GUN: It’s More Fun to Jack Cars than to Rustle Horses
by Nate Garrelts
As an avid gamer, I am disappointed with the rash of Grand Theft Auto knock-offs that have recently been released by game developers. This is not because I object to Grand Theft Auto games. On the contrary, game developer Rockstar changed the face of gaming when they released Grand Theft Auto III and the sequels Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. The combination of expansive game environments, emergent narratives, and the freedom afforded gamers to interact in both passive and aggressive ways changed the standards by which we evaluate and discuss digital games. For a mature audience of twenty-somethings, which contrary to political rallying is currently the largest demographic of gamers, games in the Grand Theft Auto series are among the best.
My complaint is directed towards games that ride the coattails of Grand Theft Auto. A recent game to do this is the game GUN by developer Neversoft (ESRB Mature Rating). Though I had great hopes for the game, after playing through the narrative from start to finish and completing several hours worth of side missions, my assessment is that the game is solidly average.
Written by Randall Johnson, author of The Mask of Zorro, the story of GUN centers cowboy Colton White. Subsequent to witnessing the murder of his adoptive father, Colton embarks on a quest of revenge that leads to him discovering his heritage and a lost Spanish treasure. Immediately, gamers will notice the breathtaking rural environments that range from green pastures to mountain landscapes modeled after the Badlands. This alone makes the game worth playing.
Gamers will also immediately notice the similarities to Grand Theft Auto games. Playing as Colton, gamers can choose to pursue the narrative or participate in a number of side missions such as cattle ranching and bounty hunting. While these sound like exciting activities, they involve little more than riding circles around cattle or shooting similarly looking bad guys. Of course, as in Grand Theft Auto games, one can always choose to mount a wandering horse. While this may be exciting for horse enthusiasts who can tell the differences between breeds of horses, I was quickly bored with my selections. Whereas in Grand Theft Auto games a player might crash an unwanted car, in GUN players can choose to dismount and shoot their horse or ride the horse so hard that it dies.
To be sure GUN does a lot of things right. The graphics are top notch, the orchestral soundtrack complements the gameplay, the story is entertaining, and the non-player-controlled characters are often overheard saying or singing interesting things. There are very few games set in the late twentieth-century American west, and this makes the gameplay fresh at times. Yet, the game exhibits a profound shallowness when compared to games like Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. With only two towns separated by a short stretch of wild, there is really not a lot for gamers to explore. If played on easy mode, the narrative can be revealed in approximately 10 hours. Though there is some variety, a horse is a horse, a bad guy is a bad guy, and a gun is a gun. With much more content development, the game would be awesome. As is, I have given GUN a rating of 3.5 out of 5. It is worth renting and playing but not worth buying.
GUN is avaialable from Activision.
Nate Garrelts is Assistant Professor of English at Saginaw Valley State University in Michigan.