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DEVELOPER: Neversoft   |   PUBLISHER: Activision   |   RELEASE: 11/08/2005

Most gamers credit Southern California developer Neversoft with single-handedly creating the extreme sports genre with its massively successful Tony Hawk series. So it came as a surprise to almost everyone when they announced that their next title was going to be an entirely new property, after seven years of making skateboarding games some were wondering if Neversoft was simply a one-trick pony. In comes GUN, a free roaming shooter set in the midst of the old west. The subject matter of old west games is truly appealing to most gamers which begs the question why more of them aren’t being made. Sure we have tons of games based on World War II, Ancient Rome, and of course the unconventional future setting. While there have been a few enjoyable romps, Red Dead Revolver and Dead Mans Hand spring to mind, the genre is criminally underused. Thankfully GUN makes up for the serious lack of Wild West titles and shows that Neversoft is much more than a one-hit wonder.

The story of GUN revolves around Colton White, who finds out that his life has more meaning than he could possibly fathom. Neversoft, with the help of writer Randall Jahnson (Sunset Strip, The Doors, Mask of Zorro, Dude), have crafted a truly gripping and entertaining narrative that never fails to engross the player in the story. Throughout your journey you will meet up with an amazing cast of characters such as Soapy the safe cracker, Jenny the “entertainer”, and of course the traditional bad guy Thomas McGruder.

“Bow down before the one you serve!”

Taking that extra step Neversoft has brought all of these characters to life with the help of some top voice talent. You should recognize the likes of Thomas Jane as Colton, Kris Kristofferson as Ned, and even Lance “I’ve done more game voice-overs than movies” Hendrickson. All of them deliver an outstanding performance and actually give life to these polygonal models. Finish this up with an absolutely astounding score and you have a truly award-winning story that is not painful to listen to. I also must mention the stellar sound effects, the developers actually took the time to record all the gunshot sounds from authentic weapons. The rest of the game sounds just as good and is presented it excellent Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound.

Now I know some of you are wondering how this version will stand up to its upcoming big brother on the 360 console. Is it worth waiting and extra two weeks and paying an extra ten bucks? Honestly I can’t say that the 360 version looks that much better, in fact aside from better draw distance and a higher resolution the games are almost identical. That says a lot about GUN’s graphics on the Xbox, this game is sharp. From the highly detailed character models to the truly expansive world this game looks great. While we would have liked to see more characters onscreen and some better animations, GUN gets it done in the visuals department.

For a group of guys who have spent the last seven years making skateboarding games they certainly know how to make an enjoyable shooter. GUN takes a nod from a lot of other games and manages to keep the best aspects to really keep the player interested. The game plays from a third person perspective with immaculate aiming and tight controls. Never do you feel like you are wrestling with the layout or any other kind of action for that matter. GUN also borrows a sort of bullet time from other action titles, but it adds a little flavor. When you activate what is called Quick Draw you can slow down time, when you press the Y button the game shoots you into first-person mode where you can target multiple enemies and even body specific damage. There is no greater feeling that nailing that head shot and watching grey matter fly in super slow motion. It’s also very user friendly by giving the player the option to flick the analog stick between targets in Quick Draw mode.

“This is my life partner, Loves With Fist”

Speaking of head shots GUN is chock full of weaponry that would make Serious Sam proud. On top of your basic six shooter you have an array of firearms that can really pack a punch, from your trusty rifle to the Apache bow and arrow you have numerous ways to dispose of your foes. All weapons can also be upgraded as you progress through the game, these upgrades range from bullet capacity to reload speed. You can also upgrade your personal abilities by simply performing them, for instance if you are more of a Quick Draw player that enjoys mowing down enemies in slow-motion that ability will increase the more you use it. The main mode of transportation in GUN is your horse. Whether you try and keep the one you first obtain or simply snag one out in wild is truly up to you. Neversoft has done an amazing job with the horseback shooting controls and simply put, blowing off a man’s head while riding a horse is just damn fun!

This being an open game you have the freedom to partake in several side quests along your journey. These can be as simple as capturing local bounties to even hunting the infamous grey wolf. The best part is that none of these ever feel forced or tedious, in fact I actually found myself enjoying them and wanting to find more throughout the game. Even after completing the main story you are thrown back into the game with total freedom to just do whatever you want, yes sandbox game are becoming cliché, but when they are this enjoyable I cannot complain too much.

The only drawbacks to GUN are the short story mode; the main campaign can be completed in less than six hours, and the extremely frustrating final boss. Neither of these should hinder your purchase as GUN was some of the most fun I have had with a game in a while. With a truly epic story, free-roaming game play, and side quests that are actually enjoyable Neversoft has finally given us the Wild West game we have always wanted. Show the developers that we want more and give GUN a whirl, I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

Ken McKown
Ken is the Editor-in-Chief of this hole in the wall and he loves to troll for the fun of it. He also enjoys long walks through Arkham Asylum and the cool air of Shadow Moses Island. His turn-ons include Mortal Kombat, Metal Gear Solid and StarCraft.

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