Gun Xbox Review
Meet Colton White; he’s a young hunter, living on the edge of Blackfoot territory, survived a mauling by a cougar when he was a lil’ critter – oh, and someone’s just murdered his father, he’s wanted by just about every gang in the state, and none of the prostitutes in town will give him a second look. Whats a fugitive ranger to do?
Gun eases you into its world gently with a reasonably relevant tutorial that sees you shooting various varmints and creeping around to avoid detection before throwing you into the meat of the matter. You accompany your supposed “father” onto a riverboat, only for it to suddenly be ambushed by natives and unpleasant looking cowpokes, all of whom seem to have something against your old man. Before the ship is destroyed, your father has time to shout one thing at you – “I’m not your dad!” before you are thrown overboard and miss the grand finale. You wake up conveniently on a nearby shore sometime later, and are now faced with some difficult questions; who was the man on the boat? Why did they want him killed? Wouldn’t it be easier to murder this old man and take his horse rather than take part in a pointless race around the clearing?
Controls are pretty straight-forward; you carry one weapon of each type (the best one you have taking the place of the ones before it), and can switch between them using the directional pad. Rifles are excellent for long range shots, shotguns will blast a hole in anything at close range, molotovs are great for roasting a bunch of clumsy baddies – you’ve seen this stuff before. Every ranged weapon can be zoomed in in first-person mode to make tricky shots; as well as this, the good-ol’ bullet-time feature makes an appearance allowing you to quick-draw and fill that sucker full of lead before he’s even laid a hand on his gun. Colt can also duck behind obstacles and peek out around the edge of walls, although most enemies seem to prefer rushing you and so a quick trigger finger is usually more important than sneaking about. As a matter of fact, the sneaking option seems fundamentally flawed in the same way that Red Dead Revolver’s was; enemies just seem to be able to either see or sense you, no matter what’s between you and them. This is a little frustrating; thankfully, unlike Red Dead, none of the missions really depend solely on you being able to remain unseen, and so this is a minor niggle.
As well as swaggering about with a pistol slug about your waist, horse-riding is really the way to show off your outlaw skills. Horses can, thankfully, be found pretty much all over the map; if you can’t steal someone else’s, there are several herds of wild mustangs roaming the terrain that can be used at a pinch. This is handy, as moving around on foot takes forever; you really don’t want to be stuck in some out-of-the-way location without a mount. Horses can be forced to gallop at high speeds to get you out of trouble, leap over obstacles or even trample your foes to death; however, a horse only has a limited endurance level, and will eventually die if abused too much. This can have its benefits; shooting out the horse of a bandit and seeing him catapulted to the ground never loses its appeal, particularly if you can then run over the top of him with your own steed before he recovers. Ah, the joys of the West.
The game is divided into several missions ala GTA; the first few of these take place in the large Dodge City, although you will eventually be expected to move further a field to carry out tasks elsewhere. This is perhaps the game’s real downside, as the game takes place in roughly four towns, with two being the primary locations and the others being almost an afterthought. With the game’s potential for exploration and freedom, the map feels intensely claustrophobic at times; one can’t help but feel that the map feels about half the size it really should be. As well as the major missions, there are plenty of side quests to carry out; Pony Express missions if you feel like pushing your horse practically to death, hunting and cattle wrangling…there’s even a poker table at the bar if you feel like robbing the locals of a few coins. If the fever takes you, you could even go searching for gold in the mountains – just don’t forget to buy your shovel first.
The game’s missions are diverse, with the story leading you through several different scenarios and situations and ensuring a bit of variety; unfortunately all of it just feels like it’s over too soon. This is a real shame, as what’s there is great; there just isn’t enough of it.
Everything looks fairly sharp and crisp in the Xbox version of the game, although there are some slight niggles like clipping and odd animations. Occasionally there are a few texture pop-ups, particularly if you have been running a speeded-up horse for a long distance without stopping, but for the most part everything looks satisfactorily authentic – in a heavily stylised way of course. Body parts snap away with a well-placed bullet, blood splatters from shattered skulls…everything is very graphic, and very gratuitous with it.The most damning fault however is the “Horse of a Different Colour” glitch; every time you enter a cut scene, or the game takes over momentarily for any reason, the colour of any horses onscreen will be randomised. While this has clearly been devised in order to try and make a “realistic” world with varied herds of horses, having the players horse suddenly change from black to white in a second is a bit ludicrous. Still, it gave us a good laugh I suppose.
This is another point in which I felt the game was a little let down. While the voiceovers are effective enough, the music is rather non-descript for the most part. This is a shame, since Red Dead hammed up the genre so well and really set the pace, and this doesn’t appear to have kept up. Still, it doesn’t detract from the overall enjoyment of the game; just, like most other aspects, it just feels like there should be MORE.
As I have already bemoaned, the main game is rather short; it seems to be over almost as soon as it has begun, which is a pity as the story is driven and holds together quite well. Expect the main game to take up to around 8 hours, with several more if you decide to pursue the numerous side quests. Sadly, none of these are particularly long either, but they do make the experience a bit more fulfilling; herding a group of cattle across the plains ala City Slickers was particularly rewarding.
Perhaps its not really a fair comment to make in a review which is supposed to be extolling the virtues of Gun and Gun alone, but I personally felt a little deflated by the overall style of the game having played Red Dead Revolver and being a fan of the spaghetti Western; although Gun does feel superior in terms of gameplay and variety, Red Dead captures the style of the spaghetti Western so much more effectively. Don’t get me wrong, Gun does do the job well enough; it just feels a bit shallow at times. A bit more hamming up of the genre wouldn’t have gone amiss.
Having said that though, Gun is a good solid game that should keep the player absorbed for several hours; there is certainly a lot to see and do here. The game’s real let-down is that it just isn’t long enough; sadly though, once all of the missions and side missions are done, there probably isn’t much to come back to. If you liked Red Dead, or have a crazed interest in the spaghetti Western (I’m sure everyone does secretly), this is perhaps one step closer to the perfect Wild West game; and those that enjoyed GTA and similar action games probably should give it a go as well.
A good entry into a highly underused genre, Neversoft – here’s hoping for Gun 2 with a map three times larger than this and around three times more missions. Oh, and non-chameleonic horses. Thanks.