The Western theme was surprisingly underused in the FPS genre of games for a long time, despite seeming like the ideal subject matter. Then suddenly, a whole bunch of games set in the Wild West turned up within a few months of each other, before everything went back to World War 2 and Sci-Fi again. As should be clear by now if it wasn’t already, Gun is one of those. It doesn’t actually belong to the first person shooter genre, but rather the almost identical one, the third-person shooter.
In Gun, you get a typical western revenge plot to take part in. Surprisingly, it’s actually quite good. Of course, it’s nothing groundbreaking, but it drives the game forward and keeps you interested enough to want to play through the story to the conclusion. Gameplay is exactly what you’d expect from a third person shooter set in the American Old West; you ride around on horses shooting Indians and bandits and hunting down the corrupt rich guy responsible for the death of your father. As necessary in any good western, you get a quick draw mode. It’s nothing to do with rapid doodling, but rather yet another version of Max Payne’s now cloned-a-million-times Bullet Time mode. Enter Bullet… sorry, Quick Draw mode and the game zooms into a first person perspective and you can rapidly aim all around you and take out large groups of men within a couple of seconds. Your quick draw timer reduces steadily whenever you’re in the mode and it is replenished by shooting enemies. It might not be an original game mechanic, but it’s perfectly suited to a game like this, and quickly shooting five men off their horses before they’ve even managed to fire a shot never ceases to be satisfying.
Also satisfying is the fact that you get to play out pretty much every big western movie scene you could hope for. Defending a stagecoach from attacking Indians, a jail escape, a train ambush, even shooting the rope to cut free a man about to be hanged, it’s all there. Unlike Call of Juarez, the game does lack a feature to cater for the classic one on one showdown, but other than that, there’s very little relating to the genre that doesn’t seem to be included in some form or other in the game. There are also entertaining moments where you get to control a Gatling Gun, or sink boats with a cannon.
Gun tries to be a little bit different from the other Western games by adding some free roaming elements to it. But contrary to what most reviews try to tell you, this is nothing like Grand Theft Auto with horses. You might be free to roam the games environments at will in between the main storyline missions, but the game world is actually fairly small. It pretty much consists of two very small towns with just a few buildings in each with a larger Badlands area between them. What the game does offer is a large variety of side quests within that area. And variety is the right word for them; there’s not just a lot of them but the gameplay is surprisingly diverse. You can find wanted posters on walls and hunt down the criminals or help the local lawman keep peace in the town, go hunting for various large animals with a bow and arrow or conduct timed deliveries for the Pony Express. It’s also the only game I know of that lets you actually be a cowboy; head down to the ranch and you can help out actually herding cattle, protecting them against wolves or freeing them from bandits. Or you could just walk into the saloon and play a game of Texas Hold ‘Em Poker. Or explore the region to find gold deposits to mine. You can jump around from one task to another and never get a chance to become bored with any of them.
Every so often you’ll get to face off against a leader in typical computer game boss fight style. In other words, these are humans that inexplicably need to be shot lots of times before they’re killed. The traditional computer game nonsensical way of dealing with bosses. It gets worse at the end of the game with the final confrontation, which ramps up the difficulty too much after the rest of the game being mostly easy. In this final last fight, the villain is wearing… *gasp*… a bullet-proof vest. And as everyone knows, a bullet-proof vest completely protects the wearer from taking damage from bullets, even when shot in their entirely uncovered face. I wasted several attempts, dying and reloading, before I finally realised to my great annoyance that all my perfectly aimed headshots were having absolutely no effect on him whatsoever. Once you work out how to defeat him, it still takes quite a few attempts to manage it, with the game doing its best to convert the difficulty curve into a difficulty wall.
Other than that, there are very few real problems to complain about. There’s the occasional minor quibble of course. The jumping animation just doesn’t look quite right for instance. You would think they’d take time to get things like that right if they’re going to make the game in third person rather than first. It can make judging jumps quite awkward, but this isn’t a platform game so it’s rarely necessary anyway. Also, fighting one of the boss characters on horseback can sometimes feel like a Wild West version of jousting as you ride past each other several times trying to get a good aim at them while moving, but that’s not really a complaint, more an observation. Also, neither the game nor the manual give any explanation as to how to play Texas Hold ‘Em Poker, and since it’s completely different to standard poker, it took me a few games before I worked out which cards I was supposed to be using. Rules really should have been included, not everyone even knows the poker hands, never mind the rules to a complex and unusual form of the game.
To end with some other good points, I can mention that the voice acting is of a high quality. The environment also has no level load points, meaning you can travel anywhere you like without ever having to see a “Loading” message, just the occasional half-second stutter as you move between regions. And there’s also a great feature that should be included in any game that has lots of optional content: after you’ve finished the main storyline, you can still carry on exploring if you want to finish everything else before quitting. That could explain the reason why you get a new weapon right at the end. Having already finished all the side missions before I completed the story, it annoyed me that I didn’t really have a chance to use it.
All in all, Gun is a very entertaining action game that captures the feel of a Western in the form of a game. It’s not a very long game, and even completing all the side missions it’s unlikely to take you much longer than 10 hours, but it’s 10 hours that are absolutely crammed full of action with no dull moments and nothing that comes across as filler. It’s not quite as polished as Call of Juarez, but it’s a lot of fun from start to finish and recommended to any fan of the genre.
Save System Review: You can save anywhere, but if you’re just exploring the game world it only saves what you’ve done and not your location. This isn’t much of a problem though, since the setting is fairly small and you’re never far away from any given point, and at least you never lose any progress.
Graphics: Graphically the game isn’t really up to the standards of the time of release. It came out about a year after Half-Life 2 and just doesn’t hold up to that level of graphics. Still, they don’t look terrible and they’re functional for what’s needed in the game, so it’s not a major issue.
Sound: The quality of the sound, on the other hand, is very high. The soundtrack is appropriate, the sound effects work well and most of all, the voice acting is spot on. There are several professional actors voicing various characters in the game, such as Ron Perlman and Kris Kristofferson, and the talent really had a positive effect on the game.
Bugs: None that I really noticed, but surely an enemy with a bullet-proof head has to be counted as a bug, even if it was intentional, since it just makes no sense!
Gameplay: Nothing groundbreaking, but a fun action game throughout. The controls all worked as they needed to, horse riding was smooth and the whole game was an entertaining experience.
Storyline: Again, nothing groundbreaking, but well written with enough incentive given for what you’re doing.
Arbitrary Final Score:
Gun aims high, but did it hit its target or was it a misfire? Tell us what you think on the forum.