult-oriented first-person shooter with a broad range of mature themes. Players can expect to encounter intense violence, several prolonged scenes of frank sexuality, frequent and extreme profanity, and references to drugs. Players take on the roles of well-meaning government agents and a police officer, but their murky motives and violent actions are clearly meant to be appreciated by an older audience. Note that online play with open voice communication is supported. Common Sense Media does not recommend open online play for pre-teens. 

User Reviews

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Teen, 13 years old Written byPrensha March 29, 2013

very naughty adults only, they game sucked anyway

on to missions you have to go into strip clubs were women clearly dancing on poles topless clearly showing breasts, and they are wearing very skimpy clothes, on... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bycerealkiller189 February 26, 2012

Absolutely love it.

I play this game everyday awesome game but lots of violence and language

What's it about?

The third entry in Techland’s moderately popular first-person western series, CALL OF JUAREZ: THE CARTEL moves the calendar forward more than 100 years and sets the action in modern day California and Mexico. Players take on the roles of a trio of law enforcement professionals from different organizations: the FBI, DEA, and Los Angeles Police Department. They work together to take down a Mexican drug gang, but they also have their own hidden agendas, which are often dictated by people outside the group who call them on their phones mid-mission. Players will need to accomplish special objectives without being noticed by their partners, who may be controlled by the computer or other humans online, according to the player's choice.

Is it any good?

There’s little denying that Techland is grabbing at the tail of something unique and interesting in this occasionally clever shooter. The idea of players working cooperatively in frenetic gunfights and yet keeping secrets from each other and occasionally wandering off to secretly do their own thing for a few seconds is both original and compelling.

However, this brilliant bit of design is too often obscured by a wide variety of problems. During our evaluation, the game froze several times, forcing a restart. What’s more, the graphics are dated, the onscreen text is riddled with typos, and bits of action dialogue are repeated to the point of annoyance. Most disappointing, though, is the developers’ decision to use mature elements such as strippers and profanity to a conscience-numbing degree. It may be targeted at an older audience capable of safely consuming such content, but focusing on these elements makes it feel as though the game was made to appeal to high school boys looking to indulge in something forbidden. Worse, it draws attention away from what should be the game’s main draw: its zigzagging narrative and clever hidden agendas.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about violence in video games. How do you determine whether a game is too violent for your kids? Do the motives associated with the violence weigh into your decision?

  • Families can also discuss the depiction of women in games. Can you think of examples of games with strong female protagonists? What sort of qualities do they have? Are these same characters sexually objectified in any way?

Game details

  • Platforms: PlayStation 3, Windows, Xbox 360
  • Price: $59.99
  • Available online? Not available online
  • Developer: UbiSoft
  • Release date: July 19, 2011
  • Genre: First-Person Shooter
  • ESRB rating: M for Blood, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity, Sexual Content, Strong Language
  • Last updated: June 20, 2019

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