Hippo Manchester
December 8, 2005

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GUN

XBOX/XBOX 360/PS2

Activision

B

Grand Theft Horsey? Shootout at the Pixel Corral? What grabs you first about GUN, is not the “brooding loner” character you direct. It’s not the Grizzled Father who dies in a riverboat raid pushing you off on the first steps of your epic journey. It’s not that in GUN you regain health by drinking whiskey. No. It’s that the tutorial introduction involves shooting various woodland creatures that today are most likely endangered. You also can trample people to death with your horse which, I suppose, is not that different from hitting them with a Grand-Thefted car but still strikes one as a tad awkward. You can shoot the horsey, too, and it cries.

That’s a bit cruel, but it is convincing. And GUN does what no title since Oregon Trail has achieved — it presents a robust and enjoyable Western-themed video game. And while, unlike in Oregon Trail, your character won’t die of dysentery while crossing the Great Plains, he will get to collect bounties on wanted men, cheat his way to a poker championship and save the town brothel from arson.

GUN’s free-roaming world is not as perfect as those found in the GTA series. But, there are a good number of side quests to help fill out the sometimes barren scenery.

The meat of the game lies in its tightly scripted plot missions. Oodles of cut scenes advance your Wild West revenge/absolution story and eat up a good portion of the eight to 10 hours that it takes to exact your bloody vengeance. What GUN does right is ease the awkwardness of third-person perspective. It will smartly peek around corners for you, and semi-track targets on horseback. GUN also arms you with quick-draw mode, which slows time and lets you show off the kind of six-gun marksmanship that defines the genre. GUN is a mixed bag — cloning GTA is old hat now but high noon shootouts are a comparatively fresh breath among today’s video games. If you can stand the Bison killing, GUN is worth at least a week’s rental.

— Glenn Given