Gun Hands-On Preview (Xbox360, PS2, GCN)
By: Ben Serviss

GamersHell recently had the chance for some hands-on playtime with longtime Tony Hawk developer Neversoft’s upcoming western shooter Gun—and the prognosis looks encouraging indeed. If there’s a doubt in your mind about these skate punks being able to branch out into new genres, you can officially silence them, for Gun is shaping up to be quite the hot piece of weaponry.

In Gun, players assume the role of Colton White, a sharpshooter on a quest for retribution. Shoot-outs take place in both third and first-person views, with each view offering its own advantages. Ducking and maneuvering is easier in the third person though accuracy suffers; in the build shown, the game compensated for this with a healthy dose of auto-aim, slightly compromising the action. Switching to first-person mode enhances aim, but it’s the Quickdraw mode that makes it worthwhile. Pressing the Right Button (RB) on the Xbox 360’s controller enters Quickdraw mode, slowing the onscreen action for as long as your Max Payne-style meter holds out. Tapping Right Trigger (RT) on the controller fires off a rapid shot, and after downing an enemy you can quickly switch to a new target by flicking the left stick in the direction of another enemy. The whole Quickdraw component keeps combat fresh, adding another take to the ever-popular bullet time, and it also gives shootouts that extra kick of cheesy-yet-badass Western flair.

However Colton is no John Wayne, and Gun reaffirms the seriousness of its setting through buckets of blood and formidably gory visuals. Headshots rip enemies’ heads clean off their shoulders, the melee attack brutally slices through chunks of baddies, and you can even scalp enemies after they’re disposed of! You can mount horses to ride into battle, and besides offering quicker transportation these beasts can also trample foes underfoot.

The strategy behind Gun is to portray a realistic representation of the Wild West, with an emphasis on the violence that went into forging the frontier. So although you can rough up whoever you like once you hit Dodge City, you can also choose from a wide selection of side-missions comprising a variety of activities. Hunting bounties, running Pony Express deliveries, and playing poker all earn cash, in addition to less common pursuits like mining for gold, hunting wildlife, and ranching. You can continue with the main story at any time, or accept extra missions for money and improved stats such as Gunhand, Quickdraw, and Melee. Cash can purchase upgrades for your weapons, while the mild RPG-ish stat boosts keep combat suited to your relative skill.

Gun sure looks purdy on Microsoft’s next-gen hardware, but that’s due to hi-res textures and a smooth framerate locked at 60 fps instead of new technological tricks. The 360 version is the only one to boast normal mapping, yet surprisingly the GameCube and PS2 versions don’t look horrific by comparison. Current generation consoles don’t reap the benefits of fancy hardware, with framerates half the speed of the 360’s and exhibiting jaggier visuals, but the game itself doesn’t suffer on the older consoles. This is no mean feat considering you can ride across the entire game world of cities, deserts and Native American settlements on all systems with nary a loading screen in sight.

The game’s nasty style complements the action well, and a mountain of choices regarding missions and game types ensures a constant flow of new options. Although the 360 is Neversoft’s platform of choice, those gamers unwilling to upgrade quite yet should still be in luck once Gun blasts onto store shelves this November.