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Interviews

Loading the Gun with Neversoft

The Tony Hawk developer's non-skating game finally revealed. Enter the Wild West inside...

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So just how free-roaming is it compared to the godfather of the open-world experience, San Andreas? "GTA is all about the free-roaming. This is a story-driven game with free-roaming added. As the game progresses you'll be able to go from town to town freely, or ride off into the wilderness. It's a living environment. As you journey around you'll see animals roaming across the wilderness, ranchers driving cattle, or if you're in a town a gunfight could break out at any time."

As he speaks Miller is walking Colton through a dusty frontier town and, as if on cue, shots ring out from the saloon. A nag tied up outside the bar bucks and whinnies in shock, and the old fellers sitting on the porch scatter back to their shacks. The atmosphere of the classic Western is as tangible as a silver spur to the crotch.

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The first mission Miller shows us is equally drenched in the whiskey-flavoured tones of the West. Like the Man with No Name, Colton rides into the Alhambra Saloon and asks for Jenny. She's being propositioned for a 'poke' by two bandits who are lacking in the Good, but have plenty of the Bad and Ugly. Needless to say, things turn nasty, pistols are drawn, and the bar floor is soaked with more than moonshine.

HIGH NOON
As the gunfight begins Miller gets the chance to show off Gun's combat system, which brings together aspects of third-person action games and first-person shooters. The right analogue stick moves Colton and the left aims his weapon, with swift flicks of the right stick snapping automatically between targets.

"It has the detail and feel of a first-person shooter," explains Miller. "It's that kind of gameplay rather than a dumb action game with auto-targeting. You can strafe through areas, take cover and target whoever and wherever you want. But we've also got a big, strong storyline and that real action game excitement."

Enemies react believably to gunshots because of Gun's bodypart-specific collision system. Or for that true gunslinger touch you can even blast the iron out of someone's hand and perform Tony Hawk-esque tricks with your bullets. "Our system lets us build in a real learning curve. It's easy to just shoot an enemy, but if you want to show off you can shoot out dynamite crates to send bad guys flying, then juggle them up in the air with your bullets. You can even juggle an enemy's firearm if you're a sharp enough shot."

You can even grab an enemy to use as a human shield before brutally executing them, or there's always the no-nonsense approach: "We have dismemberment, so you can take somebody's arm off if you want."

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But surely the coolest thing about Western gunfights is the old quick draw, where triggers - and last breaths - are pulled in the blink of an eye? "We did a lot of research with professional gunfighters who do competitions and exhibitions," says Miller. "These guys are so fast they can get off six shots but you only hear two, and with their help we developed a time-limited slo-mo mechanic that you can only use with your six shooters."

Referencing Bullet Time, Gun's slo-mo feature lets you aim and fire several shots before your enemy's even got a bead on you. It's a cool way to capture the speed of a true gunfighter, and Neversoft is keen to reward players who capitalize on it: "As you gain more experience your meter gets longer and you'll be able to get off three or four shots before it runs out. Eventually you'll even be able to dual-wield your six guns in slo mo."

If sharpshooting's not your thing then there are plenty of other options. Every classic Western firearm you can think of is included in Gun, like shotguns, rifles with scopes, Gatling guns, and even dynamite and Molotov cocktails you can shoot out of the air, raining fire on cowering enemies. "All our weapons are authentic to the time period and they all have different ratings for things like power and reload speed," says Miller. "That adds a lot of strategy to the action - if you're pinned down in a tight area you don't want to spend a lot of time reloading your weapon."

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