sbym's GUN (PlayStation 2) review

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How the West was Gun... Sorry, I had to do it.

I find it kind of odd that the "Wild West" hasn't been used for the backdrop of too many games, especially in recent years. You'd think that with the countless Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Urban, and World War II titles flooding the market (especially WW2) that more developers would've looked to the old cowboys & indians formula for their action games. I mean, that whole cops & robbers theme has done quite well for Grand Theft Auto and its subsequent clone army. Think about it, the American West should have everything needed for a blockbuster title these days: violence, thievery, gambling, cursing, gangs, whores, exploration, and a whole Hell of a lot of shooting. Oh well, maybe it's all for the better. At least this means that the videogame market isn't being oversaturated with Old West themed titles.

A quick look at Gun might lead you to the assumption that it is little more than Grand Theft Equine, and to be quite honest you wouldn't be too far off the mark. And while it tends to borrow (at least in gameplay terms) liberally from RockStar's mint, it still manages to carve out its own little niche and even improve upon the chart-topping juggernaut in a few ways.

In Gun, you take control of Colton White, your everyday run-of-the-mill textbook gunslinger who is thrown headlong into a search for Spanish treasure and personal revenge. I won't spoil anything for you, but then again if you play the game you'll be told the entire story rather quickly, as the game moves along like it's intentionally trying to hurry you through towards the end. On your journey you'll come across a few fairly interesting characters throughout, which is made enjoyable thanks to some mighty-fine voice acting (Colton's mentor Ned being a standout) and some excellent animations.

As mentioned, Gun takes after GTA in many ways, but this is a pretty good thing in the end. The game world you're placed in is really way too small however so all of the freedoms you are given don't really get put to good use for the most part. You'll make your way through buildings, canyons, mountains, mines and camps, shooting (and sometimes sneaking by) everything in your path. These moments are handled very well as the aiming is manual but with just enough auto-aim to help you get through some tough spots where you're greatly outnumbered. You're able to switch between first and third-person view when you're using a gun and both come in handy during combat depending on the situation and surroundings. The control here is smooth and responsive, and thanks to a healthy dose of bullet-time dubbed "QuickDraw" (bringing with it an even more accurate lock-on for super easy headshots) you're able to pull off some pretty awesome kills, often leaving tons of corpses leaking blood into the ground once the smoke clears. You can also duel it out with your enemies on horseback, which is very satisfying indeed. As a bonus, should your foes be on foot, you can run up and trample them to death with your trusty steed. And in a move that would have animal-rights activists in a fuss, a particularly enjoyable way to take out enemies is by shooting their horses out from under them. It's very cruel, and at times a little unsettling (aw, poor horse), but damn if it isn't funny.

As I mentioned before, the game's world is really small. It basically consists of two very small towns on either end with some fields and mountains in between. Without exaggerating I can honestly say it wouldn't surprise me if you could run from one end to the other, on-foot, in a just a few minutes. I suppose this has a lot to do with why Gun is such a short game, as there really isn't too much they could've made you do without having to revisit the same places over and over again. On your way back & forth across the visually pleasant vistas, you'll be regularly attacked by groups of Indians and bandits, though by using the previously mentioned QuickDraw you can take out all of them without effort.

With this Max Payne-esque tool in your arsenal, Gun is a relatively easy game, with only a few parts being of any real challenge. It's not too easy, but unless you bring up the difficulty yourself, most gamers should be able to do well against any of the obstacles thrown at them. This of course also adds to the game's length issue as well. When you have a small area to explore, a story that rushes you through, and enemies that you can make your woman at will, I guess you can't really expect it to be a long drawn-out epic. Though to be fair, in an attempt to boost replay value, Neversoft threw in some optional side-quests to keep you interested. My favorite of these was going after wanted criminals for cash rewards, though that too grew boring enough after a few went down, though they did provide me with stat-boosts and the money with which to purchase newer and better weaponry. Included for whatever reason is a knife to scalp your fallen targets with after they've been defeated, which, as far as I could tell did absolutely nothing other than give me a few laughs.

When it comes down to it, I wouldn't recommend purchasing Gun outright unless you find it for a real bargain. But as is it's an excellent rental. It's short, fun, plays well, looks and sounds good, isn't a WW2 shooter, and is really pretty entertaining for the few hours it'll last you. Though it's story shoots by (no pun intended), it's perfect for a weekend.

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