Shoot to thrill
Clint Eastwood, John Wayne and co. may have satisfied our Wild West thirst on the big screen, but the world of gun-slinging outlaws has never really materialised in any meaningful way on the videogame circuit. Red Dead Redemption could go some way to filling that void this May, but until then, if you’re looking for some rootin’ tootin’ shootouts at dawn, Lead and Gold: Gangs of the Wild West could be a good way to pass the time.
Lead and Gold is a third-person, team-based online multiplayer shooter, so it has a fair amount of depth for a downloadable game. There are four character classes to choose from, each utilising different weapons and special abilities. The character designs are instantly recognisable from any Western, while still veering away from being too stereotypical. They’re a lot of fun with a stylish, cartoony look, and knocking their hats off is an entertaining effect no matter how minuscule.
However, you’ll be choosing your class based on their skills rather than their appearance and choice of disposable headwear. The gunslinger is the easiest to use, touting a heavy revolver and the ability to use the fanning technique to shoot off multiple rounds in quick succession. The trapper is the sniper of the group who can also set down traps to ward off anyone sneaking in behind, or to protect an objective. The deputy uses a carbine rifle so he’s best at medium to long range, while his ability to tag enemies will help himself and his teammates. While last but not least we have the blaster, a big old brute who likes nothing more than getting up close and personal with a shotgun and a pouch of dynamite.
Finding which one works best for you is a good way to start, but you’ll want to vary your time between multiple classes to get the most enjoyment, and more importantly, help your team. Besides from certain classes working well on particular maps or in specific game modes, they also let off synergies that will affect the player and any teammates in their vicinity. Each class has its own synergy effect, so you’ll want a team with multiple classes to get a dose of each buffer. The gunslinger radiates the accuracy effect, so any teammates nearby will receive improved accuracy, while the deputy radiates the damage effect and so on. It encourages teamwork as you’ll want to stick together to best exploit these different effects. And if you’re playing well, they will eventually become more powerful, sometimes turning the battle in your teams favour.
Rather than use a persistent ranking system, Lead and Gold’s player progression only works on a match-by-match basis. It’s disappointing that you don’t feel like you’re progressing and moving up after each successive match, but within the context of the game it works fairly well. You’ll still gain ranks by playing well, but besides from bragging rights come the end of the round, ranking up will also strengthen your synergy effect. As you gain ranks your synergy will eventually become more effective, so playing well as an individual will also benefit the team.
And the maps and game modes do a good job maintaining this emphasis on team work. With names like Prospector’s Peak and Bad Blood Valley, the game’s six maps are similar to the characters with their recognisable Western traits. From a mining town, an Indian campsite, a farm, a bank and even the mines themselves, there’s a nice variety to the maps and they all look fantastic. The level design is very well balanced for each game mode the maps are used in, with multiple paths, vertical levels and buildings to occupy. The game modes are staples of any modern day shooter, starting with your typical team deathmatch through to zone control and objective destruction. There’s a game mode for everyone and the Western twists are fairly enjoyable with gold replacing flags and huge powder kegs rather than bombs. It’s often quite frantic, but the shooting mechanics are satisfying, if a little inaccurate at times.
The only real problems Lead and Gold faces are because of its net code. You’ll often be kicked back to the menu, the game may even crash on occasion and there are some issues finding enough players at times, particularly if you’re searching for specific game modes. A patch can fix all of this, but it remains to be seen whether the player count will increase or not. Though, for its budget price the gamble could be worth taking. It’s a stylish, good looking game; the shooting mechanics work well and the emphasis on teamwork, plus the variety in the maps and game modes, is very impressive. If you’re a fan of Westerns or team-based multiplayer, Lead and Gold: Gangs of the Wild West ticks all the right boxes. It just remains to be seen how long the online community will last, especially if the network problems aren’t fixed.