More than Just OK Corral
Ah…the American West – a legendary place and time where laws were only as good as the marshals who backed them, and where young men and women could make their fortune and their names by carving out a life in the bandit-filled wilds. This is the backdrop for Lead and Gold: Gangs of the Wild West. It is a third-person multiplayer shooter that emphasizes cooperative, team-based play and fast-paced shootouts. The game features lots of fun modes of play, and the maps are varied enough that they keep gun battles interesting. Topping it all off, the four distinct classes add a nice strategic component. Lead and Gold isn’t one of the most compelling games I’ve ever played, but for just $15 bucks, there’s an awful lot of play value here that can’t be denied.
Lead and Gold: Gangs of the Wild West is, for all intents and purposes, strictly a multiplayer affair – you can practice against some shoddy AI competitors or try your luck in Gold Fever, but going solo is not the way to enjoy this game. As such, you’re going to spend essentially all of your time hooking up with other gamers in multiplayer showdowns. There are six game types in all: Robbery, Powder Keg, Shootout, Greed, Conquest, and Gold Fever. Each mode plays quite differently, so you’ll have a lot of variety, even though there’s a couple modes that will likely become your favorites.
Robbery pits two teams against each other. One gang digs in and defends their gold, while the other has to make coordinated attacks in order to steal the gold for their own. Powder Keg switches things up by having a gang try and transport gunpowder-filled kegs to key objective points and blowing up those targets, while the competition needs to thwart them by blowing up the kegs early and mowing them down before they can advance. The most standard mode in the game is Shootout, which is simply team deathmatch – the team with the most kills wins.
Greed, similar to Robbery, is all about picking up as much gold for your team as you can. However, rather than pitting an entrenched gang against an attacking opponent, both teams will be going for the gold drops, trying to bring the precious metal back to a safehouse. Conquest is another, more standard game type; teams try to hold zones of control in a particular sequence in order to win. Finally, Gold Fever does away with competing teams, allowing one or two players to take on wave after wave of baddies. While playing alone is a good bit of fun, this mode really shines whilst playing with a partner cooperatively.
Upon entering any of these multiplayer game types, players will choose from one of four character classes: Gunslinger, Trapper, Blaster, and Deputy. The Gunslinger is an iconic, bandana-masked pistolero that carries a powerful six-shooter revolver called The Negotiator – I guess its slugs do the talking for you. The Gunslinger has no alternate weapon, but his “Fanning” ability means he can spin the revolver chambers, unleashing six rounds in about a second. The Trapper, on the other hand, is best when used as a sniper at a distance. She dons a coon-skin cap and carries a deadly-accurate, sighted buffalo rifle. If you happen to miss and an opponent puts you down, she can whip out a revolver and try to get a kill while she waits for teammates to revive her. The Trapper also has a special trap ability that is supposed to work like a mine or bouncing betty to keep advancing foes from getting to close to your position, but it’s actually a bit weak.
The Deputy has a nice, mid-range repeating rifle (much like a Henry rifle) that combines speed, accuracy, a large magazine size, and stopping power. The Deputy also has a neat tagging ability that lets you and your teammates track enemies no matter where they go – even behind walls – by placing a skull icon over their heads. Finally, you can pick up the burly Blaster, which is a miner that can easily defend his claim. This brutish role uses a sawed-off shotgun and sticks of dynamite to keep enemies (at short range) at bay.
All the classes nicely complement each other, and they should be used as such. Teams with multiple classes working together seem to be the most successful. To further emphasize the need for a varied mix of classes and the requirement of teamwork, each class will radiate a specific boon that will buff teammates when working in unison. These beneficial auras, known as the Synergy System, include bonuses to accuracy, critical hits, damage, and armor for the Gunslinger, Trapper, Deputy, and Blaster, respectively. These are constantly upgraded throughout a match thanks to the accumulation of experience points which eventually convert to ranks. These ranks, however, are not tracked from game to game. Rather, players all start out at the same level each and every new round, making ranking up a reward for specific in-game performance, and does not depend on ongoing game loyalty and hours logged. As such, latecomers to the game will never feel like they’re at a disadvantage.
One of the best aspects of Lead and Gold are the varied map types. From frontier army forts and active gold claim operations to abandoned towns and pioneer camps, Lead and Gold offers players a lot of unique settings within which they can play. Every map was carefully crafted to provide gamers with nooks and crannies, open sections, high ground, cover, etc. Each map is definitely tailored to specific game types, so the developers went ahead and limited the map selection depending on which game type you enter. While this may dismay some people who don’t like to have their choices curtailed, I’ve got a feeling the devs know best in this case, as the map selections they have made are appropriate, facilitating the fun.
The game is still in its infancy, however. As such, during off hours, expect only a handful of people in games. This is unfortunate, because the game is certainly at its best when there are a lot of different classes running about, supporting each other. Even so, teams of two still translates into a lot of fun, as the run-and-gun, frantic action and smart game types keep things entertaining despite the lack of participants. Also, we never experienced any lag or connection drops whatsoever; although, we never got into a fully populated game, so, as Lead and Gold becomes more popular, such issues could crop up.
Lead and Gold: Gangs of the Wild West is surprisingly sharp in terms of presentation. The graphics are clean, the animations are smooth, and the environments are detailed. Also, the background menu music themes are appropriate for the setting, and the sound effects set off the fire fights really well – I particularly enjoyed the sounds of the firearms. Finally, running through the environments with WASD and taking out fools with left and right mouse clicks is second nature for any PC gamer. Despite the quality control scheme, if you are more of a console gamer, you might want to hold off awhile, as Lead and Gold: Gangs of the Wild West is set for release on the PS3 and Xbox 360 later this year.
Without a doubt, the game’s $14.99 price tag is its best feature. In other words, there’s an overwhelming chance you already own a PC shooter with a multiplayer component that is more rewarding. However, the varied game types, excellent maps, straightforward game mechanics, and fun setting mean you shouldn’t hesitate in picking this one up.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.6 Graphics
This is an attractive game from character designs to animations to environments. 4.0 Control
If you haven’t mastered WASD and mouse clicks by now, you’re better off waiting for the game to hit consoles later this year. 3.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Background music is sparse but pleasant, and the sound effects more than hold up their side of the bargain. 4.0 Play Value
The $15 price tag belies the excellent, varied multiplayer action on offer. There are a lot better shooters out there, but not at this price point. 3.8 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.