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Published by: Activision
Developed by: Neversoft Entertainment
For: PS2, Xbox, GC, PC, Xbox 360
Version Reviewed: GC
ESRB Rating: M for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Use of Alcohol

 

Ever since the Tony Hawk franchise started, developer Neversoft Entertainment (often credited for innovating, and helping to create, the action sports genre) has not created a single original title, save for two or three Spider-Man titles that were published for the PS1. And then, just as things began to really look down for the Hawk series, Neversoft splits its team into two, and creates two games: Gun and Tony Hawk?s American Wasteland. This is the first of two reviews that covers Neversoft?s excellent new titles. Gun is, quite possibly, the most violent game I have ever played. It is also one of the most expansive and one of the most varied, as well as having one of the best video game stories that I have ever seen in an action game, save Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. And while the story is not particularly long (8-10 hours, or more if on the harder difficulties or playing to absolute completion) it has all the oomph and production values of a big budget movie starring, say Clint Eastwood. Yeah, I?m talking Unforgiven. Or maybe Open Range, or Tombstone. Think of any of those movies, and you?ll get an idea as to Gun?s content and target audience. This is a mature game, built with adult gamers in mind. Yet, despite that, its technical merits, its excellent story, varied missions, and tight scripting mixed with open-ended segments make for an experience that is not soon forgettable. Then again, Gun is extremely gory, profane, and has some sexuality in it. Yet, unlike GTA, which takes place in fictional cities, or True Crime: Streets of L.A., which exaggerates the total lawlessness of Los Angeles itself, Gun takes a plausible concept and runs with it. The West was, initially, lawless. And you had many characters in it, men like Billy the Kid, Wyatt Earp, Bill Hitchock, and countless others. In addition to that, there were the battles between the natives and the whites, clashes between mammoth personalities, and beautiful vistas of the open range that stretched for miles. And while this most definitely appeals to the little boy in each and every one of us male gamers, it should also be noted that this game was made with an audience, which is the mature crowd. If you think that you can handle a game of this intensity, this caliber, and with this amount of brutality, then jump right in. I?m not here to say this is a form of digitized Satan, like one famous review from this site; I?m just going to tell you what I thought of the game, and let you make the decision?exactly how it should be.

Graphics: 8/10

How well this game looks is based on how you see games in general. If, for example, you think that Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is the peak of video game graphics, then, well, you?ll be blown away by Gun. However, if you set, say, Resident Evil 4 as the top tier in action games, then Gun may seem a little lackluster. Remember, however, that the game is simulating the road between Dodge City and Empire City, plus tons of stuff in between, like gold mining, Blackfoot and Apache Indians, herds of buffalo, packs of wolves, ranches, and more? well, then, Gun does pretty darn well. Plus, when you start noticing subtle details, like the dust glow that looks quite similar to Prince of Persia, or the hoof prints that your horse leaves, then Gun starts looking better. And when you factor in the smooth animations and high budget cut scenes (which are quite a step up from Gun?s sister project), then Gun can truly be called one of the best looking free roaming games around on the current console set. In the cinematics, of which there are many, you?ll notice a high level of detail. Most of these, except for just a few, a rendered with the game engine, but a few are pre-rendered, which looks great, as it should. However, the in-game cut scenes are awesome, showing mostly excellent lip synching, pretty good facial expressions, and that rare ability to capture cinematic camera angles in a video game; well, it just goes to show what good production values and a development team who cares about their end product can do. Unfortunately, there are some glitches concerning what you?ll see wandering through the West, between Empire and Dodge. Animals fold up from the ground, like a pop-up book, when you?re near them, and there are occasions when game world seams are visible. Other times, you?ll hear the sound of a bar when standing on the open range?weird. I also ran into something that reminded me of Tony Hawk?s Pro Skater 2, one of Neversoft?s earlier products, where I suddenly found a hole in the game world, but wasn?t able to get under the map, as I was in THPS2.

Game Play: 19/20

This game is great to play. It feels almost like The Punisher on the PS2 or Xbox, but it gives you a Hollywood quality story stretched into between 8 and 10 hours, or more, if you?re an obsessive player. As mentioned above, all the story segments are tightly scripted, allowing little room for error. This would be a bit of a problem, because linear games are so overdone, except that the game?s story and not a bit clich?d objectives keep things fresh. Plus, a bunch of side missions round out the package. You can hunt the great beasts of the Plains after talking to a Native American hunter, or participate in a cattle drive from Empire to Dodge, or even become a bounty hunter and bring criminals in dead or alive. Plus, as an added bonus, you can ride for the Pony Express, plus do a number of other things, all of which increase your stats and cash. As far as how the game plays, everything controls like a dream. Firefights are intense and fun, while the horseback riding segments are solid, and feel just like the company has been focusing solely on action games for the past decade or so. And in that same vein, combat on horse is, arguably, more fun and more intense than any on foot battles. Of course, the dev team decided to balance on foot and horse combat sections nicely, and even incorporated the horse riding into some of the missions. So, I?m basically saying that this is a joy to play. Everything is solid, and the design of the game is remarkable.

Sound: 10/10

With the voice talents of Thomas Jane, Kris Kristofferson, Lance Henriksen, Brad Douriff, Ron Perlman, and Tom Skerritt, Gun oozes top-notch voice acting in its Hollywood talent. While Jane and Henriksen have both seen roles in games (The Punisher and Red Faction 2, respectively), many of the others have not, and as such, the fact that the voice acting is just as passionate as that in any Western movie or show is just a testament to the excellent acting that the actors put forth. All of the minor characters, plus all of the enemies, have great, believable acting as well, so it doesn?t feel like the bargain bin of voice actors. The score is fittingly sweeping, elegant, and epic, yet many times in goes too low under the sounds of gunfire and the voice acting. Still, nothing beats virtually riding the Badlands on your horse while hearing a spaghetti western sounding score, complete with twangy guitars, flutes, and fiddles, as well as Native American-style chants. Gunfire sounds phenomenally realistic as well, lending credibility to the game?s Western heritage. The development team actually spent time recording replicas of the weapons firing, including a miniaturized version of a cannon, which you use several times by the end of the game.

Stability: 4/5

While I encountered no game-ending crashes or bugs, there are some graphical glitches that should be noted. These are mentioned in detail above, but I?ll mention them briefly here. First, there are occasional hiccups in the world. That is to say that seams are occasionally visible in the playing world, and the frame rate periodically stutters. This doesn?t generally happen during high action scenes, but rather when riding through the plains, canyons, and Badlands. Luckily, the high draw distance (or distance you can see without the graphics having pop-up) with few exceptions makes this perfectly acceptable. Second, there are several reported holes in the map, one of which I found for myself. These are basically areas where the developer didn?t intend the player to go, so they didn?t render the area. The result is a wall that is colored just like the sky. Not game ending (hopefully), but still annoying.

Controls/Interface: 5/5

The fact of the matter is that you?re not often going to find controls this smooth. They work so well together, and it really helps that the characters and horses all feel like they have weight, grounded in the game?s physics engine. In other words, the controls aren?t floaty. In addition to that, a low learning curve, controls that stay the same for every situation, and massive gunfights punctuated by intuitive controls all round out the experience. This is one of the best controlling action games of 2005.

Appropriateness:

-Violence (-5 for killing people in cold blooded murder; -2.5 for blood spraying every direction; -1.5 for body parts being visually detached): 1/10 -Language (-5 for God?s Name being used throughout gaming experience, and for curse words generally found in an PG-13-rated movie; -2 for sexual jokes used once or twice): 3/10 -Sexual Content/Nudity (-3 for sex outside of marriage being shown as positive in game; -1.5 for characters wearing clothing that is sexy or accentuates sexuality): 5.5/10 -Occult/Supernatural (No occult references, situations, or locations, and no usage of occult magic): 10/10 Bonus Points: Gun shows the consequences of evil, and the story itself delivers a well-written tale that has a moral at the end: 6 pts.

Overall: 71.5 C-

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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