Set in the Old West, Gun is treat for fans of Western films. Players get to perform such actions as chasing down wanted criminals, busting out of jail, assisting in a cattle drive, stopping a train, and racing through the frontier for the Pony Express. Gun's gameplay excels too, making every shootout a "blast."
The shootouts are the best part of the game. There aren't any duels at high noon, but the action is plentiful and typically involves multiple foes. Nearly every weapon serves a purpose. There's a pistol for rapid-fire assaults, a shotgun for indoor battles, a bow for silent hunting, a sharpshooter for sniping, and a rifle for ranged combat. And just as Max Payne has Bullet Time and Neo has The Matrix effect, Colton White has "Quickdraw" to slow time and improve his accuracy.
While the game feels like the Old West and looks good, there are only two relatively small towns to explore. Most buildings cannot be entered, and the majority of non-playable characters won't interact with you unless you attack them. Saloons are often empty, and though there is plenty of land to traverse, there aren't many places to visit. Gun would greatly benefit from a few more locations to visit.
Gun's main weakness is its short length. The storyline gallops along at a brisk pace and can be completed in about five hours, and the optional side missions tack on three additional hours of play. All missions improve Colton's skills and provide cash rewards, but you won't need to be Wyatt Earp to defeat the bad guys. You can save the game at any time, there are plenty of health-restoring flasks to drink, and dying during a mission usually doesn't set you back too far.
Although the game is open-ended, there really isn't anything to do after you reach 100% completion. You can ride around on horseback, occasionally getting attacked by a few easy-to-defeat bandits, or you can fight the townspeople, but that's not much fun. Neversoft should have included more areas to explore or at least some shootout mini-games that could be played at any time. Gun starts with a bang and moves as fast as a speeding bullet, but it empties its clip too soon.
Graphics: The settings look nice, but some of the NPCs are too stiff and have no emotion.
Sound: Great gunfire effects and excellent voice acting.
Enjoyment: Gets the feel of the Old West right, from riding a horse through the frontier to the thrilling shootouts.
Replay Value: While the main missions are too short and there isn't anything left to do after completing the side missions, the game's action is good enough to get you to play through a second time.
There are, as any up-to-date gamer will tell you, a few locales for games that are getting pretty threadbare. So right off the bat, GUN gets bonus points for containing absolutely none of the following: Nazis, aliens, terrorists, robots, gladiators, zombies, demons, or monsters of any kind. Instead, this Western-themed, third-person shooter has bandits, Apache warriors, cowboys, Civil War soldiers, wild bears, and one unlucky prostitute. And the game's developer, Neversoft, will see all that and raise you a fairly open-ended gameplay design with side missions and a stats system that will leave you thinking "Grand Theft Horse: Dodge City." Well ... almost.
GUN puts you in the boots and spurs of Colton White, a mountain man trying to solve the riddle left behind by his father's death and a mysterious golden artifact. The game's main storyline follows Colton through a sprawling world modeled after every Western you've ever seen from Sergio Leone to Louis L'Amour, with a bit of modern glitz and violence mixed in.
The game's main storyline is, in fact, one of its greatest strengths. Colton travels through a number of territories and encounters bravery, tragedy, betrayal, adventure, heroics, and oh-so-much danger. It's not the greatest story ever known, but for a Western it works pretty well and keeps you engaged, especially if you're looking for something for mature audiences. Even though sex is kept to a minimum, the game earns its "M" rating with coarse language and copious, raw violence. Add on top of that a cast of interesting (if ultimately clichéd) characters and excellent voice acting and the game definitely has its own kind of brutal charm.
The fun is by no means limited to the storytelling. GUN constantly mixes up the shooter standards, rarely asking you to just go into an area and shoot everything that moves. You may have to protect workers from invading Apache warriors, ride a track-mounted cannon through a mine shaft and blast enemies out of the way, or sneak through an enemy camp and steal enough horses for you and your partners to make a getaway. So while the straight-up gunplay parts are fun (and graphic, if you're wondering), the game also keeps things fresh by constantly introducing new challenges almost like mini-games, though it's pretty open-ended in how you go about completing them.
The biggest complaint with the main storyline is that it's pretty short. It took me about 8 hours to play through the main game on the normal difficulty level and doing a few of the optional side missions. You can still go back and complete side quests for extra rewards, but there's not a whole lot of fun to that.
It's tempting, as I said earlier, to compare GUN's open-ended gameplay to the recent Grand Theft Auto games where you can roam through the wide-open West and do anything you want to. That's true to a point, because while the main storyline is easy to jump back in to at any point, you can run around and shoot up the place or pursue a variety of side missions. See that wanted poster? Walk up to it and read it to trigger a mission where you hunt down a horse thief. See the Sheriff over there? Talk to him to get deputized and administer some hard, frontier justice to local lawbreakers. There are even missions where you can round up cattle or mosey over to the saloon and try a few rounds of poker. So yeah, it's a little like Grand Theft Auto in that way, but with more cows.
How GUN differs when it comes to side quests, though, is in the depth and scope. There are really only a few side-quest templates like delivery, cattle ranching, bounty hunting, poker, and law enforcement, and they get repetitive pretty fast. None of the areas you visit are particularly detailed, and the side-missions generally feel tacked-on, sometimes to the point of being silly. One Pony Express mission had me rush food from the shopkeeper to a fat man on the other side of town before a timer counted down to the point of his supposed starvation. Because, you know, Chubbsy couldn't wait a few more seconds. The wanted poster missions also always involve following a blinking "X" on the map to some random guy and gunning him down. Who was Buck "Side Quest" Jones, anyway? Where did he come from? What was the nature of his crime? Did he steal a horse to feed starving children? Was he repentant? Or was he just a selfish man looking to take advantage of others in a bad situation? None of these questions really matter, though, because in the time it takes to ask them you've already found him and filled him with lead for a $10 reward.
So, pointless as the side quests might be, you may find yourself wanting to do a few just to build up your stats and put that $10 reward towards some new equipment. Not satisfied with just a "find the next biggest gun" approach to typical shooter character development (though there is that, too), Neversoft has infused GUN with a stats system that supposedly drives how effective you are at various tasks like gunfighting, horseback riding, or melee combat. Honestly, though, I didn't see much of a difference after I got "+4 to Horseback" or whatever. I would have preferred a system where I controlled the stat point allocation in order to fully customize my experience and see more dramatic changes. As it stands, the stats system feels pretty undercooked.
More direct decision-making control, however, is given in the process of spending your money on shop items, such as kits to increase a gun's reload rate or damage. You can even buy "medicine" to prolong the time Colton can stay in his bullet-time-esque "quickdraw" mode, where everything slows down and your view zooms in to make it easier to line up quick headshots. I felt like it was a much more meaningful and strategic choice between buying the upgrade to increase shotgun damage or buying the new whiskey flask that allowed me to carry more health.
Of course, it wouldn't be a Western without a horse, and you'll spend a fair amount of time in the saddle. Many of the missions require you to gallop along at top speed, weaving and winding around obstacles or chasing down targets. Be careful, though. Apply the spurs too liberally and you'll kill the beast beneath you, and enemies can do the same with a few well-placed bullets. While riding you can still shoot all your weapons, plus you can even urge your mount to trample anyone underfoot. The horseplay is generally fun, and there were several immensely satisfying moments where I charged into a gaggle of banditos, trampling several and blasting the rest with my shotgun.
Unfortunately, GUN doesn't look the greatest, especially relative to the newest and slickest shooters sitting next to it on the store shelves. The world is wide open, but blocky and chunky, with a few too many unimpressive textures and bland stretches of empty space. The character models are acceptable, though the animation gets a bit stiff at times. On the positive side, some effects like smoke and fire look pretty great, though I was greatly annoyed by how the camera would get filled with smoke once Colton got three or four flaming arrows stuck in his side. The sounds, at least, are consistently good, with the superlative voice acting and satisfying sound effects from weapons and environments.
In the process of playing and discussing a lot of shooters, the phrases "more of the same" and "just another shooter" often come up, usually accompanied by a little sigh. GUN eschews both of these reactions, though, by not only giving us a relatively fresh and underutilized theme, but also by mixing up gameplay and including a stats and inventory system that give you freedom (well, some freedom) on how to build your character. And it's kind of ironic to say so about a game featuring a railroad, but GUN is about as far from a "shooter on rails" stereotype as you can get. The side-quest systems are kind of bland and get repetitive pretty quickly, but I'm still glad to have them for the freedom they open up and the stat increases they reward you with. Sure, it's pretty short, but take just about any other common complaint about modern shooters you can think of, and GUN neatly sidesteps it.
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