I think most of the kids of my generation grew up pretending they were cowboys, shooting off toy guns at squirrels that easily became Indians when aimed at. We rode around on imaginary horses, galloping through our yards, yelling and generally having a lot of fun. I miss those days. My younger brothers and sisters don’t really know that world though. While my dad brought me up watching Clint Eastwood ride horses and kill bad guys, my younger siblings aren’t even allowed to play with toy guns. Hell, they aren’t even allowed to make pretend guns out of their fingers and point them at people.
When a scary bearded cowboy asks for a swig of your fire water, the correct response is “Sure thing, buddy!”
Times sure have changed for all of us. There was a time when cowboys roamed the Wild West. I’m sure they’ve been romanticized by movies. I’m sure they weren’t nearly as cool as we imagined them being, but I’m willing to accept Hollywood’s cowboy and assume that all of them kicked ass. Cowboys were the ninjas and robots of the past. Cowboys killed people during the day and slept with ladies at night and now, Activision has finally given us a game to play where we can live out our cowboy dreams – kind of.
GUN bills itself as a free-roaming western action-adventure game where the player is free to choose who he sides with, free to travel the land, and free to live the dream of being a cowboy. If you want to be lawless, you can go right into a town and blast as many people as you want. Of course, the town’s men aren’t going to be too pleased with this development and they’ll try to kick you out, but for the most part this is inconsequential. You can take a shotgun and blast a woman about fifteen feet down the road; complete with a blood smear along the ground (this is pretty satisfying). The main problem with this system is that there aren’t any consequences for your actions.
Wow, that really was an explosive kill.
You can shoot at everyone in the town, but there’s no penalty for it. Prices in the town don’t go up and people will still deal with you afterward. There’s no penalty for misbehavior. Maybe that was an intention of the developers to make the West seem lawless. Maybe because people are afraid of you, they don’t *beep* with you. Personally, I think that the feature just wasn’t that well-thought out. It would have been nice to see some sort of meter or something that considered the opinion the few towns that make up the game had for you.
GUN stars a young cowboy named Colton. He makes his living hunting game with his father, Ned, to supply ships and towns with fresh meat. The game opens with a brief tutorial that introduces you to some of the game’s shooting mechanics. But, much like the rest of the game, it progresses quickly and in a few moments, Colton is fighting for his life and his father is dead. This sets off a chain of events that, like a train without breaks, can’t be stopped. Colton will soon find himself battling against the law, for the law, against the Indians, for the Indians, against friends, and for enemies.
Cowboys on horseback often used to race other cowboys on horseback for fun. It’s just a thing they did.
As Colton, you’ll spend your days (or day, this is a short game) trying to avenge the death of your father. Along the way, you’ll hear a tale of a lost city of gold that helps the plot develop. But the game remains far too short, as I previously mentioned. To complete the storyline, you’re going to have to master riding horses and be able to handle intense shoot-outs. The controls for the game are incredibly useful, quick, and responsive. Steering your horse and shooting your enemies is pretty painless, and considering how much time you’ll spend on horseback (walking around from town to town takes a horrible amount of time), it was essential that the developers got this right and they succeeded.
There are a large variety of side quests to complete that boost up your abilities and really makes the game a lot easier. If you want, you can deliver packages to people as the Pony Express, or if you want to do something a little more violent you can collect bounties on people. You can also participate in poker tournaments at the saloon. Try as I might, I could never win a tournament. Hell, you can even mine gold. These side missions aren’t really necessary, but you can use the money you earn from them to buy weapons upgrades, plus they add some length to this otherwise short experience.
It’s often pretty obvious what you have to do.
In terms of graphics, GUN is pretty competent. There’s very little popup to speak of, and the character designs are solid. There aren’t any dips in framerate either, probably because there’s not all that much action going on at any given point. You’ll occasionally go up against several enemies all at once, most of them on horses, and though these battles are hectic and intense, the framerate remains steady throughout. The lone graphical flaw presents itself during the cutscene, where jerky animations really detract from the experience. This isn’t to say that the game is going to win any awards for graphics, but overall the graphics engine definitely helps this game.
You’ll also be pleased with the sound in this game. Thomas Jane of The Punisher fame provides the voiceover for Colton and he does an awesome job. All of the other voiceover work is pretty solid as well. Activision is known for hiring out some of the best voice talent around, and unlike in Call of Duty 2, it isn’t a waste of money. That isn’t to say that Call of Duty 2 had bad voice work, I’m just saying that they’re utilized much more effectively in this game, which is moved along through narrative more than Call of Duty 2. The music is also quite good. It’s ripped right from the period and sounds like it could fit in any Western.
“Hey Jenny, you come here often?”
GUN is a fast-moving experience that will be quickly finished by even the most novice gamers. I was able to get through the game in about seven hours and that’s including the time I spent on side-quests (several completed to 100%). Although the length of the game leads far too much to be desired, GUN is still a fun adventure that deserves a look, even if is all too brief.