On the Xbox 360, this short Old West action adventure feels old all right. And its fairly fun shooting action is dragged down by a slapdash presentation.
- Terrific voice acting
- Fun horseback riding
- Some intense, gory shooting action.
- Short storyline isn't made up for by shallow side missions
- Some noticeably undercooked elements of play
- Some of the violence and profanity feels too gratuitous
- Visuals don't take advantage of the Xbox 360, looking bland and blurry
- Higher retail price than other versions for no good reason.
Recently released for most other gaming platforms, Gun, a Western-themed action adventure from Tony Hawk series-developer Neversoft, is now available for the Xbox 360, complete with a premium price tag and implicit promises of next-generation gaming quality. But all you get is the same decent game you could be playing on a PlayStation 2 right now, except that if you run it on a high-definition TV, all the flaws in its graphical presentation stick out like a sore thumb. The game itself is somewhat more commendable than the quality of the translation. Featuring an open-ended environment that you can traverse on foot or on horseback, plenty of gory shoot-outs, numerous optional side missions, and an interesting story, Gun initially seems like a 19th-century Grand Theft Auto. Gun's main story missions are pretty exciting, but the main plot is over so quickly that the whole thing just ends up feeling rushed, and the various side missions aren't compelling enough to hold your interest after the end credits roll. So it turns out that a terse, simple title like "Gun" is really the perfect fit for what could have been a great game, if only it had more meat on its bones and had been properly tailored to a system with a lot more horsepower.
If you're already familiar with the other versions of Gun, know that the only real differences are that this port runs on the Xbox 360 instead of other platforms, and it also costs more. Control differences compared with other versions are practically negligible, though the layout of the Xbox 360 controller is slightly better suited to this game than most of the other versions. When you play Gun on an HDTV, low-resolution textures and character models shine through, undermining what was a great-looking presentation on other platforms. Seams in textures, some weird shimmering, clipping, and other little graphical flaws just get magnified. On top of that, when running in true HD resolution, for some strange reason the game comes out looking extremely dark compared with other versions of Gun and other Xbox 360 games (we confirmed this using Xbox 360s, component cables, and HDTVs). Or, if you play it on a standard television, Gun barely looks different from what you could be playing on a PS2 or an Xbox, except that it forces you to play in a letterboxed widescreen mode, for whatever reason. It doesn't really suffer from frame rate drops like the other versions do, but the frame rate still isn't fast and smooth, on the whole. So even though the quality of the visuals may be technically better on the 360 than other platforms--some of the textures are definitely sharper, for instance--the game just doesn't look at all flattering compared to other Xbox 360 titles, and it isn't going to live up to your expectations of what a game for a powerful new console ought to look like.
Gun is the tale of Colton White, a soft-spoken gunslinger raised by a resourceful old hunter named Ned, made instantly likable thanks to an excellent voice performance by Kris Kristofferson. One day Ned and Colton's hunt lands them on a steamboat carrying some sort of important artifact that Ned seems to know about. However, he's not alone in his knowledge, and as the ship is besieged, Colton barely escapes with his life. He makes his way to Dodge City at Ned's request, and from there embarks on a journey that will put him up against a greedy ex-military railroad mogul and his wicked cohorts. There's a strong cast of characters in Gun, and the 3D cinematic cutscenes are nicely choreographed, making each story mission worth looking forward to if only to see how Colton's misadventures will continue to pan out. Colton will find himself on both sides of the law, allying with a diverse array of different comrades in his efforts to find answers and seek vengeance.
Unfortunately, the story hurries along at a breakneck pace. Situations that seem intended to introduce entire chapters of gameplay tend to be resolved almost immediately. For example, at a certain point, Colton is deputized as a peacekeeper in Empire City, the game's largest town. You expect to then undertake a series of sheriff-style missions, but Colton's career path very quickly goes sour as the story jarringly goes in another direction. It blazes on like this until the end credits roll--maybe six hours after you first begin play, depending on how many side missions you opted to take on and depending on how much trouble you had with the final battle, which is one of the only tough fights at the normal difficulty setting. There's just no time to really get to like (or dislike) the main cast.
The mechanics of gameplay are good, and even though there are only a few main story missions, they tend to be diverse and packed with action. Gun carefully walks the line between being a run-and-gun shoot-'em-up and more of a realistic tactical shooter. You get to use all kinds of different authentic weapons, including pistols, rifles, shotguns, sharpshooters, bows, and dynamite to take on vastly superior odds, which Colton can overcome because of his excellent marksmanship and his ability to instantly recover all his health by drinking from his flask (what's in that thing?). Controlling Colton primarily from a third-person perspective, you also get to take on ferocious Apache warriors, play with barrels of TNT, fire cannons, and more.