There hasn't been much discussion about Gun on the PC, though this is certainly looking like it's going to be one of the big console games this holiday season. That's because Gun promises the sort of open-ended gameplay that made Grand Theft Auto popular, but it's set in the Old West of the 1880s, not in the gritty urban landscapes of today. With the console and PC versions of Gun due out next month, Activision recently paid us a visit to give us some hands-on time with the PC version, and we found that it promises to be an epic-scale game that will let you blaze your own trail in the Wild, Wild West.
In Gun, you will play Colton White, a gunslinger looking for revenge after a mysterious attack leaves his father and a bunch of people dead. With only a strange coin for a clue, he travels to Dodge City, Kansas, from where you'll head out on your own path. You can take up jobs for various groups, and you can travel around the Wild West in search of adventure and clues. Gun is a game where you'll be able to shoot, stab, drink, and ride your way to riches and glory. Heck, there's even a full-fledged poker game that you can indulge in when you're looking for a break from all the adventuring.
Gun was a huge project for Activision and developer Neversoft, best known for the popular Tony Hawk games, and it appears as though no expense was spared on this game's budget. The script was written by screenwriter Randall Jahnson, who wrote The Mask of Zorro and The Doors, and he has reportedly littered the story with historical figures and myths, as well as legends from the era. The voice acting cast includes Hollywood notables such as Thomas Jane, Kris Kristofferson, Ron Perlman, Lance Henriksen, and Brad Douriff, whose presence is particularly fitting since he also stars in HBO's critically acclaimed and gritty Western Deadwood. To top off the cinematic values, there's a score powered by an 80-piece orchestra, plus more than an hour of cutscenes in the game. The game also features lifelike motion capture, recorded at Neverwood's motion-capture facility, which is used to catch skaters in action for the Tony Hawk games.
The good news for the PC version is that it won't look like an Xbox or PS2 game that's ported to the PC. That's because Gun is also being developed for the Xbox 360, and so the PC version can look very much like the sharper, crisper, more detailed Xbox 360 version, so long as your hardware can support it. We're told that if you have a high-end system, the game will automatically detect that and enable all the Xbox 360 graphical features (such as normal mapping), which aren't available on the Xbox and PS2 versions of the game. And, yes, the PC version does look pretty good, especially for a multiplatform game such as this. We had the chance to see the opening levels of Gun, which understandably serves as a tutorial for the rest of the game. The opening levels are the most "linear" levels as well, and once you're finished with them and let loose upon the world, you can go your own direction.
As Colton White, you and your father make a living by hunting game to sell to passing riverboats, and this explains your character's expertness with firearms. The opening hunting sequence will teach you the basics on firing a gun. There are more than 20 historically accurate weapons, but you'll start off with your trusty rifle and six-shooter. Gun is a third-person action game, but when you "zoom" down the sights of your gun, it seamlessly and quickly switches to first-person. The first-person view is perfect for when you want to get a precision shot off, while the regular third-person view is fine for just running and gunning. After you blast a heck of a lot of wildlife, you'll trigger one of the many cutscenes. As Colton and his father board a riverboat to make a deal, renegade army soldiers, under the direction of a mysterious character named Preacher (voiced by Douriff), attack them. Naturally, this leads to the next big action sequence, which is designed to teach you the combat system.
Fun with Firearms
Obviously, with a name like Gun, there's going to be an emphasis on gunplay in the game, and that's certainly true from what we saw. Combat in Gun is very fast paced, and you have a lot of cool abilities that let you capture the sense of being the best gunslinger in the West. You can blast away from normal third- or first-person view, and there's location damage so you can make headshots and such.
One of the cooler features in Gun is the "quick draw" mode, which is meant to capture those moments in movies where a cowboy can get off six shots in a heartbeat. Quick draw is a bit like bullet time, in that everything (even sound) slows down, and you can quickly cycle through different targets by tapping on the left or right keys to get accurate shots off. Then, when the effect wears off, time comes back at full speed. The result is that you can get those moments when you fire six shots in quick draw mode, and after time returns to normal, the bodies of all six of your victims hit the ground at the same time. You won't be able to keep quick draw mode on all the time, though, because it's limited by a meter that only fills up if you accumulate enough kills or make enough headshots.
In addition to shooting enemies, you can knife and stab them, courtesy of your melee attack. If anyone comes into range, just slam on the right mouse button and you'll knife him. A neat extra ability is to then grab that person and use him as a human shield, whose body will absorb the bullets that are heading your way. If you're wounded in Gun, all you need to do is take a quick swig from your ever-present Whiskey bottle to take the edge off and restore your health. You only have a limited amount of Whiskey, though, but given that you're battling in the Old West, there's plenty of Whiskey to be found.
Gun will also let you ride into battle atop a trusty steed. The horse is sort of like the cars found in other third-person-action games. The horse serves as transport, but you can also fight when you're riding (for a ride-by shootings, perhaps), and some quests and missions will require you to ride like the wind from point to point. You can whip a horse to get a burst of speed, but it is possible to ride a horse to death, so you have to manage this action carefully. It's even possible to use a horse to run down and trample opponents. Plus, you can dismount and duck behind the side of the horse to use it for cover in a gunfight (and, yes, the horse can take damage).
There's going to be plenty for you to do in Gun. Once you're done with the opening tutorials, you'll find yourself in Dodge City, one of the major hubs. You can find quests and jobs to do in Dodge City by talking to various characters, such as the Pony Express agent, or you can read the Wanted posters to find out who you can hunt down for a bounty. Then there's the main quest, which involves finding Preacher for some payback. Naturally, Preacher isn't in it for simple robbery, so you need to find out what he wants. To aid you, there's Jenny, a hooker with a heart of gold who is also your love interest. One of the game's first major gunfights, in fact, involves saving Jenny from a gang of rough-and-tumble outlaws.
That's just the tip of the iceberg with Gun, however, and there'll be a lot more for you to do in this game. When you get down to it, Gun promises an epic adventure along with some great, well, gunplay. At this point, Gun looks pretty cool, and we're interested in seeing how the game turns out when it gets here next month.