GUN is Activision’s newest franchise, a third person shooter / adventure title set in the Old West. From what we’ve seen so far, the setting seems to stay within the boundaries of reality, steering clear of any zombie cowboy encounters or anything. However, the story, written by Randall Jahnson (Mask of Zorro, The Doors) gives a dark view of the West with conspiracies, dirty lawmen, army psychopaths, and a wicked preacher.
The opening of the game starts out innocently enough, the main character Colton White hunts game with his father and sells the goods to a local riverboat. You get a grip on the gun slinging by shooting local wildlife like elk and quail. Aside from your standard shooting mechanics, GUN also features a system called Quickdraw. When you enter Quickdraw mode, time slows down, and you can simply press a direction on the control stick to auto target an enemy. Quickdraw is limited though, and a meter will drain while you’re in the mode and then refill automatically over time. You spend a bit of time shooting elk and packs of wolves that mean to take a share of the spoils, and you finally face up against a massive charging bear before the steamboat comes ashore.
Once aboard, your father Ned speaks with a "lady of the night" about some special item. There’s also a man on board dressed as a preacher, but Colton doesn’t believe that he’s a man of the cloth for a second. At first, it’s just the bloodshot eyes and sneaky disposition, but then the preacher confirms Colton’s suspicions by putting a hatchet through the head of the whore his father was just talking to and leading a raid of white bandits covered in war paint to find and recover the "item" she’s been hiding.
After blasting away a few waves of bandits, you’ll probably come to realize that GUN is quite the bloody game, complete with craniums bursting like in Resident Evil. Ned verbally directs you to key areas of the ship that are being attacked, but it does seem a bit tough to find the area he’s talking about. Then you man a cannon to fire on approaching canoes and other boats aiming back at you. In the end, an enemy cannon destroys the wheelhouse and Ned gives you a token for the Alhambra in Dodge City before pushing you off deck to save you.
We skipped ahead to Dodge, which is the first city you’ll encounter. You can choose to go straight to the Alhambra and look for someone who might give you some insight, or you can take part in a number of side-quests. There are wanted posters with bounties to collect. The Pony Express is always looking for a good rider, and there are poker games to be played in the Alhambra before spending some quality time with the bartender.
Once you do go up to the bar, you’ll meet Jenny, another lady of the night who knew the girl on the steamboat. But before you get a chance to talk to her, the locals get rowdy, thinking you’re trying to cut in line on their tail, and they start a-shootin’. After you’ve shot a few drunks, one comments, "Just once, I’d like to come to Dodge and not get shot." Then the crazies start coming again, threatening to burn the place down, and you have to protect the Alhambra from inside and out.
In the next scenario we skipped to, we had to protect a stagecoach from "vicious Apaches". I can smell the bad press on this already. Apaches running around like madmen, raping women and murdering as they go -- and having their heads pop off when you shoot them. At least by this point, we’ve already learned that drunks and preachers act similarly in this game.
The first part of the stagecoach sequence is on horseback, and firing while riding actually doesn’t feel any more difficult than shooting on foot, except for the difference in speed. It’s important to note that this isn’t Zelda and there’s about as little attachment to your horse as there is to the boots you’re wearing. Horses will routinely be shot from under you in a big bloody mess, and you can "jack" any horse wandering about if you need one.
After using some TNT to clear a boulder out of the road, you’ll fight through the second part of the stagecoach scene while riding on top of the coach. In addition to the continued presence of Apaches on horseback, some will also drop on to the carriage from the cliffs above, forcing you to take a few jabs at them with your trusty knife.
Graphically, GUN isn’t particularly exciting; there’s a wide field of vision, but textures seem blurry and unconvincing. However, the audio is very impressive, with great ambient sound that really draws you in and dialogue that holds its own pretty well. GUN looks like it will be pretty massive in scope, and despite feeling a bit like True Crime: Dodge City, it should stand apart from the crowd.