Retro corner: GUN

Posted on December 30, 2009 by

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The western started life in the 19th century, as ‘Dime Novels‘, meaning that much like the gangster movies of the 1930’s, the first ‘Old West’ fiction was more or less contemporary with it’s source material. Most consider that the golden age of Westerns was the 1930’s, although it’s been a consistently engaging genre since it’s inception, ranging from sixties classics like Fistful of Dollars, through to modern Tv series like Deadwood, which proves that the old horse can still be spurred on, and there is still a fair amount of ‘getting out of dodge’ to be done yet. Most modern Westerns are ‘Revisionist’, meaning that they had a darker, more cynical tone, focusing on the lawlessness of the period, rife with anti-heroes like Clint Eastwood’s iconic Man-with-no-name.

Killing time. And confederates.

The late 1800’s were a time of great change for America, with the rise of industrialisation was crushing the old wild wild west. GUN, originally for the Playstation two and later released on the Xbox 360, is set in 1880, and told the story of a chiselled, be-stubbled gunslinger called Colton White, as he sets out to avenge the death of his father, before getting caught up in a search for Quivira, a fabled city of gold.

Produced by Neversoft, better known for the Tony Hawk series, and released in November 2005. Advertised as Grand Theft Auto with Horses, outlaws and Injuns, The game bombed spectacularly, despite receiving universally favourable reviews, it just didn’t sell in any great numbers. Why this happened is a mystery, as it was an exceptionally good game.

Bring... Back... My... Horse!

It had an engaging revenge story, solid controls and a fair variety of things to do, from tracking down bounties, to delivering messages as the Pony express and tracking down and hunting an elusive stag. It had everything a good western needed; Train heists, cattle driving, shootouts and showdowns. It also featured a plethora of voice talents, including Kris Kristofferson as Colton’s Murdered father, Brad Dourif as a corrupt Reverend, and Ron Pearlman as evil mayor, Hoodoo Brown, and Lance Henriksen as ex-confederate soldier and all-round villain Tom Magruder.

A year earlier, Rockstar had released Red Dead Revolver, which had received generally favourable reviews but also hadn’t sold fantastically. A sequel, Red Dead Redemption is due for release in March 2010.

As a rule, the western strikes me as being ripe for further conquest in video games, where it has been sadly neglected by the vast majority of Gamers and Developers. It’s one of those strange genre’s of games that can be executed wrong very easily, which scares developers away, but can be genius when done right. Everyone thinks that what people want it spacemen rather than cowboys, but I think the recent success of Call Of Juarez: Bound in blood, and the continuing cult following of GUN proves that it’s a genre that greatly needs exploring further.

GUN can now be often found in the bargain bin at second-hand games stores, and is well worth buying on PS2 or 360, although the PSP remake/port is to be avoided for finicky controls and poor graphics.

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Posted in: Games, Retrospective