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Gun
MSRP: $19.99
Number of Players: 1
Developer: Neversoft
Publisher: Activision

Rating:
****
out of
*****

Sometimes, while rummaging around in the bargain bin, you'll find a true gaming gem. Gun, a game that was released with very little fanfare in late 2005, is one such game. More notable as one of the Xbox 360's launch titles, Gun was also released on the Gamecube, Xbox, PlayStation 2 and PC. This review is about the PlayStation 2 version of the game.

Besides being a cheap game that's actually good, Gun is unique because there are very few Western-themed videogames. Actually, aside from Red Dead Revolver, I can't think of any others. (Well, there's Outlaw, the classic Atari 2600 arcade shooter. But that game could have very easily taken place in any era, since it was basically two stick figures shooting at each other.)

Players who tackle Gun will assume the role of Colton White, who at the beginning of the game, hunts animals with his father, Ned, in order to carve out a modest living selling pelts. After a confrontation with a mysterious preacher that gets ugly fast, Ned's dying words send Colton to find Jenny, a prostitute living in Dodge City. So begins Colton's (and your) journey through the world of Gun.

Gun has been incorrectly promoted as a Grand Theft Auto-in-the-West style game. It's nowhere near as open-ended as the GTA games, but it does allow for a fair bit of exploring outside the main story mode. Colton can (and should) take on side missions like hunting for gold, tracking down criminals, and gambling to earn money for weapons and stats upgrades that make the game's story mode easier to beat.

The story mode isn't really all that hard to begin with but it remains worth playing because it is so well-written and, believe it or not, well-acted. Featuring voice talents from the likes of Lance Henriksen (Aliens), Tom Skerritt (Top Gun), Kris Kristofferson (Blade), and Thomas Jane (The Punisher), Gun's cast of outlaws, villains and allies are all believable and engaging.

In the age of next-generation videogame systems, Gun's graphics are merely serviceable but you'll have no trouble figuring out where you're supposed to go and what you're supposed to do. You will, however, not use Gun to show off your PlayStation 2's graphics to anyone. (At this point in time, I don't know that you'd impress anyone with the PlayStation 2's best-looking games but, anyway you look at it, there are prettier games than Gun.)

Controlling Colton will come naturally to anyone who's played a recent third-person action game. The left analog stick is used to move Colton around and the right stick controls the game's camera. Thankfully, the camera never gave me the slightest bit of trouble. That's high praise for a third person action game.

One nice thing about Gun is the concept of "quickdraw," which is similar to bullet-time but does more than simply put the game into slow-motion. By pressing the R2 trigger, the game goes into a first person perspective that allows you to flip from target to target by flicking the left analog stick. A bar showing the amount of quickdraw time left is shown at the bottom of the screen. Quickdraw time can be gained by performing head shots or special kills during the game. It's a pretty nifty idea and mastering it is crucial to surviving some of Gun's boss battles.

Being an M-rated game, Gun features some of the most gruesome moments I've seen in a game of any kind. Scalpings, beheadings, finger-removal, and lots of bloodshed are all part of the action. If you're easily sickened or offended by gore, you'll want to steer far away from Gun, which features buckets of the stuff.

While it might not be the hardest or longest game I've ever played, it's a shame that Gun hasn't gotten the praise it deserves. It's a lot of fun and has a storyline that actually propels the player through the action because you'll want to know what's going to happen. It's been quite a long time since I've actually been as interested in the characters of a game as I was wanting to finish the game itself.

If you run across Gun in the bargain bin or come across a used copy somewhere, give it a shot. It's well worth the $19.99 price that some stores are asking, but can be found for quite a bit cheaper. (I paid $10 for a brand-new copy.) Even if you aren't a Western fan, think of it as a change of pace. It's a pleasant diversion from space and fantasy-themed games.

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