Considering the rich folklore and fables produced by the Old West, it's surprising how sparingly it has been drawn upon as inspiration in video games. With tales fueled by confrontations of good vs. evil and the resulting violence, it would seem the perfect fit for the medium. Ubi Soft attempts to take advantage of this gap with Gunfighter: The Legend of Jesse James, the latest game from Rebellion, the developer responsible for Alien vs. Predator on the Jaguar. While this light-gun game falls short more often than it succeeds, it does give a glimpse of what could be done within the settings of the wild Wild West.
Gunfighter: The Legend of Jesse James is little more than a Time Crisis clone set in the Old West, featuring the same duck-and-shoot mechanics and time limit that made Time Crisis so innovative. As Jesse James, you duck and shoot your way through the lawless Missouri Territories. In the main story mode, you're treated to six linear levels of outlaw-shootin' gameplay, intercut with real-time story sequences detailing James' feuds with ex-Marshall Jack Carson and the bandito leader Ramon Rojo. The gameplay in this mode is very straightforward, and the minimal amount of level interactivity does little to break up the monotony of mowing down hoards of outlaws. Gunfighter also features a handful of shooting-gallery-style minigames, in which you must shoot a certain number of cowboys, bull's-eyes, or liquor bottles before your time or your ammo runs out. Either of these modes can be entertaining for a short period of time, but the lack of variety makes it hard to stay engaged.
This is accentuated by Gunfighter's visual presentation, which is, in a word, bad. Textures are blurry, dark, repetitive, and have a propensity to warp. Character animations are jerky and look unnatural. The character models throughout the game are stingy with the polygons, and the character designs have a sharp, angular look to them. This works well for the grizzled, smoky gunman Jesse James, but it's less than flattering for Zee, the saloon girl in distress. The game's ugliness also manages to get in the way of the gameplay, as it can occasionally be difficult to discern a bloodthirsty bandito from, say, a rock.
The one area where Gunfighter shows a modicum of inspiration is in the sound. Classic Hollywood Westerns such as Bonanza and The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly are drawn upon heavily for the game's soundtrack, and its twangy guitars and galloping percussions have a surprisingly immersive effect. Unfortunately, the passable soundtrack is undercut by the rest of Gunfighter's sound production, which consists of stifled voice acting that isn't quite bad enough to be funny, as well as tinny gunfire effects.
Gunfighter is a step above Mad Dog McCree, the last notable light-gun game to feature a Western theme, but not quite up to the level of the Time Crisis series. Those hungry for a PlayStation light-gun game may be satiated with Gunfighter, especially considering its $10 price tag. However, the average gamer is going to have a hard time looking past the game's generally poor production and repetitive gameplay.