If I was to sum up in one sentence what Lead and Gold: Gangs of the Wild West was I would say that it is Team Fortress 2 in the Wild West… with cowboys. OK seriously, greatest sounding idea ever! Lead and Gold has become my go to game whenever I am looking for some killing. So sit down, sip some coffee, and find out why Lead and Gold may be the best hidden gold (get it I said gold cause it’s the Wild West instead of gem) of 2010.
Before I gush over the game I have to admit that Lead and Gold is nowhere near perfect and it has some issues that can really ruin a session. The biggest problem is connection issues. Some rounds will have such debilitating lag that characters will get hit and keep running and then die 20 seconds later. The game also like to disconnect me at random points for no reason. The connection issues really baffle me because the game doesn’t support more than five on five and the graphics while great are not high end and would never tax a modern computer or connection. It’s also strange because when the game was first released it had both a server list to choose from and a quick match feature. Since their first update the quick match option is gone.
Graphically the game has the same charm as Team Fortress 2, it’s clearly not the most graphically detailed title but the art style lends itself so well that it doesn’t really matter. The environments all fit perfectly with the game, gold mines, a prospector’s town, a frontier fort, a farm, and a canyon. They all look great and all are unique to each other. It really feels like a lot of love went into making these places. Character models are solid but I’d rather save those details for a bit later.
In the area of sound the game’s music at its best is utterly fantastic, there is one piece in particular that is so sad that it actually had an effect on me, it was an incredible piece of music. Some are also great to hum while others are just forgettable. The sound does its job, each gun has its own unique noise and the high pitch hiss when a sniper bullet whizzes by your ear is a nice touch.
But you’re not here to read about how the game looks, you want to know if the Wild West version of Team Fortress 2 has the same quality of gameplay. The short answer is yes… but if I stopped there this review would be really short.
There are four classes in the game and while they are merely archetypes from other team based shooters they do get fancy names and some original components. The Gunslinger is the soldier, the Trapper is the sniper, prospector the engineer, and… well you get the picture. The interesting aspect lies in the fact that each of these classes has a unique secondary ability that when used right can really help your team win. Two great examples of this lie with the Gunslinger and Trapper. The Gunslinger can unload the entire barrel of their pistol in one hail of death allowing him to survive a surprise attack from another player, while the trapper can lay down traps, anyone caught in them will be stuck trying to pry their leg out for a few seconds. So if you’re a trapper and you take your sniping position on the roof it’s a good idea to lay traps down on the entrances leading to your nest so you can’t be shot in the back.
The other interesting twist is that when you are close to your allies, dead or alive they give off a buff to you, some will heal you, others will give you more armour, or even more damage! Again it’s another new element that adds an additional level of strategy to the game.
The most interesting new addition is a little item I have dubbed the respawn flag. When you start the match there will be a flag that a single member of your team can pick up. Now if you die you have the choice of coming back, back at home base or on top of the flag holder. This means there is an added level of danger and reward for the flag carrier, they can help push the team farther in or allow them a better spot to respawn from but at the same time you are a huge target for the other team. The reason why is because if you die with the flag the other team can capture it and send it all the way back to your home base, vice versa a teammate can pick it up and become the new flag holder.
The game has five modes. Shootout is simple a team deathmatch with the winner being the team with the most points after a ten minute round. Each game contains two ten minute rounds so even if you lose one round you have another to make it up. Powder keg is easily my favourite of the modes since I feel like such a badass with my sniper. One team must defend two points on the map while the other team must transport a keg of gun powder to these locations to blow them up. The twist comes that the person carrying the keg is pretty much defenceless and if you shoot the keg it will start to spark giving the carrier only moments to escape the explosion. It’s always sweet to snipe a powder keg from across the map and see the other team freak out as they try to run away.
Conquest is simple enough; each team must take points on the map in a certain order, the team that holds the most for the longest wins the round. Greed is another interesting game type, in this one a sack of gold is placed in the middle of the map and each team has to try and get the sack of gold back to their base, the team who recovers the most gold wins, the reason why it’s interesting is that it’s always a constant fight, you have to be careful if you lose your entire team the other side will have an easy time getting the gold. The last mode is robbery, this is very much a one sided Capture the Flag type, one team defends three sacks of gold while the other team tries to take them, then you switch, the team who gathered the most gold wins.
Every mode is enjoyable and all of the maps are built so each mode is balanced. There is though some occasions on some maps, like the gold mine level where it takes a higher level of skill to be effective with some classes. This is because when you’re dealing with winding tunnels and varying heights, being the sniper or mid ranged class becomes extremely difficult as a result of the close quarters, while the short range classes have more difficulty on the maps that are more open fields.
What better way to scale how much fun this game is then to say that without a doubt that the level of enjoyment that you get with Lead and Gold is nearly unrivalled. Since moving to my new hard drive I still have not seen a need to reinstall Battlefield or Call of Duty, my shooter fix is easily dealt with round after round of wild west fun. However the connection issues and bare bone selection options do hurt the game, when its running great it’s amazing, however too many games have been ruined by serious lag or connection issues.
Lead and Gold though is still worth the price of admission and with a patch or two, we could see all of these network problems vanish.
Review copy provided by publisher.