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GUN

Cowboys are undeniably great but does GUN walk tall like the man with no name or fire blanks like the Rumpo Kid?

There's a scene in GUN where a particularly nasty man with a moustache rips out another man's tooth with an adjustable wrench. It's a fantastically gruesome scene, but I think you'll find that the adjustable wrench was actually invented in 1892 by a Swedish man called Johan Petter Johansson, a whole 12 years after the game is set. Johan wasn't a cowboy (we can assume) - all he had was his love of wrenches and his passionate desire to adjust them - but show me a person whose favourite bit in Disneyland isn't the 'wicka-wicka' Wild Wild West and I'll show you a person who's dead inside, or at least comatose.

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You really would be hard-pressed to find somebody who doesn't think cowboys are
great. Just look at Clint Eastwood, John Wayne and Jackie Chan - all cowboys, and all inherently cool. It's this premise that makes GUN (it's all in capitals, so shout) so appealing - if you've ever pointed your fingers at somebody and gone "Pow!" (or to a lesser extent "Bang!", which while not as onomatopoeic is still acceptable), before blowing the imaginary smoke off your index finger, then you know what I'm talking about. So just to reiterate, cowboys are cool and you wish you could be one.

GET OFF YOUR HORSE...
And now you can! Sort of... GUN does make some attempt at being the first proper cowboy-sim, and while it's not entirely accurate to describe it as GTA on horseback, it does take its cues from the freeform mission-based genre. It has an environment which, while not being as massive as GTA's world, does give plenty of room to run about.

The world of GUN is comprised of a few towns, a main city (which is quite small) and a settlement or two, but the in-between bits of featureless countryside are often quite linear, falling somewhere between GTA and Fable on the freedom scale.

As for the gunfighting itself, it's here that it becomes apparent that GUN is a console game first and foremost. No amount of configuring results in a button layout that feels natural, and manual aiming also feels clumsy. The developer has also managed to fit bullet-time in here too, calling it 'quickdraw' (which vaguely fits into the context of the cowboy rationale). Shootouts are still fun though, especially once you get your hands on the beefier weapons. My personal favourite are the dual pistols, which truly make you feel like a proper cowboy.

Rounding off the GTA analogy is the mission system, which offers you a single storyline thread with an array of sidemissions ranging from Pony Express duties and playing poker at the saloon, to answering the various 'Wanted' posters dotted about the land (some of which give you some freedom in the 'dead or alive' department, allowing you to subdue opponents instead of killing them).

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WHAT A GUN WANTS
Looking over my review notes, however, (ignoring the drawing of a horse I did while waiting for the game to load), I notice my list of things GUN is lacking; things I believe a cowboy game should have. Pistols at dawn, for example; swinging saloon doors to walk through while looking moody; real working prostitutes you use to regain health; unscripted barfights and brawls with tablesmashing; the phrase "dems fightin' wurds", and most important of all, a proper horse.

The horses in GUN work just like the cars in GTA - they're an expendable means of getting from place to place, but what I really would've liked to have seen was real horse ownership in the game. Buying a horse, becoming emotionally attached to it as the game went on, seeing it get killed as a predictable yet heartbreaking twist in the storyline: something like that would have propelled GUN into the PC Zone 'recommended' bracket. Instead, the world of horses feels bleak and unsubstantial, like a string of one-night stands... With horses.

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