Reviewed: November 11, 2005
Released: November 8, 2005
After hearing about Neversoftís new endeavor at E3 this year, I wasnít sure what to expect. Especially when you consider the company hasnít developed a non-Tony Hawk Skateboarding game since their release of the original Spiderman for the Playstation back in 2000. No information was given except the name GUN. Then in June at Neversoftís press event, we got word straight from the companyís President (Joel Jewett) that Gun would be a brutal, free-roaming game set in the Wild West where ďEveryone carries a fucking gun.Ē The premises sounded very cool, but the big question remained: could they pull if off?
GUN starts with you (Colton White) reuniting with your father (Ned). Ned familiarizes you with the landscape (which serves as the tutorial) by teaching you how to hunt birds and deer. Youíll even have to save him from a ferocious grizzly bear. After that, the beginning of the story starts to take shape.
You and Ned end up on a steamboat (looks like a ferry) going down the Missouri when all of a sudden youíre attacked by Indians lead by a dishonest preacher named Reid. They overturn the boat looking for a safe that they believe to contain treasure. Just as the boat is about the explode, Ned tells you that heís not your father, and to go look for a prostitute named Jenny in Dodge City right before throwing you off the boat into the water. Ned goes down with the boat, and it is here that you (Colton) begin your journey for revenge and to discover who you really are.
GUN is a free-roaming game that allows you to go anywhere and do anything, much like Grand Theft Auto except set in 1880 in the Wild West. Your mode of transportation through the dusty plains is by horseback or foot (sorry, no cars). Luckily a horse can be tamed immediately in the wild by simply hopping on its back, and it seems that one is always close by wherever you are. Riding on a horse has never looked so good or been so easy to control. Itís almost like driving a car.
As Colton you will travel through many parts of Nevada and New Mexico and go from city to city. Railroad tracks go through each town, which make them ideal to follow to the next one. Unfortunately, trains donít travel them when youíre free-roaming during the game. The only time youíll see one is during cut-scenes.
Trains are cool, but weapons are better. Throughout the game youíll be firing a pistol/dual pistols (your main gun with a seemingly endless amount of ammunition), rifles, shotguns, and sharpshooters. Guns arenít your only weapons. Youíll also be slashing (scalping or hacking) enemies with knifes, a tomahawk, or a sword, throwing TNT/Molotov cocktails, or silently firing a (regular or) dynamite strapped arrow into a banditís chest.
Much like Max Payne, GUN has a slow motion killing system called ďQuickdrawĒ which switches you from third person to first person mid-battle. At this point youíre in slow motion and can auto-aim at any enemy (within range) by flicking the C-stick in their direction. This allows you to take down multiple enemies extremely quickly and is amazingly fun to perform. However, there is a limit to this fun.
A meter bar will appear, quickly depleting as long as you are in Quickdraw mode. The way you build up the meter (or stay in Quickdraw mode) is to make accurate shots. After beating the game I found that I used Quickdraw to kill nearly a fourth of my enemies. So, needless to say, you will be using this mode a lot.
This isnít the only cool move you can perform. Other ones include scalping enemies after they are shot down and before they actually die. Itís brutal, but devilishly rewarding to watch. Another is your ability to stampede enemies with a horse. While you are riding, you can run over enemies to kill or knock them off their horses. It, in a sense, makes the horse a weapon as well.
Upgrading weapons is common in a lot of video games and it has been implemented here as well. GUNís RPG system allows you to gain experience, improve your skills in melee attacks, horseback riding, and Quickdraw, and to increase your health. You can also earn experience by doing side missions.
Side missions include helping the local sheriff keep peace in the town (called Keeping the Peace). If you undertake this position, expect a fight. There are bad people polluting the town, and itís your job to dispose of them and also do other various tasks. Other missions include working for the Pony Express, Ranching, Mining (finding gold throughout the West), Bounty Hunting, and Playing Poker.
The side missions are a lot of fun and a good relief from the story mode. I found myself going back to them after a hard battle or boss fight. They increase your stats and earn you spending money as well. One thing I didnít do was purchase a health bar increase from the local merchant. It caused me a lot of undue difficulty and I ended up beating the game before I increased my health bar. For your information, the game can be beaten on normal difficulty if you donít purchase the upgrades.
One of GUNís strongest points is also one of its weakest. While it has an amazing presentation and a huge free-roaming environment, it comes across very jaggy and pixilated on Nintendo's console. I compared it to the Xbox and there is no contest. The Xbox version looks vibrant and wonderful while the GameCube version looks dark and unacceptable despite the systemís differences.
To further reinforce my point, textures in the game werenít always solid, they would sometimes flicker. Most of us saw that a lot during the original Playstation era, but not with current generation systems. This might have been acceptable when the GameCube launched back in 2001. But four years have passed since that time and the gamerís expectations are higher given the developers time to understand the system.
The graphics may be poor, but the gameplay never falters. Luckily, there are no framerate hiccups like Neversoftís recently released Tony Hawkís American Wasteland.
On a more positive note, there are more than 75 fully motion-captured cutscenes which look very believable. The characters come to life in their expressions and body language. However, no cutscene is complete without great voice acting to bring it all together.
The voice acting is truly top notch. Neversoft brought together an impressive team of people to do the voice acting for Gun, including actor Tom Jane as Colton (The Punisher, Deep Blue Sea), Kris Kristofferson as Ned (Blade and Blade II), and Brad Dourif as Reid (Deadwood). There are a lot more actors to name and they are all excellent with a lot of experience.
The orchestrated background music is also professionally done and presented in Dolby Pro Logic II surround sound. The theme music repeats when you are free-roaming, but changes to match the action during the story portion of the game. It all fits well into place, never gets old, and suits the Wild West perfectly.
There is a lot to do despite the main story mode (which you can do at your own pace). You can keep busy in the open/desolate environment by finding and mining gold, which is hidden all over the place, or you could hunt a variety of animals. Once youíre in Dodge City you can choose to do a multitude of things.
For one, you can play poker, located in the saloon. You can choose to cheat at the card table, but the longer you play, the more likely your opponents are to find out. I found the Texas Hold íEm style of card play to be a lot of fun and cheating definitely helps tilt the odds in your favor. Itís a quick and fun way to make a quick 10 bucks if you win the tournament.
Another thing you can do (if you spot a wanted poster) are bounty missions. These are available in different cities and they basically want you to hunt down criminals. Some have different rewards for catching them dead or alive. For example, if you kill the criminal youíll get $10, but if you subdue him youíll get $20. There are lots of different scenarios to these side missions and you donít always get the same reward. Itís the most exciting way to make a buck in the West, thatís for sure.
Other side missions include taking on a mail route with the Pony Express, joining the law and Keeping the Peace, rescuing victims from criminals, and corralling livestock in Ranching mode. There are enough side missions to keep you busy shooting for a 100% completion for hours, but the story mode will take you a short 8 hours to complete.
I love this game to death and will play it over at least once on a higher difficulty setting (it offers the standard: easy, normal, hard). But for those of you who play through the story only, then this game is more of a rental than a purchase. Unfortunately, GUN starts out as an epic adventure and ends more like a short story.
GUN is the best western action-adventure game to date. With its go-anywhere, shoot/do-anything gameplay, itís like Grand Theft Auto Wild-Wild West style. The graphics are a big disappointment, but the amazing animation, presentation, and sound make up for its downfalls.
For those of you who grew up playing cowboys and Indians, or if youíre just looking for something with a fun story, amazing presentation, and astonishingly fun gameplay set in the West then this gameís for you.