Near the end of a platform's life, a whole new type of budget game starts coming out. It's the nearly broken budget game that's targeted at people who own a console but aren't likely to be upgrading to the next set of consoles anytime soon. It's for the "casual" player, the type of person swayed by the design of the box cover and the low, low price of $19.95. Unfortunately, these games are often the most vile, underproduced games out there. NRA Gun Club, a target-shooting game from Crave, is just such a game. It's disgustingly ugly, nearly silent, and shallow in a way that will put off anyone, whether a firearms enthusiast or not.
The game features the name and endorsement of the National Rifle Association and bills itself as having "over 100 licensed and faithfully recreated firearms." The NRA license translates to a series of safety tips that are shown during the loading screen. The licensed firearms, from companies like Beretta and Savage Arms, are each given a screen with a rendered, somewhat-accurate model of the pistol, rifle, or shotgun in question, along with a bit of text about it. But once you get into the game, the only thing that really matters is the size of the magazine, since that will determine how frequently you'll have to reload. Things like weight and the length of the barrel could have played into the accuracy of the weapon, but if this game is trying to do that, it's doing a terrible job of it. Considering that the licensed weapons are the only thing this stinker has going for it, the way they're botched here renders the entire game irrelevant.
Of course, there are plenty of other games out there with licensed guns. But Gun Club, despite getting the "mild violence" descriptor from the ESRB, is also being billed as "the first-person shooter with no violence or blood." That's because your only enemy in this game is time and a series of targets. You can get into a few different events, but the goal is the same in most of them: Shoot at the stationary targets. Your control over the action is limited to aiming, zooming in, and holding your breath, which locks your aim in place for a few seconds. In the tactical portion of the game, where you move from one position to the next, you simply have to push right on the D pad to move to the next position. It's immediately boring. A minigame mode lets you play in a shooting gallery or live out your longtime fantasy of firing a pistol at a dartboard. In keeping with the game's nonviolent (or is it mildly violent) theme, none of the targets are even remotely shaped like a human being. While that might make this game sound attractive to the gun-owning family that's attempting to teach the valuable lessons of firearm safety to a minor, the incredibly monotonous gameplay and only passing references to the NRA and gun safety turn this into a horrid teaching tool. Most textbooks are more entertaining, and since the game doesn't let you reload the weapons or press the safety, you don't learn much. It's basically a bad light gun game without the light gun.
The presentation in NRA Gun Club is atrocious. While it's hard to expect the world from a $20 budget PlayStation 2 game coming out this late in the console's life, this game's graphics bring a new low for ugly, drab environments. The targets you'll be shooting at are flatly colored objects set against awful-looking wooden benches and other surfaces for the targets to stand on top of. The audio isn't any better. The game is almost entirely silent, which is probably better than being aggressively awful, and the menus are totally silent. The only sounds you get in the game are the generic sounds of gunfire; the sounds of guns being reloaded, and a voice telling you to start, stop, or change position. The reload sound effects are generic for each weapon type, so if you were looking for realistic sounds for each licensed firearm, you'll find yet another reason to be disappointed.
NRA Gun Club started with a bad idea and executed on that idea poorly. The awfulness stacks up, resulting in a nearly unplayable product. This is the sort of hastily slapped-together game that should have been a free bonus for subscribing to the NRA newsletter or something. Plus, this game promotes violence--you're bound to rip the disc out of your PlayStation 2 and fling it across the room almost immediately after putting it in. And hey, that could put an eye out. Don't say we didn't warn you.