All right, time to pull out our six shooters and walk into the wild west lands of New Mexico. Gun bring us into the life of Colton White and his father Ned, hunters who make their living by providing food to the steamboats that travel the rivers. Very quickly, we learn Colton’s life is not as simple as it seems, and he sets out on a journey to learn the truth. Focussed around the small town of Dodge and the much larger Empire city, this game wastes no time in backstabbing you, trying to scalp you, and introducing you to ladies of that time-honored profession. Did I mention this game was rated M by the ESRB? This is definately not a game for the younger crowd, and I’d even sit down with your teen and make sure you understand what they’re playing. This game is brutal and pulls no punches in how they felt life was during the late 1800’s. While they may have set up an accurate portrayal, it is rough enough that you may not want your under 18 kids to be playing it.
Gun gave me a few problems in the video department. When I was up close to something, it was decently clear and looked really nice. But from a distance, objects looked muddy and pixellated until they fell far enough back to be partially obscured by the distance fog. I kept having to make sure I was wearing my glasses. I am not able to see two feet beyond my face without them. The distortions and pixellation that the game went through with objects in the middle ground of view felt like it was trying to make my character nearsighted. If I zoomed in using the rifle, or went into Quickdraw mode, the game cleared up. The issue would return as soon as I went back to normal running about mode.
There was a lot of detail used in the models for the areas around Dodge and Empire City, but the textures felt muddy and repeated. This really hurt the world they were trying to immerse me in, and made it feel like I was in a level rather than travelling through a valley or a riverbed.
The game was also inconsistant on its framerates, especially during the cutscenes. It would be nice and smooth during one part, and the camera would switch and the game would stutter and twitch through the animations. It was slight, but it was enough to notice that things had changed.
The sound was very well done for Gun. The voice acting was even and well balanced. None of the characters sounded like they were trying to force their lines out. The dialog was also very clear, easy to understand, and seemed to be period specific. They didn’t use any words or phrases that would be out of place for that time period. Considering the people that were used in the voice cast, including Kris Kristofferson as Ned White and Thomas Jane for the main role of Colton White. The whole cast from the lead heroes to the ultimate villians did a great job of making the story come alive.
The music did a good job of being a part of the game, rather than trying to overwhelm it. The volume control, depending on what was occuring during gameplay, was also very good. Gun made good use of dramatic music themes, though I can’t immediately remember the tunes, when I focus enough the music does come to mind. This means the game and the music worked together to set the scene rather than the music overpowering it, or being non-existant.
When my editor first handed me this title, I really did cringe. “A shooting game on the console,” was my first thought. I wanted to run screaming at this realization. Of course, my editor was faster and had the chair restraints in place while my brain was making up its mind. So I had to play this one. Point to you, Ron. I’ll remember to move faster next time.
After I got use to the c-stick being my viewpoint control and the analog stick moving my character about, I actually didn’t notice the controls much. The only time I tripped up was using the d-pad to select weapons and use special items. An early scene that comes up requires you to use your six shooter to shoot down flaming arrows and keep some barrels of TNT safe. With only a small adjustment to the sensitivty for aiming, I breezed through the section. Between the quickdraw mode and normal aiming, I almost forgot I was using the c-stick to aim. This took the game from interesting to downright enjoyable to play. So enjoyable, that I never even noticed that my editor had removed the restraints two hours later. I think I need to spray for office ninjas now.
The game starts off easy enough with you hunting game for the riverboats with your father. This is the game’s tutorial level, and it does a great job of covering all the basics of gameplay. You learn to use Colton’s quickdraw ability, deal with different weapons, and that your father…oh…that would be telling. You’ll have to play the game for that little tidbit.
Quickdraw is Colton’s ace card against the bad guys. When shooting at targets or fighting them in melee, you fill up the quickdraw meter. You can then use this meter to drop into a Matrix like shooting mode. The game slows down and it becomes really easy to target enemies by flicking the analog stick from side to side. The other major upside to quickdraw is that you suddenly have infinite ammo. Quickdraw is the movie action mode of the game, and is the one thing that allows you to stand head and shoulders above the rest of the crowd. This is what makes you a western action hero during the game.
During normal gameplay in Empire and Dodge cities, various people have side tasks for you to complete. There are a number of main missions in the game to complete, and even more extra events to complete. You’ve got Pony Express missions, gold mining, ranching, bounty hunting, Texas Hold-em tournaments, and more. There are so many things to do, there will almost always be something for you to do. By completeing those missions, your stats increase. This is where you look at your screen askance and say “Stats?”
Gun is not just an action game. It has some RPG style stats buried in the engine that allow you to shoot better, draw faster, and do more damage. Less critical items like horse handling are also included in this. Now, it is possible to beat the game without going all gung-ho and maxing out these numbers, but by bothering to do the side missions you do get a little leg up. The shopkeepers also have nice items that increase the damage of your weapons, like boring kits, or larger flasks so that you can take more swigs of that life giving whiskey.
“Life Giving Whiskey?!?” Yeah…I’m not sure it’s whiskey. It may just be water, but whichever it may be, it has the ability to restore your health on the go. You also get dynamite to throw, and a scalping knife. There are other unique pieces of equipment to get out there as you play through the game, and the developer did a good job of making it feel like a good western story rather than a game I was trying to slog through.
The downside to this great story is twofold. First off, like I mentioned in my introduction, this is not a kid’s story. This game rates right up there with the latest R rated action movies. I would take a close look at this game yourself before handing it to the under 18 crowd in your house. The other downside is that the game is short. I was floored when I found myself staring the end credits in the face. They did a good job with this one, but you can be done with it in about 10 hours and that’s with doing a lot of the side missions that are available.
I found a lot of the side missions to be fun to do, and worth it for the statistics upgrades. This is where most people will find the long term value in the game, finding the little things that were hidden away from the main story. Aside from that, there really aren’t any unlockables to locate for future play in the game. The short length of the game hurts its value as well, and some people may find that the game doesn’t have enough long term play to be worth the standard retail price. In my book, the mature storyline turns this around and makes it just nice for an interactive adventure in the old west.