Gun
Game Info
Platform(s)
PS2, GC, Xbox
Publisher
Activision
Developer
Neversoft
Genre
Action
Official Website
ESRB Rating
Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Use of Alcohol
 
Grade
The Good

• Western action with lots of sidequests
• Gunplay is pretty fun
• Pretty large world with some nice looking locations
• Impressive voice cast

The Bad

• Story mission path is short
• Save menu takes too long to use
• HUD could be smaller

 
Grade
B+

The American Western as a thematic genre is one that was popular in cinema some years ago but has never really taken off when it comes to the videogame market. Outside of Red Dead Revolver and a handful of other titles, the genre has seen little to no attention in recent years. So, when Neversoft revealed that they were working on a third person action/shooter set in the old West, I was a bit intrigued, and even a little skeptical. Neversoft has made a successful living in the skateboarding realm, but I wondered what would happen when they made a game in a different genre and without the words "Tony" and "Hawk" attached to it.

Set in the mid 1800s, Gun starts Colton White, a young mountain man who is learning to survive in the wilderness from his father, Ned. After being ambushed on a steamboat, he's sent on journey to discover his true past. While this setup reeks of the standard videogame plot devices, the way the story is delivered and given to the player is done well and really pulls you into the Western setting. The story-oriented main missions give the player some nice character interactions and more than a few sensible plot decisions.

The game opens with a pretty extensive tutorial on the gun combat, which is nice as you'll need a good idea of what you're doing just to survive. Control is done with the two analog sticks and you can swap weapons with the Circle Button. To draw your weapon, tap the R1 Button and then hit it again to fire the equipped weapon. The X Button will let you jump and the Triangle Button gets you on and off your horse. Once on the horse, you can use the L2 to spur the horse or gallop, but be weary as the horse's stamina will drain if you ride it to hard. Unlike Shadow of the Colossus, the horse controls for Gun are more like your standard third person controls, so moving from on foot to on horse does take any readjustment. The L1 Button lets you use thrown weapons and you can pull of melee attacks with your knife with the Square Button. Players also have the ability to crouch, scalp dying enemies and grab and subdue enemies as they please.

One of the more important elements of the gun play is the Quickdraw. R2 will put you into Quickdraw mode, where time slows down and you go into first person perspective. In this mode, you can use the analog stick to quickly switch between enemies, allowing you take kill multiple opponents in a short amount of time. While in Quickdraw mode, a gauge will drain and once emptied, you have to let it refill before using it again. This keeps you from abusing the hell out of the Quickdraw system, which would make the gun combat way too easy. One of the nicer touches found in the gun combat is that you can pull off all sorts of actions seen in Western flicks, including shooting the gun out of your opponent's hand or even shoot them while they're taking a hostage. I also liked that you could actually use your horse to trample opponents.

The story missions, while based around shooting opponents, tosses enough scenarios as to keep things interesting. At one point, you'll be trying to rescue someone to the next moment having to stop thugs from burning down a building. Then, you'll have to play the protection gig as you keep Chinese workers safe from a Native American raid. And just to switch things up, from time to time, you'll have to show how good you are with your guns, as with the mission where you have to shoot down fire arrows to keep the TNT from blowing up a bridge.

While you have a pretty well defined path to continue through the main story missions, you do have access to various side missions which earn you money and powerups. At your disposal is the ability to make deliveries for the Pony Express, hunt for wanted criminals, play Poker, go hunting, or just play like your the law. These side quests serve to give more life to the gamer's experience and while they aren't required, you'll more than likely find the diversion more than fun enough to warrant spending some time on most or all of them. When not in a main story mission, you often have free roam of the towns and eventually the whole map. If you decide to start a fight in town, the town patience meter depletes and once it's empty, the local posse comes a shooting for you.

Some of the side missions, like acting as deputy or hunting wanted criminals often just boils down to going to a location and shooting someone. Of course, the stat bonuses and money you earn makes this worth the small time and effort it takes. Poker, on the other hand, is a fun diversion, especially if you enjoy watching or playing in Poker Tournaments. The fact that you can actually cheat at the game gives it as bit of strategy. When you're in the wilderness, you'll find other sidemissions to perform, like mining for gold or hunting animals.

Graphically, Gun is one of those games that looks great for the most part, but does have a few rough edges that keep it from being in the same class as, say, Resident Evil 4 or Ninja Gaiden. The character models are designed well, show off a good bit of detail and have some excellent animation, but they also have some rough edges. The main story characters all show a good bit of personality and detail, especially in the cutscenes. The more boring NPCs still look fine and do well to fill out the scenery. There's a good bit of light bloom (or a similar effect) used to make the whole gameworld seems a lot brighter and by extension a lot less rough in places. The landscape is likewise nicely done, but features some low res textures and can be a bit blocky at time. With that said, though, once you get free run of the gameworld, you'll get to see some nice looking areas and you'll be surprised by the size and fact that no loading screens break up the flow. I would say that in comparison to their Tony Hawk efforts, Gun is a nice step up on all fronts. Gun definitely shows some signs of Tony Hawk in the menu interface of the game save system. Outside of that, though, Neversoft had done a pretty good job of divorcing itself from it's bread and butter series. I didn't get a chance to play it, but I have to wonder how this game looks on the Xbox 360 as I imagine the higher resolution textures and lighting/visual effects would probably really polish off the graphics package nicely.

When it comes to voice cast, Neversoft has spared no expense, including the likes of Thomas Jane, Lance Henriksen, Brad Dourif, Ron Perlman and Kris Kristofferson. And, unlike most "big name" casts, the voice work is delivered well and fits just fine into the core of the story. You won't suffer any flat performances that just stand out like a sore thumb. The music is suitably well done and fits the theme well without being obviously Western. There are some pretty dramatic themes thrown in to set the tone, but a few Western standards show up just for the sake of mood. Sound effects are pretty sharp and do the job at giving a solid realism to the events that happen during the game. There's a certain bit of pleasure found in the sound of a bullet knocking a gun out of an opponent's hand and Gun does a good job at inserting just enough arcade-like effects to make the experience enjoyable.

If there's anything that's a true detriment to Gun is that it's pretty short. The main story can be finished in a manner of a few hours. If you have little interest in side missions, you can blow through the game in a rental. Also, the save menu really needs to be optimized as I felt I spent way too much time getting into the save menu and then saving my progress. Outside of that, I felt the HUD was a little cramped from time to time.

If you love Westerns, then Gun is the game for you. Neversoft has managed to prove they aren't a one trick pony and I can only hope that they continue this series so they can extend the gameplay and make a longer experience. The story and gameplay of Gun is quite an enjoyable action experience that fans of the genre should be sure to try out.

- - Kinderfeld

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