November 6, 2009

Gunfights and a Look at Western Games!

Erik Kubik Says Since the mid-1990s, I’ve had a soft spot for western games. Few and far between, gamers have been blessed with a few straight shooters over the years, and in honor of the soon-to-be-released Red Dead Redemption I thought I’d list a few of my favorite Western games.

First and foremost there is the must-have Red Dead Revolver. Red Dead Revolver was released in 2004 and can be found on Goozex at 100 points for both the PS2 and Xbox. The game can also be found on the back shelf of most used game stores for less than $10. Like most Western games and movies, Red Dead Revolver’s storyline was about revenge.

Red, the main character, is out to hunt down his family’s killer(s). The game features all of the great staples of Westerns: gun fights, quick draw duels, train shoot outs, and horseback riding nicely done from a behind-the-shoulder perspective. Players can upgrade their weapons in-between levels, which kept things interesting despite the limited selection of choices. What will it be? Pistol? Dynamite? Shotgun?

When gamers reach the end of the game there are still things to do. There are more items, stages, weapons, and characters to unlock and there’s a four-man multiplayer. In the end, this 20-hour game is a strong Western with a decent story, great action, and a fair selection of exciting and traditional Western weapons.

Another Western game that was well received is GUN, which was released in 2005 for PC, GC, Xbox, PS2, and Xbox 360. It was Neversoft’s attempt to create an open-world, sandbox western game.

Like Red Dead Revolver, Gun is about revenge. The protagonist, Cole, is out to hunt down those who killed his mentor. What makes GUN a sandbox game is that the player was centralized between a few Western-style towns, while having the opportunity to roam the countryside. Gamers could gamble, hunt, mine for gold, bounty hunt, and do other side missions between the story bits. But unlike other sandbox games, the areas outside the town were pretty empty, save for a few animals, train robbers, and some gold. One of the selling points of GUN was players could approach missions from multiple angles; run down the guy on horseback, sneak around the camp and use knives, or rush in with six shooters blazing. Going in with guns blazing was always the easiest and most successful. GUN’s conclusion left a little bit of a sour taste in my mouth, but at 100 points on Goozex and readily available, it is worth your time to go check and it out.

Most recently, gamers were blessed with the Call of Juarez series. There are currently two games in this series. The first one, Call of Juarez, is available for 150-200 points on Goozex for both 360 and PC. Released in 2007, the game has a number of flaws. The game centers around two playable characters, Ray and Billy. Each of them has their advantages; Billy was prone to long range attacks and stealth, while Ray was the up close and personal gunslinger with dual six shooters. At the time of release the graphics were already dated and the lack of replay value made the game’s lasting appeal similar to the bones of a desert rat.

The second game, Call of Juarez, Bound in Blood, was released in June of 2009. On Goozex, the game is still pretty expensive [400-650 points] or about $30 used. Like other Western-themed games, Bound in Blood takes place in the late 1800s, around the Civil War and focuses on two playable characters, Ray (from the first game) and Thomas.

Ray is better at using dual weapons and the shotgun. He can also take more damage. Thomas can use a lasso and climb to certain areas; he’s better suited to wield a rifle. The in-game story and actions are very similar to GUN with the usual gunfights, stagecoach chases, bank robberies, etc., all in pursuit of treasure. There are also free roaming bits and side missions. During the Showdown acts at the end of each mission, gamers must circle their opponent, keeping their hand on their weapon and their opponent lined up by moving in the opposite direction. As soon as the bell rings, players draw and fire. The multiplayer has a relatively small community and most of the games were team based.

Outlaws: Although it’s an older title (1997) and it has not aged well on the PC, it does deserve a mention. Like the aging gunfighter of the Old West who cannot quit, I still enjoy this game from time to time. The game is built on LucasArts’ enhanced Dark Forces 1 engine. Similar to the other revenge-driven Western games, the hero, James Anderson is after the killers of his wife and the kidnappers of his daughter. The in-game cinematic scenes are a bit cartoony and the graphics are Doom-ish to say the least. But at the time, Outlaws had eight-player multiplayer, the story featuring Anderson, and several standalone bounty hunter missions. From what I remember there were lots of little things that made the game fun! Gamers had to manually reload all their weapons, some of the weapons such as the Gatling Gun and the sawed-off shotgun were a blast, and there were tons of hidden secrets. Unfortunately, the game is very difficult to use with anything above Windows 95. Still, if you have the opportunity to get this game from Goozex at 100 points, it is well worth your time.

Editor’s Note: It was with great surprise that Erik submitted this article and I’m very happy he did so. I also have a soft spot for the Western and I really wish there were more of these games available.

I can personally vouch for GUN. Back in September 2008, I even named GUN the Editor's Pick for the best 200-point game (apparently, GUN has gone UP in value as it's worth 250 points as of this writing). I loved that game, despite it’s simplicity and it’s somewhat archaic graphics, but it was the first Western I played on the 360 and I was very happy with it. I thought the story was great and it was fun to ride a horse, shoot a six gun and work the ranch. While I never thought of GUN as being a sandbox game, I guess in a way it kind of was. The game is linear and the side missions were never much of a draw for me. I never got into the gambling and I only played a minimum of the side missions. Mostly, I played the main campaign, and I liked it like that. I’ve been looking forward to a sequel.

I did try Call of Juarez, based solely on the fact of how much I liked GUN, and I was sorely disappointed. I though CoJ was the worst-of-the-worst and I barely got passed the first few missions. The game was dreadful. It was simply unplayable. The game was so awful, I swore off the sequel from the beginning. I have heard a few good reviews about Bound in Blood, but I’m just not going there.

If Red Dead Redemption gets good reviews, then I’ll be all over it. Hopefully, Erik will have a chance to review it and you can read his First Impressions of the game right here on The Goozex Report. According to VGReleases, Red Dead Redemption should release on the Xbox 360 on March 24, 2010. The same site is also currently reporting that Red Dead Redemption should release for the PS3 on January 12, 2010. Of course, with dates that far off in the future, they are subject to change.