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GUN (2005): Ain’t lookin’ for redemption!

A title so generic it can’t be googled, arriving late to the xbox/Gamecube/PS2 party, and the dominance of Red Dead Revolver (remember that one?) meant that Gun (2005) – a third person Western-themed shooter – never made much of an impact.

Which is a damn shame. Not only does this game get a helluva lot right, but the stuff it gets wrong ends up being a refreshing antidote to open-world fatigue.

Let’s start with the good: This is cracking cowboy entertainment. I grew up watching The Lone Ranger, The High Chaparral, John Wayne movies (hell, even Little House on the Prairie). I’ve read about 12 million Louis Lamour books (almost a fifth of his oeuvre!) and all of Elmore Leonard’s Westerns and I’ll tell you what, this shit stands up.

Full disclosure: this isn’t Red Dead Redemption 1 or 2. There’s little subtlety here. What there is, is rip-roaring pulp entertainment. Your character, Colton White (did I mention it wasn’t subtle?) is not seeking redemption, but vengeance. And boy, does he get it. Gun (2005) whisks the player through a pleasing showreel of cliff-hangers and set-pieces. You’ll battle on riverboats and on horseback, fight alongside apaches and lawmen, and through it all you’ll make frontier justice look cool as heck.

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And this game is cool. There was one cut-scene (in which a safe is shut) which forced an actual ‘hell yeah!’ from me. As cowboy protagonists go, this one’s got the goods. And check out the voice cast! Thomas Jane, Lance Henriksen, Brad Dourif, Ron Perlman… Hell, Kris Goddamn Kristofferson plays your dad! That voice talent should give some clue to the production values at work in the main storyline: again, this is pulp, not art, more Tombstone than Unforgiven, but it’s the kind of film you’d be thrilled to chance upon on a boring Sunday afternoon.

Likewise, the gameplay is pleasingly robust. It’s a little too easy to rely on your time-slowed six-shooters but I played this game on Normal (I usually choose one difficulty up) and wanted an easy-going experience, so I was content to experiment with the (abundance) of other weapons when I felt like it, relying on the six-shooters where needed.

Onto the bad, then, and it’s an interesting situation. Gun (2005) is apparently open-world. There are a number of side-missions available, of a variety of types, and you can ride off in any direction you choose. Completing side missions boosts various stats, improving your horse riding or shooting or brawling or whatever. The thing is, absolutely none of them are necessary. I completed 5 side missions in total through the entire game and never felt underpowered. As a result, the gorgeous scenery (*2005) played more of a background to the action. In this, the experience becomes truly cinematic. You ride through winding canyons which open out onto magnificent vistas and instead of worrying that you might be missing some item on a checklist, the journey instead presents one of those brief, meditative moments in between action sequences that evokes the cowboy films of yore. Likewise, there are dozens of weapons, but each time you receive a new, better gun, you’re given the option to equip automatically, replacing a toybox with a linear progression of upgrades.

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I can imagine that these poorly-implemented artefacts of an open-world would have soured reviews of the time. From this remove, however, Gun (2005) becomes an excellent, unpretentious action-movie of a game, with impressive cinematography which is never allowed to slow the brusque plot.

Highly recommend.

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