There's A Scene Gun where a particularly nasty man with a moustache rips out another man's tooth with an adjustable wrench. It's a fantastically gruesome scene, but I think you'll find that the adjustable wrench was actually invented in 1892 by a Swedish man called Johan Petter Johansson, a whole 12 years after the game is set Johan wasn't a cowboy (we can assume) - all he had was his love of wrenches and his passionate desire to adjust them - but show me a person whose favourite bit in Disneyland isn't the 'wicka-wicka' Wild Wild West and I'll show you a person who's dead inside, or at least comatose.
You really would be hard-pressed to find somebody who doesn't think cowboys are great. Just look at Clint Eastwood, John Wayne and Jackie Chan - all cowboys, and all inherently cool. It's this premise that makes GUN (it's all in capitals, so shout) so appealing - if you've ever pointed your fingers at somebody and gone "Pow!" (or to a lesser extent "Bang!", which while not as onomatopoeic is still acceptable), before blowing the imaginary smoke off your index finger, then you know what I'm talking about. So just to reiterate, cowboys are cool and you wish you could be one.
Get Off Your Horse...
And now you can! Sort of... GUN does make some attempt at being the first proper cowboy-sim, and while it's not entirely accurate to describe it as GTA on horseback, it does take its cues from the freeform mission-based genre. It has an environment which, while not being as massive as GTA's world, does give plenty of room to run about.
The world of GUN is comprised of a few towns, a main city (which is quite small) and a settlement or two, but the in-between bits of featureless countryside are often quite linear, falling somewhere between GTA and Fable on the freedom scale.
As for the gunfighting itself, it's here that it becomes apparent that GUN is a console game first and foremost. No amount of configuring results in a button layout that feels natural, and manual aiming also feels clumsy. The developer has also managed to fit bullet-time in here too, calling it 'quickdraw' (which vaguely fits into the context of the cowboy rationale). Shootouts are still fun though, especially once you get your hands on the beefier weapons. My personal favourite are the dual pistols, which truly make you feel like a proper cowboy.
Rounding off the GTA analogy is the mission system, which offers you a single storyline thread with an array of sidemissions ranging from Pony Express duties and playing poker at the saloon, to answering the various 'Wanted' posters dotted about the land (some of which give you some freedom in the 'dead or alive' department, allowing you to subdue opponents instead of killing them).
What A Gun Wants
Looking over my review notes, however, (ignoring the drawing of a horse I did while waiting for the game to load), I notice my list of things GUN is lacking; things I believe a cowboy game should have. Pistols at dawn, for example; swinging saloon doors to walk through while looking moody; real working prostitutes you use to regain health; unscripted barfights and brawls with tablesmashing; the phrase "dems fightin' wurds", and most important of all, a proper horse.
The horses in GUN work just like the cars in GTA - they're an expendable means of getting from place to place, but what I really would've liked to have seen was real horse ownership in the game. Buying a horse, becoming emotionally attached to it as the game went on, seeing it get killed as a predictable yet heartbreaking twist in the storyline: something like that would have propelled GUN into the 'recommended' bracket Instead, the world of horses feels bleak and unsubstantial, like a string of one-night stands... With horses.
It's there that GUN's shortcomings lie: while galloping about on your steed shooting bandits and whatnot is great fun, ultimately the Wild West feels a bit unwelcoming, and not in a good, authentic way. Areas which should be a hive of bustling outlaws, cowboys, sheriffs and whores just look dreary, and there's very little interaction with the townsfolk, who only really act as a stage for the story missions.
Regardless of its faults though, GUN does have some great moments that will have you digging out your old cap gun and running down to M&S to buy those leather chaps you always wanted. Vee-haw etc.
Big Sky country doesn't seem so big when you can hop on a horse and gallop from the Great Plains to the blazing desert in a few minutes. And that's the big problem with this otherwise high-caliber Wild West shooter: It's kind of small. The 20 missions in the intriguing, hypervio-lent story (cowboys massacre Indians! Pistols blast off body parts!) push you along so quickly that you'll rarely feel the need to freelance as a deputy or cattle wrangler or any of the other rootin', tootin' side jobs.
The cowpoke cast looks vividly scruffier than it does in the other versions, but that slight boost in visuals won't blow you away and isn't really worth the extra $10 cost.
For me, Gun was a surprising experience. I was expecting more of a generic action game with a decent story but a basic run and shoot gameplay. What I wasn't expecting was a solid epic story with numerous bumps and turns, open architecture gameplay similar to Grand Theft Auto, but on a smaller scale, and numerous side missions that fit the game perfectly and believably.
Gun starts out in the late 1800's with a man named Colton White and his father making a simple living hunting animals. There's more to be seen however. As Colton and his father are selling their wares on a riverboat, things heat up quickly. In a matter of minutes, Colton and his father are attacked with an overwhelming force for some mystery token, Colton finds out his 'father'? isn't his actual father, and then he finds himself left only with the token and a serious desire for vengeance.
There are a number of key elements that collaboratively work to make Gun more then the sum of its parts. First the general gameplay works with an open architecture allowing you to roam freely across a finite area. Although walking would take some time, hopping onto a horse will make the exploring user friendly. In addition, there are numerous diverse side missions spread out around Colton such as working for the law, helping ranchers, or hunting the elusive grey wolf. There's a lot of motivation to finish these side missions as well since your various stats are improved and a small amount of cash is given. That cash can then be used at various stores to improve specific skill sets or buy items that open the game up more and help to immerse into the overall story.
Gun also does a good job of creating the old west both visually and through the various sound effects. The voice acting was spot on and the gun sounds effects realistic.
Probably the major draw back however is the extremely forgiving targeting system. You'll have no trouble shooting a bandit holding a hostage between the eyes every time. It's made even easier when using the quick draw feature which slows down time, allowing for an effortless, precise hit. For me however, it didn't ruin the experience as I enjoyed laying out a room full of enemies, but the challenge of accomplishing that isn't that strong.
To get the full effect of Gun, the side missions are a must as the game can be ripped through rather quickly without them. Take your time, enjoy the experience and story, and you'll be glad you did.
Snapshots and Media
XBox 360 Screenshots
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