Review by BloodGod65
"The generic name is the least of Gunís problems"
Imagine your entire career consisted of doing one thing, day after day. At some point, it's probable you'd tire of this and want to do something else for a change. Some game developers, like Neversoft, have the same problem. Without fail, they roll out a new Tony Hawk game every year, but Gun represents Neversoft's break with this tradition. Unfortunately, it feels almost like a world famous rock band separating so the members can work on their own projects; the people you know are at the helm, but the product lacks the usual quality and fun.
Gun follows Colton White, a man who hunts and traps across the Western wilderness with his father Ned. After finishing a hunt, the two board a steamboat where Ned meets up with a woman who hands off an unknown item to him. Apparently this item is quite valuable, and the steamboat is soon ambushed by a group of soldiers looking for it. Colton and Ned try to hold them off, but the boat is severely damaged by cannon fire and begins to sink. As it goes down, Ned makes a shocking revelation to Colton by telling him that he isn't his father before pushing him off the ship and dying in the ensuing boiler explosion.
The narrative is simply not interesting due to several factors. First, it blasts along at such a frantic pace that players will never be around anyone or anything long enough to care. Characters are introduced, dismissed or killed off with such speed that there's barely enough time to learn their names let alone form any attachment to them. Events also speed up to the point that there are abrupt jumps in terms of what happens and how things unfold, often leaving plot holes in between two events. This breakneck pace the game sets for itself ultimately leads to its paltry length, a mere six hours. And that's if you waste time looking around and performing side missions.
Then there's the fact that the plot really just boils down to the same old spaghetti western drivel. There's a vengeful Confederate officer who never forgot the Civil War and intends to restart it with the proper funding. This all revolves around his finding a place filled with gold, which can only be found with the proper Indiana Jones-esque artifact. I realize I'm probably jaded by my recent playing of Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood, as the plot was pretty much the same there. Though I can't accuse Gun of being a copycat (Gun preceded Bound in Blood by several years, so if anything, Juarez is the copycat here), but despite being a western cliche, Bound in Blood had realistic characters and took the time to go through the story in a way that made players care about the events at hand. Here it simply feels as if Neversoft wanted to rush players through as fast as possible.
And that's really a shame, because Gun could have had an excellent story as it already had some good things going for it. Though they often simply fly by, most of the characters are excellently voiced, which makes their characters believable for the few moments they'll be around. Main character Colton White is voiced by Thomas Jane of the Punisher, and Kris Kristofferson plays the role of his rugged woodsman father (a more fitting actor could not have been found). Ron Perlman also voices Hoodoo Brown, the mayor of a rough and tumble border town. Unfortunately their talent isn't afforded much time to shine because of the brief and half-baked plot.
The rest of the game can also be summed up with the words half-baked. There are a lot of good ideas floating around in Gun, but few of them are fully realized or well implemented. For instance, the whole of the game takes place in an open-world environment that allows players to roam the wilderness. And though Gun avoids the trap of not having enough to do in this open environment, the numerous side-missions aren't rewarding or interesting enough to warrant more than trying them out once or twice.
These side activities are generally interesting, at least in theory. They range from things like serving on the Pony Express, working as a ranch hand, or hunting down wanted men. Though these may sound unique, most play out like the side activities in any other open world game. For instance, Pony Express missions are basically gussied up timed deliveries. In Wanted missions, which are received from the classic bounty posters, you go out and find some guy then kill him. If you want a couple of extra dollars, you can bring him back alive by subduing him. In certain towns you can play Texas Hold Em (though you'd better already know the rules because the game doesn't have any tutorial). The Ranch Hand mission type is the only one that isn't something that has been seen a million times already. These have players rounding up cattle and trying to get them into their enclosure. Though it's unique, it's really not all that fun.
Most of the main missions come down to killing everyone that shows their face, though there are a few that involve train robberies and other classic western scenarios. The kill everybody type missions would be a significant detracting factor if the game were longer, but most people won't be playing long enough to even notice this. The gun play is of the most basic run and gun type and though it is simple and gets the job done, it is thoroughly unremarkable. Like in other western games, Colton has a quickdraw ability that slows time and lets him snap off several shots.
A few missions make Colton man a cannon, and these end up being, without fail, atrocious. Not only does it have a long reload time, but it also has no targeting reticule so you'll have to find your aim through trial and error. These on-rails segments are also frustrating because they tend to have enemy swarms that do a lot of damage and the effective range of the cannonball's explosion is a few scant feet, often leaving nearby enemies completely unscathed. Suffice to say the on-rails cannon sections are quite possibly worst aspect of the game.
Gun also has several boss fights near the tail end of the game. These are almost always nonsensical and feel as if the game is trying to make up for its general easiness by punishing players with these weird encounters. The final boss also happens to be the worst and most poorly designed fight I've suffered through since the Gears of War finale.
Horses also play an important role in the game. They are easy to control and serve as the fastest form of transportation from one area to another. It is possible to make them sprint by pressing the LB button, but if you do it too much it damages their health for some reason. It's actually possible to kill them this way, but if you leave them alone for a few seconds they revive (will the stupidity never end?). It's also possible to shoot from horseback and this is a lot easier than one would imagine, plus it gives an extra advantage of mobility.
Perhaps Gun's biggest issue is with its graphics. Even for a launch title, Gun is ugly. Character models are lacking in detail, blocky and their animations are unnaturally stilted. The environments are absolutely hideous and use very simple, repetitive textures. However, all these problems probably stem from the fact that the game was developed for previous-gen consoles and was only ported to the 360 as a way to make a quick buck off people buying the new console. And it's pretty obvious because the graphics are only a step above what one could expect from the Xbox.
But that's really no excuse for the many graphical glitches to be found throughout the game. The hovering bodies of dead enemies was a common sight, and in several cases they actually froze halfway through their death animations and simply hung in space like some unnatural statue. Other problems include enemies who can shoot through walls and invisible barriers that interfere with shooting.
The audio is generally pretty good and the music is probably the only thing Neversoft actually did right with the game. Unfortunately, they screwed up many of the sound effects as they often trigger a little too late. There were several instances in which I shot a guy and he only screamed after his body hit the ground.
In the end, Gun merely adds to the list of mediocre western titles that have come out. It fails to make itself memorable or special in nearly every regard, and though nothing about it is outright broken, it isn't any fun to play. If you see this game in the bargain bin, leave it. It's there for a reason.
Reviewer's Rating: 2.5 - Playable
Originally Posted: 09/08/09, Updated 07/06/10
Game Release: Gun (US, 11/16/05)
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