The western is a genre that has been pretty much ignored, aside from a few titles, by video game makers, but Neversoft and Activision are proving that the western offers players a rich and exciting world to play in. Gun adds a unique experience to the Xbox 360 launch lineup, but its originality only carries it so far. The game has deficiencies in a few areas, which, for launch titles, is par for the course.
One of the biggest discussion points for titles on a new console is graphics, so we?ll get that out of the way first. The first thing to know about Gun is that it was developed simultaneously for the Xbox 360, PS2, Gamecube, PC, and original Xbox. The developers have made it clear that all the games are exactly the same except for graphics, which are individually tuned for each platform. The game looks great on the Xbox 360, but falls behind some of the other launch titles produced exclusively for it. The vast landscapes look great, and really capture the beauty of the desert and mountain settings. While the environments are striking, the character models are rough around the edges. There is nothing technically wrong with them, but they do not show a noticeable improvement over current Xbox graphics. This lack of a huge improvement in graphics on the Xbox 360, as was expected, is what tarnishes the game?s otherwise good looks.
Gun does excel in one area in particular: Its story. The gritty, dark narrative drips with classic western style. The game opens with the main character (Colton) and his grizzled father, Ned, on board a paddleboat as they transport their payday in furs. They are quickly attacked by a strangely Caucasian group of savage Indians. In the middle of a vicious gun battle Ned cryptically tells Colton that he is not his real father. Colton narrowly escapes the exploding paddleboat, but Ned is not so lucky. From here on players are pulled into an engaging story of revenge filled with rough and tumble cowboys, bandits, corrupt officials, lost gold, Indians, and exciting gun fights.
Gun fighting is the first step in mastering the Wild West. Players will be treated to a range of weapon choices. A selection of rifles, shotguns, handguns, and melee weapons ? all with upgradeable range, speed, and damage ? give fighting a strategic element. The game offers pretty typical third person shooter flare. The camera is fully under the player?s control, which traditionally causes problems in tight spaces. A fair share of gun battles happen indoors, but thankfully these traditional problems rarely come up. Quickdraw, a word that brings up images of showdowns on dusty streets, is a bullet-time like ability that allows for more accurate and deadly shooting. It can be a critical tool when fighting enemies that are using human shields. It seems like a novel concept at first, but with a simple flick of the left analog stick players will automatically target and track the closest enemy. Quickdraw, though its use is limited, overly simplifies gunfights, and removes the intensity from some exciting encounters.
The game?s large and beautiful environment is filled with treasures ? read: gold ? for those that feel like exploring. Unfortunately, there is almost no incentive to do so. When not in a mission, the vast landscape is a veritable wasteland. Players will spend much of their time in the two main cities, or traveling on horseback between them. An Indian huntsman and a ranch always in need of help offer opportunities for side missions, but they too are located near the cities. Much of the environment between cities is even devoid of animal life. Hunting animals is one of the most interesting side missions in the game, but separate animals remain in tight packs that never leave certain areas. There just aren?t enough people and animals to fill the large game environment, so much of it is beautifully rendered but left blank.
The large New Mexico landscape is used to its fullest during the action packed missions. The main missions push along the game?s storyline, and their location is always highlighted on the HUD map. These are the most extensive and challenging missions, and also helps create the most memorable moments in the game. A midnight jailbreak requires not only quick fighting skills but also stealth, and assaulting a cannon emplacement with a gang of pistol equipped outlaws will really get player?s hearts pumping. The main story missions are balanced and challenging, but the numerous side missions do not fair as well. Players can side with the law to keep the peace, or be a bounty hunter for cold hard cash. They can hunt exotic animals, or wrangle cattle on the ranch. Much of the player?s time will be spent in side missions. These missions are the only way to effectively increase a player?s personal stats, or earn money for crucial weapon upgrades. While fun, they just don?t offer any kind of challenge, and can sometimes become a monotonous chore.
Gun is a unique addition to the Xbox 360?s launch line up. It runs into problems that stem from not being produced exclusively for the new console, and from overly formulaic third person shooter material. Thankfully, its well written, dark, and engaging story can overcome its gameplay faults, and really draw in the players that give it a chance. Even those that are not fans of the western genre will have fun stepping on to the dusty, action packed streets of the Wild West.