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Reviewed: Gun
Author: Michael Ahlf       Date: December 12th, 2005
Page: 2
Gun's storyline, what exists of it at least, isn't bad. A man watches his father get gunned down, and seeks out his father's "friend" (a hooker at the Alhambra saloon, in Dodge City) to try to uncover why his father was murdered. He tracks the murderer up a chain of corruption, finally arriving at a showdown with an ex-Confederate officer who's been taking over the region (militarily and monetarily) trying to find a secret stash of gold previously found by the "explorer" Coronado.

If you play it straight through, ignoring the litany of side missions in the game, this will take approximately three hours.

Getting down to it, Gun is a confused title. In one sense it's a weak, linear, cinematic "adventure" title. In another, it's a horse-riding adventure. In another, it's a hybrid third-person/first-person shooter. Any one of these concepts, by themselves, might have been wonderful. Gun's execution is just bad, however.

Before I get on to it, there are a few things that are good about Gun. The shooting mechanics are excellent - dynamite, "whiskey bombs", six-shooters, rifles, shotguns, all work fine. The bow-hunting mechanic for certain side missions is a bit lame (never could manage to get a "headshot" with the bow on the animals), but all the other weapons are quite reliable - headshots look right, "weapon shots" (shooting the weapon) are worthwhile. The game's even got a halfway decent melee mechanic, using a bowie knife, tomahawk, or confederate saber, though the saber's animation could have used some definite tweaking.

Horse-riding mechanics aren't that bad either, though they're rather strange and easy to glitch. A horse has a certain amount of health - spurring it, or letting it get hit by enemies, lowers that. Ride the horse too hard, and it's likely to die or get shot out from under you. Straightforward enough, except that the distance of a short burst of speed from spurring the horse can be increased with a well-timed jump, something that should have been looked at more carefully by Activision's programmers.

There's even a relatively passable gambling system (card tournaments) in the game, although what people are doing playing Texas Hold'Em in Dodge City in the 1800s, I have no idea.

The downsides of Gun? Repetitive missions, boring side quests, and silliness make up 90% of the content. I mentioned the Texas Hold'Em tournaments, which are completely anachronistic; there's also Pony Express missions (Get To Point A Quickly, Rinse, Repeat), Rancher missions (just what we needed, a game simulating herding cattle), random "Bandit attacks" (bandits die very quickly and can't hit the broad side of a barn), Deputy/Marshal missions involving running around towns shooting anyone who's out of line, "Bounty" missions that show a nice little indicator of exactly where the bounty target is, and bow-hunting missions that involve the game's very subpar sneaking system.

Likely as not, if you're on a bounty mission and got off your horse to subdue your target, the horse will have mysteriously vanished (the map resets itself) after the mission complete screen, so you're marching back to Dodge or Empire on your own two feet, nevermind how the bounty got returned to town to collect your payment. Pony Express missions are even worse; despite the fact that the engine can handle "completing" mission steps by getting to location A, every Pony Express mission involves riding from point A to point B on a short timer, jumping off the horse, talking to someone, and then jumping on a new horse. The problem comes where the button to mount a horse and the button to talk to a person are the same button, causing tedium and frustration when, with two seconds left, instead of completing the mission you're climbing back onto a tired horse.

In short, endless frustration and boredom, necessary to acquire the cash to upgrade weapons and ammo. But cash isn't required to resupply ammunition, because every enemy seemingly drops it and the towns/stores in the game just give it away for free.

How Activision let this game out the door in this state, I really have no idea. With a bit more work on the storyline missions and some cleanup on the game mechanics, it could have been a lot of fun. Instead, it's a title best avoided.


Added:  Tuesday, December 13, 2005
Reviewer:  Michael Ahlf
Score:
Page: 2/3

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