Genre: Third-Person Shooter
Developer: Rebellion/Neversoft Entertainment
Release Date: October 10, 2006
The Cowboy-Western genre is one rarely touched upon in the video game industry, so fans of the Old West are usually left wanting. In the past few years, there have only been a handful of offerings, and there's yet to be a killer app in the field. On the other hand, there has been a bevy of above-average Western games — one of those being Gun for the PC, PS2, Xbox and Xbox 360 in 2005. The game was much too short and the environments were so empty they felt like barren wastelands, and that's when you were in town. But it still managed to deliver a mostly enjoyable experience for Western enthusiasts. Apparently, Neversoft and Activision heard the gripes of the common gamer and reviews editor, as Gun Showdown for the PSP handheld is a port of the console version, but with added length and new missions. Do these added missions make the game better than the original? Longer, yes. Better, no.
If you've never played the original Gun, the game tells the story of cowboy Colton White, who ends up on the wrong side of a bad situation after his father is murdered by a dirty preacher and he's left with a mountain of questions about his past and very few answers. As Colton, you'll meet your fair share of "Indians," outlaws and prostitutes, on the quest to discover the truth behind your heritage and take down some goons in the process. I would explain more, but then there wouldn't be many surprises left for you, now would there?
Gun for the PSP is played in a third-person view, behind your character, and like many other shooters on the PlayStation handheld, the controls can be hard to use and will take a good deal of practice before you'll become adept with them. You're able to set your controls one of two different ways: You can set your forward and backward movements to the analog and your aiming controls to the face buttons (Square, Circle, etc.) or you can set them the opposite way around, depending on whether you're a righty or a lefty and which is easier for you to use. The rest of the game's control layout is fairly basic and easy enough to use, but aiming proficiently in clutch situations will remain a chore until the very end — no matter how much time you've had with it. The most necessary feature is the ability to enter Quick Draw mode, which slows down everything to make it easier to land a few deadly headshots, or shoot down a volley of arrows before they turn you into a walking pin cushion.
When Gun Showdown begins, you're out on a hunting expedition with your father, and you'll be taught how to use the controls by shooting pigeons, deer, wolves and even a grizzly bear. Once you've familiarized yourself with the basic mechanics, moved your way past this brief section and broken your way into the remainder of the game, you'll be presented with a more open approach, as you can choose to take on side missions or dive straight into the story missions. You can navigate your across the map with an on-screen compass, located in the lower left corner of the screen. Your compass will pinpoint mission objectives and guide you in the proper direction, so you won't find yourself getting lost very often. The majority of the side quests, however, involve riding your horse to a specific location, gunning down some people and then riding back, but either way, they still manage to give the game some much-needed longevity.
As I'd mentioned earlier, Gun Showdown adds some new story missions to the mix, though these new missions are not particularly exciting. Most of them are just thrown in and play much like the assortment of side quests, don't really add or change anything to the story and fail to even manage any new recorded dialogue by the original voice actors. This is fairly disappointing, considering that the very short single-player experience is what mostly lowered the original game's appeal in the first place.
A big factor of any shooter, no matter the setting, is the arsenal of weapons available to your character throughout, and Gun Showdown delivers the goods in this area with the utmost satisfaction. You start with only your six-shooter and a rifle, but along the way, you'll acquire a shotgun, a bow and arrow for silent kills, a sniper rifle, throwing knives, dynamite sticks, fire bombs and various handheld weapons, handy for slicing some dirty cuss's throat. When you complete story missions or try your hand at the side quests, you'll be able to upgrade your firearms, making them hold more ammo, allow more shots between reloads and pack a stronger punch. By the end of the game, you'll be kicking filthy outlaw ass and taking names, since most of your weapons will more than likely be maxed out.
Along with new weapon upgrades and story missions, there are an assortment of new modes exclusive to the PSP version of Gun, including multiplayer deathmatch for up to six players. In the new Quickplay game modes, you're dropped into a specific scenario with a set goal to reach, such as killing "x" amount of enemies, surviving an attack from a horde of bears or defending an outpost with a cannon. These small quickplay modes are well suited for handheld play, since most of them only take about five to 10 minutes to breeze through, while still offering a worthwhile challenge. In the game's multiplayer modes, you can play deathmatch, Golden Cross (hold onto the golden cross for the longest), or Texas Hold 'Em, with the official rules on a virtual deck of cards. Unfortunately, these can only be played in Ad Hoc mode and the title doesn't allow sharing, so you and your friends will each need a separate copy of the game.
Gun was a nice-looking game on consoles and on the PC, and somehow, they managed to maintain that same level of quality on the handheld version. The textures aren't as crisp as the console versions, but the character models are still expertly crafted and animate sufficiently. The only problem lies with enemy variety, as just about every "Indian" in the game looks exactly the same, and most of the outlaws look frighteningly alike as well. There's a lot of detail put into the open environment, with rolling tumbleweeds, lakes, rivers gorges and mountains, but there's no wildlife to be found, except for when one of the missions calls for it.
The vocal cast is top shelf, however, with Thomas Jane as Colton White, Kris Kristofferson as his father Ned White, Tom Skerritt as the leader of a gang of resistance fighters and Lance Henriksen, Brad Douriff and Ron Perlman as the trio of villains. None of these established actors pull any punches because they're recording dialogue for a video game, and the performances are completely solid throughout. The game doesn't have much music to accompany it, though; you'll frequently hear buzzards squawking overhead, water flowing in streams and rivers and a breeze of air rolling through.
The original Gun was an above-average shooter with a resounding lack of longevity, and even though some new missions were tacked onto Gun Showdown, the game's still a rather shallow experience. This version fails to even live up to the console counterpart, as the controls suffer far too much on the PSP itself. Aiming becomes a constant chore, and any timed or chase sequences that require precision control of your horse usually lead to countless failed attempts and more swear words than you can fit in a 'coon skin cap. The new missions only add about an hour or so to the story mode, and they're far from memorable. If you've never played Gun and a PSP is all you own, this won't be a half-bad rental, but if the game's selling point for you was new content, you're not going to find much here worth your hard-earned money.
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