Not long ago when Kevin Costner was out pitching his most recent western, Open Range, he talked about how difficult it was to get funding for a movie of that genre. Cowboys and Indians are part of America's glorious history, yet these days it seems like the average movie-goer is more interested in space and Middle Earth to bother showing up to some boring old western. I can only wonder if the same rule applies to video games, because outside of a couple of mediocre attempts (Red Dead Revolver, Dead Man's Hand) westerns are few and far between.
Gun goes a long ways to filling that gap, it's a solid action game that is good looking and offers an interesting (and unique) experience. It doesn't break any new ground, but its presentation is first rate all the way through. In a time overrun with World War II shooters, Gun comes as a welcome change of pace. Unfortunately it also comes with a few flaws that keep it from being one of the most exciting games of the year.
Gun comes to us from the good folks at Neversoft, the developers best known for their prolific Tony Hawk games, but don't expect too many crazy gimmicks, this is a by-the-numbers action game that is fun while it lasts. It's an action game that combines the fun of a third-person shooter (like Max Payne or SOCOM 3) with the exploration of games like Grand Theft Auto. The game is set in the late 1800s, so you'll find yourself living off the land, listening to "authentic" racism, and killing just about anybody that looks at you funny ... all the clich?s you've seen from decades of movie westerns.
The game starts out with a lot of promise; you'll find yourself playing Colton White, a man out hunting with his grizzly old man. Before long you are whisked ahead to a tragic confrontation with an evil preacher who has no problem killing men, women, and even your father. As you can imagine this angers Colton White something fierce; and the rest of the game is set-up for you to track down and kill the people responsible for this heinous act. While on your quest you'll meet up with friendly prostitutes, crooked locals, a resistance party, and your fair share of Indian tribes, it's a traveling circus of interesting characters.
But just because I compared it to Grand Theft Auto don't expect Gun to be a completely non-linear experience; the game always lets you know what you're supposed to be doing next in order to advance the plot and you can forget about taking things out of order. But the story itself is fairly interesting, full of exciting characters doing dangerous things. Your quest will take all over Gun's world helping strangers, shooting enemies, and blow stuff up. Things do get a bit predictable in the game's second half, but all in all this is one story that will keep you going all the way to the end.
But you getting to the end may have less to do with your interest in the story than it does with the fact that Gun is extremely short. In fact, this is one of the shortest game experiences I've had this year, something I found to be a bit jarring. Just when you start feeling confident about your gunslinging abilities the game is over, you've battled your last boss and the only thing left to do is the lame mini-games. This is no exaggeration, Gun can easily be beaten in four - five hours, and getting 100% can is nothing more than a seven hour jog.
The game's length is a problem for a couple of reasons; chief among them is that everything in the story feels incredibly rushed. You'll be introduced to characters that will die no more than a few minutes later. The events that seems like they should be more important are often turned into short affairs, things that are quickly wrapped up before the chapter expires. There are a lot of moments in this game that could have benefited from the developers just slowing down a bit; by the time I got to the end of the game I found myself kind of angry that this was it, they could have stretched some of these tense moments out a bit more to create a far better adventure. The truth is, even if they doubled the length of the game it would still be considered short by today's standards.
Another big problem comes in the form of the size of the environment. A lot of the GTA clones try to mask their imperfections by offering huge worlds to explore, but not Gun. On horseback you can run from one side of the map in around a minute, two minutes if it's a leisurely trot. Not only is the world small but it's also pretty boring, there are two small towns (Dodge and Empire), a couple of forts, a mountainous area, a river, and a whole bunch of flatland called the Badlands. That's it. Outside of those few dots on the map there isn't much else to see, so you may find yourself not wanting to explore the world quite like you would when going to Vice City or San Andreas for the first time. Worse yet, there aren't a lot of compelling reasons to search out all of the nooks and crannies in Gun's world, which means that won't be doing a log of sight seeing after you've played through the exceptionally short single-player campaign.
This product was submitted by the publisher for review. As a rule, Defunct Games does not review games we spent money on. However, that does not always apply to classic/retro games. This specific product, however, came straight from a PR guy for the purposes of being reviewed!