It could be argued that the influence of films on videogames has never been stronger than at present. Whether it's an attempt to cash in on a simultaneous cinema release or the way games are sequenced, it is ever more apparent. It is with that in mind that Gun, a game based on one of the most classically renowned film genres of all - the Western - is perhaps amongst the most filmic of game releases seen in recent times. Cowboys? Check. Indians? Check. Characters with attitude? Check. Lots of conflict and weaponry? See the game's title, duh?
Set in the Wild, Wild West of the United States, you play Mr. Seven O'Clock Shadow, Colton White. The story begins with Colton and Ned, his supposed father, hunting in the woods. On a paddle boat ride shortly afterwards you catch wind of a valuable jewel onboard that Ned's interested in. Unfortunately he's not the only individual interested in said precious stone and before you know it you find yourself in the middle of total chaos, trying to protect both it and the liner from sabotage. Colton narrowly escapes with his life, but poor Ned isn't so lucky. At his father's request Colton sets off to follow the abducted paddle boat and set the world to right by dealing with the ruffians who've scurried off with the treasure.
Gameplay in Gun is structured with both compulsory missions in the main story mode and optional side missions that you might want to have a go at to bulk up your arsenal or see everything that the game has to offer. One of the reasons you might not want to bother with the side quests, however, is their overly repetitive nature. Although it's always nice to be introduced to them with an original and well scripted cut scene, raking in another bandit or herding a couple of cattle just doesn't cut it after the first couple of times. The main story mode blazes along with more of the same frequent cut scenes that invariably lead to a marker on the map showing where you have to go next. Gun's free roaming environments (that you navigate mostly on horseback) could almost be seen as a 19th Century GTA if it wasn't for the fact that they're minuscule in comparison. The overall size of the environments mean that you can end up feeling decidedly too at home in your surroundings, a negative if you want something new to be getting on with.
As perhaps too obviously inferred earlier on, Gun, by the nature of its name includes lots of firearm-contested shootouts. In nearly every encounter you are heavily out numbered but a well mechanized control system whether you're on foot or atop your horse never makes you feel like you've been permanently capped unfairly. Although the game encourages stealth and cunning, most fisticuffs can be ended with a few well-targeted bullets or a few psychotic, bullet-filled rampages. Certainly in Normal difficulty you'll rarely run out of ammunition (it's readily scattered behind boxes and other scenery) whilst your health can be replenished by drinking some strange whisky-coloured concoction, bottles of which are also generously dotted around the dusty environments. On the odd occasion that you do run out of ammunition, Colton is all too happy to fight in close combat with his knife or bigger blades which he acquires later on. One notable inclusion to the combat is the 'quick draw' function which slows the game down to a crawl and auto aims at enemies while letting you fire relentlessly for a limited amount of time. While this bullet time rip-off is totally out of place in a game set nearly 200 years in the past, it does at least let you enjoy the well choreographed, macabre deaths of each foe. Well, if you're into watching that sort of thing anyway.
Graphically Gun is as pretty as a peach. The motions of both man and beast are well captured and even close up, they look beautifully textured, very tangible. The main field of the game, the 'map' area between each town isn't exactly brimming with activity, though this might just be as much to do with the real appearance of these areas rather than a lack of effort or consideration. Indeed, the towns, ranches and other populated areas are a convincing enough reminder of who you are and where you're supposed to be. In addition, night turns into day flawlessly and both daytime and evening exploration is a beauty to behold. The stylized look of Gun is complimented by a fine soundtrack, professional voice acting and sound effects. Whether it's the personality of the characters or the noises of the animals, it's all executed splendidly.
With so much going for it, it's a shame then that Gun falls short on a couple of aspects that tend to raise an eyebrow or two and assist in blemishing your enjoyment. First is another issue with the side missions. Money that you earn from them can be used to buy upgrades to advance your weaponry. However, any upgrade that you earn really doesn't seem to make any massively noticeable difference to the power of your weapons. The difficulty level is also questionable. If at any time you are killed the game restarts you mere moments from where you were gunned down with all the weapons and health that you passed away with. Yes, it's less frustrating for the player, but it also drastically decreases any sense of a real challenge. Lastly and perhaps most damaging of all is the length of the game. If you can't be bothered with all the side missions, then five to six hours is all the time it will take you from start to finish.
In all, Gun is potentially a flawed classic. The framework for something amazing is already there and Neversoft (the creators of the Tony Hawk's series no less) have certainly done the Wild West justice. It's just a shame that a couple of Gun's elements get stuck in the barrel, and when they do successfully fire, they miss the target by a whisker.