Thursday, October 26, 2006
Good: Story, more missions, voice acting, music, variety of gameplay
Bad: Awkward transition to PSP controls
Why: Does a Wild-West hero have an emo haircut?
GUN: Showdown manages to take the entire console game from last year, and shrink it down to portable size without losing much quality. While the controls have taken a hit, the overall experience remains largely the same.
Being a big fan of Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns and the HBO show Deadwood, I've always wanted a game to bring the Old West experience to life. Red Dead Revolver was decent, but failed to deliver on the level I was hoping for. GUN proves to be more entertaining than RDR, yet still manages to fall short of becoming the great videogame Western that we've yet to see.
You play as Colton White, a typical grizzled Western protagonist. Early in the game, you meet your father Ned (voiced by Kris Kristofferson). In this brief tutorial of sorts, you'll become acquainted with the controls by hunting various game. Soon after, your father gets murdered, and Colton's quest for revenge begins.
While the controls weren't perfect on the consoles, they're far more cumbersome on the PSP. Because of the lack of a right analog stick, aiming is performed with the face buttons. This reminds me of how Turok worked on the N64. I didn't like it then, I don't like it now.
The most unique aspect of the shooting in GUN is the QuickDraw ability. By killing enemies, you fill your QuickDraw meter. You can zoom in the camera and slow down the action, allowing you to destroy huge groups of enemies. It's even possible to shoot various projectiles out of the air with this ability. As you progress, you'll acquire new weapons as well as upgrade your current ones, but the pistol is easily the most useful (especially once you get dual revolvers).
Variety is GUN's biggest strength, as no two missions are the same. While one may be a typical "defend the bridge" mission, another may feature Colton riding on top of a stagecoach while blasting horseback bandits. In addition to the variety in the story missions, there are tons of sidequests available. You can take down wanted criminals, work as a deputy, mine for gold, work for the Pony Express, and hunt. This PSP version even throws in several new missions that didn't make it into the original.
Most of these activities will increase your stats, which is a necessity for taking down some of the later bosses. If you're one of the types that likes to get 100% on every game, there's a good deal to do here. There's even a Texas Hold-Em tournament that you can partake in, which is a very welcome distraction. When you're done doing side missions, you can instantly warp back to the story by using the map screen.
Surprisingly, GUN Showdown almost looks better than its PS2 counterpart. I'm not sure if it's just the high resolution PSP screen, but it looks great on the portable (especially cutscenes). Voice acting is excellent, and is helped by some Hollywood talent (Thomas Jane, Lance Henriksen, Ron Perlman, Tom Skerritt, and Deadwood's Brad Dourif). GUN's music puts you right into the Western mood, as well. Despite the quality of the music and voice acting, the actual in-game sound effects are completely unimpressive.
While the story is executed very well, there really isn't much of it. The game can be beaten in six hours, which is terrible by any current standards. Side missions get old after a while, and only add two or three extra hours at most. GUN is the absolute definition of a "rental" game, albeit an above-average one.
First Play: 8.0
Replay Value: 7.0