Review: Gay Cowboys Eating Pudding...
Cowboys - and cowboy games. Or should I go all cool and call it the western genre
? Cowboys from Capcom, Cowboy Vampires too?.that's not really a lot of cowboys given the breadth of the game library that exists out there if you really think about it. Ok, enough quasi-alliteration. Let's talk about Gun for the Xbox 360, the first western game I've played since reviewing Rockstar's Red Dead Revolver a while back. This is better ? though not by that much. The ability to free-roam through a western world full of dusty plains and one horse towns is a lot of fun, and a perfect fit for the sandbox genre. It's also what pushes Gun past mediocrity and into possible greatness, though we'll have to wait for a true next gen sequel to really blow the doors off ? as is, Gun pays homage to big screen cowboys and Clint Eastwood with an exciting story and genuinely enjoyable play mechanics, but misses the bull's-eye in a few key areas.
As the game begins, you're thrust into the boots of one Colton White, a young man raised as a hunter and tracker by his pa, Ned (a standout voice acting performance by Kris Kristofferson). In the opening moments of the story, Ned and Colton are attacked aboard a riverboat. As Ned pushes his son to safety (sacrificing himself in the process) his last words are ?I'm not your father!!? And with that you're off to grab a horse and track down the varmints who are responsible for Ned's demise, and to find out just who your real father is.
Gun allows you to openly traverse the plains and towns of the old west. You can ride horseback, walk or take a ferry across the river. Once you hit town (only two really - Dodge and Empire ? though there are some other settlements, Indian villages and old mines scattered about) you can either choose to follow the main storyline, or just explore and do side missions. Bounty hunting, pony express, deputy work and cattle ranching are all available here, and most of the tasks are quite enjoyable to say the least. Riding a horse is great fun and looks really sweet, as the animations for loping, galloping and everything in between are executed perfectly.
The main story mode takes you through a well developed tale of revenge that manages to outshine its play-by-the-numbers Wild West clich? and actually pay solid respect to its source material. Flicks like The Outlaw Josie Wales
, with a smattering of Dances with Wolves
thrown in for good measure. At any time during the main quest you can choose to grab a wanted poster and hunt down some bad guys, or do any of the other random tasks that actually net you experience and upgrades your shooting, riding and fighting prowess. As well you can buy weapon upgrades for the various pistols, shotguns and rifles you'll come across in the course of the adventure - some of which you'll take from the corpses of your vanquished foes. Other useful items can also be purchased at the various general stores or from an Indian trader you'll stumble across in your travels.
Some of the cooler play mechanics that grace Gun include a slow motion effect that turns gun fights into incredibly dramatic showdowns, the ability to dual wield pistols and shoot dynamite in mid-air, not to mention scalping downed enemies once you learn the ways of the noble savage. You can melee attack, take control of mounted cannons and Gatling guns and fight on foot or on horseback ? blasting guys right out of the saddle as you ride past them at breakneck speed is truly an experience. It's a lot of fun to just tool around out in the badlands, riding your trusty mount into a gorgeously rendered sunset, but that doesn't mean that the missions aren't exciting and well executed. Jailbreaks, assault runs, defense and escort missions, as well as some nicely designed boss fights put you right into the action and really creates an old west feel that's hard to deny. On the default difficulty the missions are pretty easy, and the main storyline clocks in at an amazingly short 6 hours or so, but the free-roaming and side missions do add some length. Even so, the game can be pretty thoroughly exhausted inside of a week, even if you take your sweet time.
While Gun for the 360 is pretty much a straight port of the Xbox version, it still looks sharp and really benefits from the increased resolution at 720p. Enhanced detail on the character models and some solid bump-mapping on various surfaces help the game transcend its last gen roots, at least a little bit. The sound is well implemented, and the voice acting is actually some of the most impressive I've heard. The cast includes Thomas Jane, Lance Henriksen, Tom Skerritt, Brad Dourif and Ron Perlman ? definitely an impressive line-up anyway you slice it. The music is appropriate and understated, with just the right tone to evoke the kind of response that watching The Magnificent Seven
usually brings about. Other than a few minor graphical glitches Gun presents itself well and has the gameplay to match. If only there were more to it.