Review by Scottie theNerd
"Any excuse for a new subtitle."
Some games tend to have an amazing ability to survive through the years when ported over to other consoles. F.E.A.R. comes to mind, but we've yet to see a PSP version. Instead, Neversoft's wild-west GUN has expanded onto the Sony handheld, and this time showing off its Showdown subtitle like a deputy's badge. It's a ridiculous trend, but at least developers Neversoft, with help from Rebellion, actually did add new features to the game that earns the subtitle.
For those who haven't played the original versions on PC or the consoles, GUN's story revolves around Colton White, a young man growing up in Montana with his father, Ned, in the gunslinging, cattle-rustling West. A day of hunting is interrupted by an ambush on their steamboat, and Ned's death sparks off a series of plot twists as Colton crosses paths with the power-hungry Thomas Magruder, involving pieces of a golden cross and a secret treasure. The plot remains the same from the original, maintaining the excellent production value helped greatly by the all-star cast of voice actors.
The gameplay concept is the same, but the controls are understandably quite different. Lacking the precision accurate mouse/keyboard combo and the fluidity of dual analog sticks, the PSP has little choice but to map the controls onto the analog nub, D-pad and face buttons. In this case, the analog nub controls movement while the face buttons correspond to aiming directions. It's quite awkward at first, but after some experience with the camera it becomes easy to use, although still clumsy during intense firefights. Due to the amount of available actions, some buttons tend to be overloaded with commands. The D-pad buttons must be held down in conjunction with a face button to do things such as reload, zoom and switch weapons. The L button is especially overloaded, required for jumping, crouching and rolling; making it difficult to perform any of the desired actions in an intense combat section.
Speaking of combat, Gun Showdown retains its small variety of authentic revolvers, rifles, shotguns and bows. The PSP outing provides two new weapons: a relatively useless set of throwing knives and a manually-detonated explosive. Combat, like the general movement controls, is awkward at first with the face buttons, but becomes easier with some play-time. The clumsy positioning of weapon essentials such as reloading and zooming make it difficult at times. However, due to the small screen, the effective range of weapons has been increased drastically due to relatively shorter distances, as if everything in the game world was shrunk. Hence, there's no point in zooming with a rifle when the regular revolver can be used to snipe enemies.
Combat is made even more simplistic with the Quickdraw mode. In the original game, Quickdraw simply slowed down the action in a bullet-time manner, giving the player unlimited ammunition to unload into whatever targets they see. In Showdown, Quickdraw is a cookie-cutter thanks to incredibly accurate auto-aim, even on moving targets. Quickdraw's length is almost infinite, as the game is far more generous with replenishing the Quickdraw gauge than the other versions, so it becomes the button to press for every single encounter instead of being a limited-use tactical skill.
Graphically, Showdown does a great job at porting over the whole map from the original, although the map itself isn't that big. The resolution has been significantly scaled down, but it's difficult to notice on the small screen for most of the game. Cut-scenes have been turned into FMVs to retain the excellent character detail, and the game maintains a steady frame rate all the way through. However, this isn't achieved without sacrifices: the world is completely devoid of living beings. No people, no wild animals; every town you come across looks like a ghost town, with the only people being the ones you need to talk to Thankfully, the epic soundtrack is retained, so travelling across desolate plains (with no tumbleweeds) is still pleasing.
To earn its subtitle, Gun Showdown rectifies some of the complaints from the original. The map has some minor tweaks to remove some trouble spots, and some of the missions have been simplified to avoid glitches or to compress the action instead of stretching it out. More notably, the game features a few Instant Action missions, which can be accessed from the main menu and involve missions that test the player's skills, such as shooting quails and arresting perpetrators while being shot at by other enemies. A limited multiplayer mode allows 6-player action through texas-hold-em poker, deathmatch and a king of the hill-type battle. All of these provide a quick burst of fun, but nothing long-lasting.
While Gun Showdown does a fair bit to improve on the original flaws, there's still the fundamental flaw: there's nothing to do. It sounds silly, but the game doesn't offer much beyond its story missions. You can ride around freely, but there's no point in free-roam if there's nothing to do, and apart from some side-missions unlocked throughout the course of the game, it's basically you, empty towns, empty plains and empty canyons. It's a sore blow for replay value.
Apart from the lack of things to do, Gun Showdown still maintains the excellent one-off experience of the original. The great presentation and high production value are marred by gameplay tweaks making the game too easy and the lack of long-term replay value. It is good to see the developers improving on known issues, and the PSP version feels clean and neat in general. Still, it would've been nice to see the game extended into something with more substance; it's hard to pick up Gun Showdown for a long time when games like Liberty City Stories offer so many more hours of gameplay.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 03/21/07
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