What’s the deal with video game Westerns? There is no deal, that’s the deal. There are plenty of action games out there set in various time periods throughout history, but the Old West is a forlorn and forgotten setting. Perhaps it’s that Hollywood has turned its back on one of the genres that helped build its empire. Perhaps it’s that the few Western games that have come down the trail have been so forgettable (quick, name one!). Whatever the reason it’s a major oversight long overdue for a correction, and I’m not just saying that because I spent the first six years of my life wanting to be a cowboy. Well the folks at Neversoft must have wanted to be cowboys and cowgirls too because they’ve taken a break from creating a steady stream of Tony Hawk games to bring us a gen-u-ine gun slinging game named, appropriately enough, Gun.
|A good cowboy can shoot from the saddle.|
Gun is structured a little like the Grand Theft Auto games. The storyline is advanced by taking on missions at locations clearly marked on your onscreen “cowboy radar” mini map, and you can choose to move from one story mission to the next or to take some time to play side missions or just explore the frontier towns and the badlands in between. And rather than “jacking” passing cars you can walk up to any horse you see and borrow it for a while. The towns in the game are of the “living, breathing” variety, with people going about their cowboy business. You can play the ornery varmint if you like and kill and harass the locals, or just leave them be. Be careful in choosing the ornery option though as eventually the town will grow tired of your lawlessness and a posse will come gunning for you.
With a name like Gun, you’d expect there to be plenty of shootouts. Well you’re right; Gun is indeed packed with plenty of gunfights. You start the game with your six-shooter and a rifle, but as the game progresses you’ll pick up an arsenal of Western weapons from tomahawks to shotguns. Like the rest of the game gunfights play out from a third-person view in which the left stick moves your character while the right stick moves your aiming reticule. Like the real things, the weapons hold only a limited supply of bullets and reloading takes a little precious time. You can aim down the sights of your rifles to hit longer range targets, but this is too slow for close-up gunfights. When things are too close and personal, you can engage the “Quick Draw” feature. Quick Draw is a lot like Max Payne’s “Bullet Time” in which time slows around you while you can still fire off shots at regular speed. Quick Draw time is limited, but you can extend it by making good shots such as headshots. It may not be all that authentic or realistic, but it’s still a pretty good feature.
Your foes do a pretty good job of scooting around and getting their shots in. Smart gunplay is a wise choice of tactics as running headlong into a fight is a good way to get yourself killed. In a somewhat strange gameplay conceit, you restore your health by taking a swig from your flask. Yup, remember kiddies, hooch, it does a body good. Depending on the difficulty level you select at the start of the game, the gunfights will either be pretty easy or pretty hard. There seems to be some odd balancing with the difficulty levels as “Normal” is too easy for average gamers and “Hard” can be pretty challenging. I recommend just sucking it up and going for “Hard”.