XBOX REVIEW: GUN

Gun is a good Western shooter that is well produced and features a wealth of voice talent. Thank God that the developers had the taste and the foresight not to include Reba.

Western shooters are a rare breed, and thankfully so. Considering how they saturated the movie and TV industry in the mid part of the last century the videogame industry is never safe from a similar flood. Fortunately the few Western- themed games that have been released have been of relative good quality. But as soon as the industry notes that Westerns are selling you can bet your ass we'll be seeing plenty of inferior product.

There are a couple of main reasons we don't see a lot of Western videogames. The first is that gamers are more discerning than the average TV viewer of yesteryear. The other reason is that games are pretty darn expensive to produce and with no particular Western flagship to pirate, developers are maintaining the status quo and continue to churn out games based on obvious trends and sequel of old faithfuls. It's doubtful that Gun will herald a new trend but it's a refreshing pace from shooting soldiers, aliens and monsters.

We're headed south of the border for this tale. That's my border I'm talking about, Canada. Due South from where I live is the wide-open State of Montana. It's beautiful country, rivaling some of the most scenic in Canada. More than a hundred years ago it was part of the untamed West. Pioneers, ranchers, cowboys, miners, explorers and drifters made their way to and through this State on their way to seek their fortune - or face their fate. Colton White was just a young lad when his father threw him from a steamboat just moments before it mysteriously exploded. When he was revived a number of days later, Colton realized that his father had actually saved his life and may himself have been murdered. He was given a token to the Alhambra Saloon before his father died. As he searches for answers, so the game begins.

Gun has a great story and it's presented with panache. Cutscenes forge the path, interrupting the gameplay to keep you abreast of developments. The gameplay is open. You're not forced down a linear path. You can explore the region and take on missions in any order. If you prefer you can try your hand at ranching, mining and hunting. Eventually you're going to have to defend yourself and that's where the real fun comes in. After all this game is called Gun and not Amish Paradise.

Weapons are plentiful and run the gamut from pistols to rifles including Colts, Winchesters, sharpshooter rifles and machine guns. Other weapons include knives, tomahawks, bayonets, dynamite and cannons. When you play on the side of the Apache you will use bow and arrows. The arrows can be flaming and can even be customized to shoot dynamite.

Aiming accuracy is very forgiving. It's very arcade-like. The targeting reticle is huge and unless you're full of the coffee jitters you're always going to be in the ballpark. Headshots require a little more skill and there are rewards for pulling them off. The first reward is in the visual itself. Blowing heads apart is a very gruesome prospect but you can't deny that it looks really cool. Oh, I can just imagine some senator getting a hold of that last sentence to add fuel to his anti-violence campaign. Hey, we're beyond that here. This is a game, not a militia recruitment tool.

Quickdraw is the game's form of bullet time. With each and every kill you will be rewarded with juice to fill the Quickdraw meter which you can activate at any time. It's best to use when you are surrounded as it's not very effective against bosses. The bosses as you might expect are the most difficult enemies in the game. They require a lot of trial and error but eventually you'll discover their patterns and it will be game over….for them.

With the voice talents of Kris Kristofferson and Ron Perlman, and an excellent script there is a gritty realism that permeates the entire game not unlike Clint Eastwood's 1992 movie, Unforgiven. The West isn't glorified so much as explored on a level that has more in common with a documentary than anything with John Wayne in it. Keep in mind that you still have to balance this with an arcade-style of shooting.

The scope of the environments are vast, but empty in this free-roam open ended adventure. The game manages to capture the essence of loneliness that was an unwelcome but constant companion to many a traveler in those days. The animation is a little stiff but the faces have a perfect weathered and grizzled look to them complete with appropriate expressions. Traveling on horseback while shooting is a bit of challenge. That's when you'll appreciate the forgiving targeting system. You can always crank up the difficulty if you're looking for more of a challenge.

Any fan of the old West is sure to appreciate the effort that went into this game. Unraveling the mystery of the storyline is also certain to capture the imagination of a wide range of gamers. Gun may be a little rough around the edges but remember mister, you don't order a Crème de Menthe in a saloon if you want to live to tell the tale.

Preview By Devin

Is this how the West will be won? Tony Hawk developers Neversoft are looking to revolutionize Wild West gaming with an ambitious title simply named, Gun. In Gun, you take on the role of Colton White, a lone wolf exacting revenge for the death of his father. To begin the story, Colton and his pops are getting chased down on a steamboat. Colton's dad then hands him a medallion, telling Colton to look for a woman named Jenny. Colton's dad begins pushing Colton over the boat's edge, into the ocean, but not before he reveals to Colton that he isn't Colton's real dad! Plat twist baby!

Story aside, Neversoft is definitely doing what Red Dead Revolver did for western games, and then some. With Red Dead Revolver, you were stuck on what we call the rail system. That means you were limited to a pre-determined path, and went where the game took you. With Gun, you have the freedom to roam freely, much like the ever popular Grand Theft Auto, following story missions or some of the more entertaining NPC side missions.

"Oh, a free roaming western?" You ask. "But how do we get the feeling of a western in this game?" I thought you'd never ask!

They didn't call it the Wild West for nothing. The Old West was a time full of corruption, violence, sex and best of all, alcohol. Well, just kidding about the best of all part, we don't like advocating vice here! However, Neversoft is definitely aimed towards showcasing the violence of the west with its gameplay and homemade physics engine. Gun will have you not only galloping along on horses (made popular by upcoming titles such as Shadows of the Colossus and Zelda: The Twilight Princess), but you'll also be able to attach dynamite to arrows, and use your tomahawk to not only butcher your enemies, but to collect their scalps as well.

Another nifty feature found in Gun is the Quick Draw mode. Don't think for once that you could escape a western game without calling out a yella belly'd varmit and tellin him to "Reach fer the sky!" Quick Draw mode isn't a feature that you can switch on and off at your whim, you'll earn "points" with your kills, such as head shots. When you've built up enough of your Quick Draw meter, you'll exit the 3rd person view and enter 1st person, where time literally slows down. Now that you're in the Matrix like bullet time, you'll be able to pick and choose your shots as your enemies slowly react.

Quick Draw mode also gives you the freedom to mess with your enemies. You can shoot the gun out of their hands and then take the time to shoot the gun across the room as its owner chases after it. You can also go old school and shoot at the feet of the bad guy to make him "dance."

Gun looks like it will definitely take the cake for western action games. Titles such as Samurai Western are going to drown in competition with Neversoft's new baby. The unique gameplay features and brute violence are enough to get my blood pumping, and I'm sure yours too.

Look for the wild west to roar near you come November 8, 2005.

Preview by Vaughn

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater/Underground developers Neversoft are tackling the Xtreme in a completely off-kilter fashion. Gun is not about ollies, nollies or grinds; it's all about "have gun, will travel". The old west. The wild west. When men were men and all that jazz. Neversoft is taking gamers back to the 19th century and allowing them the freedom to live out their personal cowboy and Indian...er, make that Native American, fantasies.

You will take the stage as Colton White, son of Ned White, who have both lived their lives in Montana along the Missouri River. A meeting aboard a steamboat sets off a chain of events that will change Colton's life forever - perhaps the least of which is the discovery that Ned, the man you've called dear ol' dad all these years, isn't really your father. Perhaps it's Darth Vadar....but don't quote me on that. You'll spend the rest of the game sorting out that little paternity mystery while trying to keep your scalp, life and everything else intact.

Developed for the Xbox 360 as well as the consoles, Gun is one of the most ambitious concepts Neversoft has tackled in recent years. They're hard at work creating a living breathing game world that streams without load times and will take the players through mountains, forests, prairies, rivers, cities, and allow travel by train, foot, canoe and of course, horseback. What? No skateboard?' We get the feeling that you shouldn't get too attached to your "ride" (aka horse) as bad ass enemies will often just shoot your trusty steed in hopes of taking you out of the equation. We would like to take this opportunity to mention that if you name your horse "Epona" - even if you simply do it mentally without being given the chance to name it within the game world, we'll call you names and make fun of you. Hey, we like Zelda probably even MORE than you, but we consider that just a little "icky" and fanboyish to exist within the realm of normalcy, okay?

Recent epic titles have touted the "good and/or evil" gameplay mechanic and Gun is no different, although it's approach to morality isn't exactly black and white; which is consistent with historical accounts of the way of life in the old west. Sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind, sang pop crooner Rick Springfield and during the era where most people were uneducated and armed to the teeth, timeouts, indoor voices and r-e-s-p-e-c-t weren't on the social graces menu. You drank whiskey, fought with anyone who looked at you sideways and dealt out 6 gun justice at the drop of a ten gallon hat. Sort of like the way rappers run their lives today. Back in the days when Jesse James and Wild Bill Hickock ruled the badlands, one day you were a mean-spirited cold-hearted killer and the next you were a knight in shining armor saving the town from bank robbing bandits, perhaps only to leave the opportunity open for yourself once the competition was dealt with.

Neversoft has mentioned that the player will have five skills to hone during the game: Horse-riding, Health, Melee, Quick Draw and Gunhandling. The progression of these skills will be directly tied to the numerous side-missions in Gun. Players may opt to plow through the story mode, but they will sorely miss out on the necessary skills required later on to make those tough spots a little more palatable. While most of these skills are self-explanatory, Quick Draw mode might get the attention of gamers raised on Max Payne. Quick Draw mode is the obligatory "slow mo bullet time" mode, found in todays popular action titles. While it suspends the realism of the game in the short term, it ramps up playability a thousandfold and makes gunfights inherently much more entertaining and interesting to say the least, especially when you take in to consideration the realistic physics Neversoft hath bestowed upon you. Yepp, you can blow bodies and body parts all over the dang place. Hang 'em high, fellas.

We've been told that side missions will include everything from hunting wildlife (expect bears, wolves, cougars and rabid bunnies to roam the land) to escorting trains, robbing banks and cleaning up entire towns as Sheriff. Sounds great! We're just happy to play a game that doesn't require bathing due to the relaxed hygiene requirements of the late 1880s.

We're chomping at the bit to play the final version on the Xbox 360. Neversoft has explained that while the X360 version of Gun will play similar to the other console versions, it will see a definite increase in resolution, framerate, normal mapping, dynamic lighting and character models.

The West is about to get a whole lot wilder this Fall. Stay tuned and as always, keep those 6 guns shiny and that chip on your shoulder firmly planted in case some hayseed gives you the stinkeye.

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System: X360, PS2, GC, X
Dev: Neversoft
Pub: Activision
Release: Nov 2005
Players: 1
Review by Cole
RATING (OUT OF 5)
OVERALL
4.0
GRAPHICS
3.5
CONTROL
4.0
MUSIC/FX
4.5
VALUE
3.0