It has been quite a while since the last decent game set in the Wild West was released. For me, that was Red Dead Revolver which even now is still a great but unsung game. GUN has picked up Red’s trail but will it be able to hunt him down, become allies or the new kid taste defeat?
Well, GUN sure has gotten some mighty fine help to get started because for western-games it is important that the player really feels like an gunman otherwise you’ll end up with a mediocre shooter that nobody cares about. The best way to make you feel like a real cowboy is to put the antagonist in a decent story and the most obvious way to tell that tale is of course in movie-wise. Because the cut-scenes were so very, very good I though it to be wise to check it out. What do you know, my suspicions proved to be true because they called upon a screenwriter to create and perfection a decent movie-like, both story and cinematographically speaking. Randall Jahnson, known from “The Mask Of Zorro”, might not be world’s most brilliant writer but if there is one man who man GUN to what it has become, it is Jahnson. For what the whole of the story is concerned, GUN truly is The Good, The Bad And The Ugly of video-games.
Before I raise false hopes, I should explain just why I chose the all-time classic as a reference again. Its cut-scenes might be very strong but they are a bit ugly too. I admit that, graphically, the PS2 has had its best years behind it but even then, I have the feeling that they could have done a better job. It’s not like everything looks disgusting but the environments are a bit sterile at times, it could use quite a lot of anti-aliasing and the character seems to move a bit woodenly if you ask me. During some action missions, things get quite messy too and that ruins the fun at times. On the other hand, they did know how to create the large, open environments in which you can and sometimes must travel freely and the towns do look impressive to so all in all they did succeed in recreating the Wild West but there is still room for improvement.
The sound department did an amazing job, especially the voice-acting is magnificent. The raw, dark voice for the main character, Colton White, is perfect. The music deserves a lot of credits too. The tunes often start to quick in when they need to and by doing so, it not only emphasises but enlarges the heroic atmosphere as well. Luckily, I always sleep with one eye open, otherwise I might not have found the reason for its astonishing quality. If you knew that the composer, Christopher Lennertz, did the music for MoH Rising Sun, Pacific Assault, European Assault, 007: From Russia With Love (I am just as anxious to get my hands on it as you are), 187 Ride Or Die and worked on and for a lot of other movies to, would that be enough reason to believe me? The sound-effects deserve just as much praise but, once again, it isn’t hard to figure out how all that know-how was pumped into the game when you look at the staff’s impressive résumé.
I already mentioned that things could get quite messy at times, but it is not only the graphical engine that is to blame, the gameplay-mechanics are responsible as well. It has got a lot of nice touches but sometimes it just feels like it doesn’t respond … or at least not in time and that quite often causes your dead. Luckily however, that does not make it all to frustrating as you’ll quickly resume, without any manual loading, just were you think it is righteous to respawn.
However, GUN always seems to have another lucky hand because it does not only focus on linear, bash trough action levels. To improve your stats you can participate in side-missions like bounty-hunting, gold digging, helping people out, betting and so on. GUN really is on a winning streak because in fact these side-missions are what makes this game different from al the rest: you can sit down and spent some time being the cowboy you want to be. I don’t play GUN just for the need to finish the game (which actually won’t take too long if you rush it) but to have fun and not many games, in the genre, have been able to do so.
For what its bad part is concerned: making games should not only be based on economical decisions. Sure they can make a nice profit, but making a game just good enough to reach the optimal ratio between costs and sold copies, well that will get them back eventually. Sure, I am a bit naïve but at least I try to think ahead which is better than having to look over your shoulder.
Its uncompromising, sometimes violently brutal and other times raw dramatic concept all make sure that GUN feels like a Leone western instead of a John Wayne one. The fact that there is only a handful of games to choose from surely does make sure Wild West enthusiasts are more easily pleased than for example football players who have the luxury of choosing between hundreds of titles each year. Nevertheless, if it sucks, it sucks and that is not what GUN does, but you should not take its success for granted because its lesser graphics and sometimes sputtering gameplay could have possibly ruined the fun. I for one, am very happy that the sublime story, amazing sound, music and the side-missions came to the rescue although I still think it is was extremely lucky no to be outnumberd.