Ambitious game with fun to be had with some innovative game mechanics, not all of which were originally intended.

User Rating: 9 | Gunz The Duel PC
Gunz Review

When I first heard about Gunz, I made fun of my friend for playing it saying that it must be some 2D game that some guys who wanted to get into the field of game development had come up with as part of their portfolio. I wasn't entirely on the money, but neither was I completely wrong.

Gunz The Duel can be described as an FPS RPG or a first person shooter role playing game. Of course it is outclassed by games like BioShock and Mass Effect, even if both were released at a later date and actual had ample funding fueling their development. That is only how it is best described, except there is much more that the title "FPS RPG" does not accurately depict.

Genre. The game exhibits some basic elements of both FPS and RPG games. As in any other FPS you can use a variety of weapons in simple point-and-click gameplay. As for the RPG elements, this is most obvious in the inventory system and "customization" afforded to you via the equipping of various items you buy from a shop and the almost completely obscure leveling system. Although it is not a very striking blend of the two genres, it is still a decent attempt that most importantly functions.

Story. In reading many reviews, I notice that not many mention the story behind Gunz. This is most likely due to the fact that the story is so convoluted and confusing (perhaps due to poor translation) that the great majority of players cannot understand it, and the irrelevance of the story to the actual game. The only connection between the story and the game itself is the selection of character classes which are arbitrarily given the ornamental names described in the story. The other reason is that in a free online competitive shooter game, most people would not care for the story anyhow.

Underdeveloped RPG elements. Not only is the story "missing", but character classes serve no other purpose than to determine what weapons your character will start out with, which for most people tends to be either the class that starts you with dual submachine guns or dual revolvers. When you create a character you have a small degree of customization represented by name, class (~5 options), hair color (4 options), face (4 options), and gender (just in case you are not sure … 2 options). As you level up, you gain access to new weapons which tend to be slightly more powerful than previous versions. This leads to the common misconception that a higher level has a vast definitive advantage over a lower level character. While true in most RPG games, the slight advantage of higher levels in Gunz is often offset by what is referred to as "skill" by some, and "lag", "spray", "turtling", etc. by others. Since the equipment does not change so much as to give a higher level a definite advantage over a lower level, the level system seems like a weak attempt at buffing up the game's replayability. However, the level system does shine in the division of each server into channels that can only be accessed by characters of a certain level, essentially reserving a channel for only beginners to play. Beyond this, a higher level will lose experience points and can actually level down if they are repeatedly killed by a character of a significantly lower level. The leveling system comes into play in the questing system as well, when a more difficult quest requires that all party members be of a specified minimum level or greater. Not so obvious is the fact that some players engage in "swapping" or trading kills with one another with the intention of gaining levels very quickly without bothering with the usual unnecessary waste of time associated with actually dodging and shooting at each other. While this has no significant effect on other players, many will make a big deal out of it when in fact a level 2 character of a player and a level 52 character of the same player although having access to more equipment, the higher level character will offer other players more experience rewarded for killing that character of the player whose skill is a constant and does not change with his character's level.

FPS elements. The different types of guns are balanced rather well. This cannot be said without proper qualification, so I will start with the introduction of characteristics of the weapons in the game. First off, there are the obvious characteristics like damage, clip capacity, fire rate, accuracy, and max ammo capacity. Beyond this there is armor penetration, splash damage, and movement penalties. All of these are balanced fairly well, although the fire rate for some slower weapons can be easily "broken" by using techniques such as "swap shot" and "butterfly". However, the delay is only shortened, not completely eliminated. Several consecutive swap shots will still exhibit a bit of accumulated delay; but this limiting factor can easily be broken by what is known as "reload shot". These are just a couple of the many glitches in the game that the developers have chosen to leave for whatever reason. While true that this works against the balancing of the weapons, it is worth it to note that many "pros" will cry bloody murder when you run from them (many of them using shotguns; an obvious short ranged weapon) or when you turtle (holding the block button forces the butterflying player to be more cautious) or when you spray (anybody who has played a shooter game should understand that in most cases you use cover to avoid being shot, however many players in Gunz have an inexplicable tendency to rely on their superhuman ability to jump around dodging bullets rather than simply finding cover). Grenades are subject to criticism too. Players will not be bothered by smoke grenades but flash grenades and frag grenades will generate a lot of hate being directed towards you. Although it is very easy to dodge a grenade due to the ability to fly all over the place, many players will be so frustrated with grenades that they will not only pile all the verbal abuse that they can upon you, they will even go so far as to kick you. Furthermore, the relatively low damage of the frag grenade makes it impossible to kill someone at full health with a single grenade unless they stand naked (without armor) directly on top of it. In addition, healing items are generally looked down upon, and a copious amount of players will use the usage of healing items as an excuse to ease their own throbbing egos.

Sound. While decent, the sounds of the weapons are limited in scope, as there are at most two sounds for each category of weapons. Also, the rocket launcher does not sound weak but has a rather refined crack-whoosh sound to it (as if it were a soft launch). There is also a hit detector that sounds whenever you hit the enemy. While this function is misleading due to lag; the game gives you the option of turning this function on or off. The music fits well with the game but after a few rounds you'll notice how repetitive it gets and will simply open up a media player to play your own music. The voice acting is decent for a free game, if a bit annoying. It seems as if the voice acting was concentrated on the taunting, which sounds like an even more childish version of the taunts in the Devil May Cry series (if that's even possible).

Graphics. The graphics are passable for a free game, and there are a few levels of detail you can choose from in the options. On the highest setting, the graphics are still a bit dated but the graphics seldom cause for much grief in terms of gameplay. A feature that is often taken for granted is that you can change the way your character appears by changing to different pieces of armor. This is by no means new but is different from other shooters in that what you are wearing and what you look like is also directly tied to how much hit points (or more accurately, armor points) you have. Explosions aren't eye-popping wonders, but they aren't completely off either. The graphics of Gunz aren't worthy of honorable mention, but neither is it very lacking for a free game.

Community. Ah yes, the community. There are several different servers on which you can play Gunz, what follows is based on what I know from playing on the original international Gunz server and the ijji Gunz server. Each server has its own community, but having been part of both I observed that they shared a common link: the stratification of the community into "pros" and "noobs". While this is normal in any online gaming community, in Gunz it appears to have a magnified effect due to the steep learning curve introduced by the set of techniques known as "k-style". Although k-style is not the only way to play, many "pros" will insist that it is, tagging anyone else as "noobs", "laggers", "sprayers", "turtlers", "runners", "cheaters", "hackers", etc. regardless if it is true or not. On the other hand, "noobs" tend to stay quiet. This abuse, while based on nothing substantial, is generally a sign of what frustrates these "pro" players and should be taken as a weakness to be exploited. However, if you choose to, you can simply press a single button to make your chat window disappear and play the game without knowing or caring what anyone else is saying. This single function more than makes up for the verbal abuse that many uncreative and unintelligent "pro" players will pile upon you in a perverse effort to placate their electronic sexual frustration by stroking their own "e-peen" or internet based egos by directing unimaginative insults and illogical reasoning at you. As in any other multiplayer shooter, players have the ability to create groups or clans. My experience with clans varies, almost all of which were enjoyable as clanmates generally respect each other much more than the average random player you meet playing a random game. It seems as if the inexplicable disrespect that most players have for each other has its partner of equal magnitude within clans. For this reason, it is much easier to have fun with the game by playing with clanmates. Also, you and your clanmates are capable of engaging in clan wars which are quite fun although there is much hate to be tossed around between two different clans in clan wars as well. So while the community can stand some policing (or perhaps less, what with all the "k-style is the only way" mentality) there are a few safe havens where the average gamer can just play the game and have fun rather than throw around insults as if the game where just another IRC channel.

Developer's role. It started with Maiet on international Gunz. Their ability to track down "hackers" after the inevitable proliferation of cheating programs and modified files was absolutely horrible to the point where the "original hacker" reportedly hacked into Maiet's servers and deleted some accounts. Leading up to this, the proliferation of such "hacks" was reminiscent of the growth of a cancerous tumor. The tumor grew out of controllable proportions and eventually led to the suffocation of normal tissue around it. Thus, many players who did not hack were faced with the choice of playing the game with one out of every four players likely to be a hacker or simply drop it altogether, which many decided to do including me. Not only was Maiet overwhelmed by such a breach in security, they were very slow in developing the game further. While it is unknown whether security or further game development was their primary concern over the other, it is apparent that neither was very important at all as game updates (with either security updates or new game developments) were few and far in between. After a few years however, Maiet passed the game on to ijji for the creation of a new server often referred to as naGunz for North America. Ijji fared better at first, with less hackers present in the average game. However, they came back rather quickly to populate the new ijji servers. Within a year, there was almost as many hackers playing the game again due to very infrequent updates. In recent months however, updates have been very frequent to the point of being quite annoying. With each new update, more of the "leeching" hackers (ones who know nothing about hacking other than how to use the cheat programs developed by someone else) were left to play the game without their hacks. More premium items were introduced, and most importantly the development of quest mode was furthered. As it stands now, the development of the game is slow but at least it is no longer stagnant as it was under the management of Maiet. While Maiet still runs its own iGunz servers; ijji seems to have the upper hand in terms of more frequent updates, which have been getting more frequent and substantial in content with each passing week.

Replayability. Very addictive to those who can learn to deal with the obnoxious and arrogant k-style players. It's simple gameplay is easy to pick up and for those who are interested, you can take your game even further by learning a few techniques. While it is easier to join a clan of friendly players and ask them for help in learning the techniques, it is very possible to teach these techniques to yourself. This game was one of the first shooters I had come across that included its own replay system which allows the player to record and playback games played earlier. Although this has not been implemented for use in the quest mode on the ijji servers, this is a very fun function to play around with. The leveling system is a cheap and lazy addition to the game's replayability, however it has enough substance backing it that wouldn't be true to say that the leveling system has no other purpose than to add replayability to the game. In short, this game's replayability depends almost entirely on how much you enjoy the RPG elements of the game.

Technical. Most free games have very low system requirements, and Gunz is no different. The original game when I first started playing on Maiet's international servers cost me a whopping 133 Mb. However, the game's small size was only a small consolation for the rampant "lag" problem. Many "pro" players will whine about lag, but their crying does not go entirely without reason. There a few occurrences of people with such high lag (highest I personally observed was 15k+ meaning over a 15 second delay) that it seems almost impossible to kill them. This, while being an exceptional case, is not the only case. Many times players with a relatively low ping from 100-200 ping will be thrown verbal abuse for "lagging". In a fast moving game, in .1-.2 seconds, your character can be a long way off from where your enemy sees you. Thus the hit detector fails in that your enemy is actually racking up a 15 hit combo on his screen while on your screen you're a step or two ahead and the fool is shooting at empty air. This leads to a lot of griefing as it is unfair for the inexperienced player. Even for the more experienced players who now how to predict and lead a lagging opponent, this can be cause for frustration simply because shooting at what you see is much easier than trying to predict where your opponent will move at all times. In addition to this, quest mode has a less convenient form of lag. Many times the game has been lost due to lag. Lag is less convenient in quest mode because in general players aren't as willing to just leave the game. While no one cares when you leave a regular competitive deathmatch game; you have a team in quest that cannot receive reinforcements in mid-game (as in team deathmatches) and could possibly sacrifice the victory of the team by surrendering to the lag and leaving the game. This quest mode lag comes in a few forms but by far the most annoying is the one that completely stalls the progress of the quest when there is one monster remaining who just so happened to have a spare cloak of invisibility with him. Ridiculously experienced players or those who have played with them will know that the best way to find these invisible monsters that are the bane of all quest games is to evaluate the current positions of the team and guess as to where the monster currently is and fill that area with bullets listening carefully for the hit detector. Generally many teams that play constantly with each other learn the different firing lanes that allow their bullets the most "coverage" (the concept behind the complaint "spray") and will work together to pin down the remaining clown of a monster. Admittedly it is very fun working with a team of friendly and talkative players to find that one last invisible monster, but after a while it can become a chore. Another technical aspect of note is the fact that alt-tabbing is allowed but it is safer to do so while not actively playing in a game room but rather while you are not actually in a game but in the lobby or the game room itself. Alt-tabbing while in a game presents a chance that the game will crash to your desktop. After which, you will have to log in once again. For ijji players, that means going to the ijji website, logging in, activating the launcher from their site, and waiting for the game and the anti-cheat program to load up once again. Another critical problem is the fact that each player is only allowed one "kick" vote. This is intended to prevent the unfair spamming of the function, but still it is the one defense that the average player has against hackers or those who are simply unpleasant to play with. Limiting it to one "kick" vote per player tends to ruin perfectly good games when a single player enters and causes grief among everyone else. Despite the technical shortcomings, given a little time and experience the average player can learn simple workarounds to these technical problems and still have a functional and fun game to play.

Fun. This deserves its own little section mostly because it's a game and is intended to be fun. It is very easy to be frustrated, perhaps not by the game itself but with others that play the game and believe that by playing it well they can be all they can be, all of which can be avoided/ignored with a simple press of a button. Thankfully, there are 7+ different modes of gameplay, each with their own respectable niche. Included are your normal suspects of deathmatch, team deathmatch, assassination (kill the VIP), and the not so obvious modes of beserker (free for all with the beserker having the ability to regenerate health for each kill and to deal double damage), extreme team deathmatch (team deathmatch with instant respawning), gladiator (swords and daggers only), and team gladiator. And then there is always the quest mode which at the moment includes 3 different maps each with several different areas and a decent variety of monsters and drop items as well as boss quests for the ambitious. Another very easily overlooked fun factor is the ability to dress up your character as you like and the equipping and testing of how different sets of weapons and items fit with your play style, either in competitive or cooperative play.

Summary. Gunz is an ambitious game whose self-description has misled many potential players. It blends the two popular gaming genres of RPGs and FPSs together in an interesting and functional work. I can't finish that previous sentence with "work of art" simply because there is nothing spectacular about the graphics at all. Although the different clothing and the RPG element of dressing up your character has its graphic appeal, overall the game's graphics are inherently "nothing special". Technical support has improved over the years, and although the community has diminished in size from its first release there remains a decent number of players. The community itself is varied and markedly stratified to point where it can be irritating to communicate with other players at all. For us to be so fortunate as to have the wonders of language bestowed upon us, gamers and especially that of the Gunz community, frequently do not respect this amazing ability unique to our species and will instead use verbal abuse to appease their own injured egos. However, clans can provide a player-friendly environment for those who do not wish to deal with such abuse, as well as the all-powerful "make the chat window invisible" button. Overall, it is a simple game that is flexible (as far as glitches and bugs go) enough for players to develop their own unique style of play. Gunz is easy to get into and has quite a lot of depth for players looking for it (as seen in the different styles). And while the replayability of the game is based almost entirely on the competitive play, cooperative play has a lot to offer for more social gamers.

So to address the question that every game review should: Who should play this game? Or more specifically, who would have fun playing this game?

Social Gamers. This game isn't really for you. Most free online competitive gaming communities are plagued with large populations of less mature, less intelligent, younger people who are insecure about themselves due to all the crazy changes in the human body we attribute to the effects of puberty. If you are an anthropologist or interested in anthropology and specifically in the area of gaming communities and/or gaming linguistics, then this is a rich community for you to study.

1337 Gamers. This game is for you. Competition is tighter than your briefs after a particularly intense match. Although what you're competing for may cause widespread bemusement in the rest of the general population, you know what you want and why you want it and nothing else matters. You are the gaming community's supreme class, and you love reminding other people that you are "better" than them.

Gamers of Art Appreciation. Not much to see here. Don't even bother. While the game mechanics provide for some cool movie-like moves, this game wasn't built on the Cry Engine. The graphics of Gunz is not likely to start a cultural revolution.

The Casual Shooter. This game is not for you. Gunz requires that you not be lazy. A lot of us however believe that games should not feel like work or be like some chore you don't feel like doing. It is conceivable that you could still have some fun playing cooperatively or simply using such "hated" techniques such as "turtling" to defeat the more diligent players who are obsessed with "butterfly"; but that will not last you very long.

Tacticians. This game deserves a try, but may not last very long for you. Movement is often seen as the best "cover". While finding cover is still important, even more so when playing against a "sprayer", deeper tactics are generally hard to come by and only for the hardcore tacticians. Also, perfectly legal tactics such as suppression fire, frag and clear, "camping", healing, etc. are generally frowned upon by the gaming community's elite supreme race.

Role Player. Not your game. Classes mean nothing, and roles are not clearly defined. Some clans organize questing teams into "gunners", "tanks", "medics", "snipers", etc. but more expect that each member can serve as whatever is needed at the moment. The only thing reminiscent of role playing are the weapons and equipment you choose before each battle.

The Romantic. Definitely not a game for you. You like stories, of which there is a small 1 page background that is completely irrelevant to gameplay and poorly translated. You might have fun reading the fan fics people have written, but you would honestly have more fun reading those than actually playing the game.

Thrillseeker. You should definitely try this game. It is fast paced and you actually can run along walls and jump off of them. Not only that, but if you find that "k-style" gives you thrill like no other then you will be likely to be playing this game for at least a while. There's a lot in store here for you, including a few thrillkillers like lag.

Trashtalker. Arguably the best game for you to play. All you want to do for fun is trashtalk people and cause frustration in them. Or you really don't care about how other people feel and you just need to rant a bit. Either way, there is plenty of trashtalk to be passed around in this game.

Teamplayer. This game deserves a try. You like to play with a team either against AI or other human players. The questing mode is the only chance you have in cooperative play versus computer controlled monsters, and does not offer very much at the moment besides 3 different maps each with about 6 areas and 6 different levels of difficulty and approximately 8 different bosses and 15 different monster types. It will get boring playing just quest mode for a month or so if you even last that long. However, there are lots of team games going on at any given time. Lately, they have been of the variety of "attack and defend" in which the players abide by a set of rules not enforced by the game itself. This requires a cooperative effort shared between both opposing teams as well as cooperation among actual team members. Also joining a clan can provide you with a lot more fun to be had.

The FNG. This game is worth a try, but is not representative of the best in the FPS RPG category, nor is it representative of the individual categories. If you have little or absolutely no experience with shooter games, online games, RPG games, or games in general, this is not the most newbie-friendly gaming community to start off in. However, it does get the basic idea of "having fun" playing the game and can give you a sense of "addiction" that has afflicted many other gamers that have come before you.

Timekiller Addict. This game can easily become addicting, so it's just right for you. If you want to kill time, this is a decent way to do it. Better yet, it's quick and easy to get into so none of that researching of a whole manual of 50+ pages to find that addiction you're looking for. While you still run the risk of becoming bored, it is a relatively cheap investment for killing the hunger.

This game is not for: Social gamers, Gamers of Art Appreciation, Casual Gamers, *Tactians, the Role Player, and the Romantic.
Those that would enjoy this game would be: 1337 Gamers (the master gaming race), *Tacticians, Thrillseekers, Trashtalkers, the teamplayer, the FNG, and the Timekiller Addict.

*Note: Some Tacticians will feel that there is not enough tactical depth offered by the game's mechanics that are worth exercising. Others may feel that the numerous actions you can perform in the game offer a vast amount of tactical opportunities to be exploited.