The 18 game titles that accompanied the initial launch of the Xbox 360 in late 2005 are most obviously identified by a single constant: Most are pretty mediocre. With a few exceptions--most notably Call of Duty 2 (see my review and multiplayer review) and Kameo (see my review) most of those games are just not that exceptional. GUN is a typical example: Like Peter Jackson's King Kong (see my review), GUN is a perfectly serviceable single player game, with a decent plot and fairly engaging environments. GUN actually exceeds King Kong in a few ways, mostly thanks to optional side quests that can expand the game play time for those who are interested. But when one thinks about putting down $59 of their own money, GUN isn't a title that springs immediately to mind. And it shouldn't be: It's not horrible, but it's not great either.
It starts off with a good premise. In GUN, you play Colton White, a cowboy in 1880's Montana who discovers his true identity while avenging the death of his adopted father, Ned. As a Wild West tale, GUN is successful: The environment and characters seem realistic and the plot is good enough to drive a Clint Eastwood movie. Indeed, GUN's story was actually written by Hollywood heavyweights, and some famous actors, including Kris Kristofferson, Ron Pearlman, and Lance Henriksen voice in-game characters.
GUN opens with Colton and Ned, the latter of whom is in full father mode, giving you a reason to learn how to play the game. After Ned walks you through a number of skills you'll need in the game, the real story starts and you're involved in a riverboat shootout. Ned is killed, but before he dies, he reveals that he's not your real father, and that an artifact he was guarding on the boat is a clue to your real identity. With that, you're off on a Wild West adventure, starting in Dodge City, naturally.
As the GUN plot unfolds, you'll traverse through a number of missions, which seems linear at first. But you'll eventually be provided with a number of side-missions, which opens up the virtual world a bit, if artificially. The problem with these side-missions is that they're largely pointless. You ride a horse for what seems like miles into the middle of nowhere, capture a wanted man, and then ride your horse all the way back. The riding happens in real time and is monotonous, but the actual sequence in which you confront, fight, and then capture the hoodlum takes almost no time at all. Yawn.
As an action game, GUN offers lots of horse riding and shooting with a variety of guns. The game is played in a third person view, similar to that employed by the Lara Croft "Tomb Raider" games. A "quick draw" mode rips off "bullet time" from The Matrix movies, giving you the ability to move in slow motion briefly while targeting enemies. After a while, you quickly begin to realize that the fight scenes are all too easy to accomplish and it just seems less interesting than it should be, given the great plot and setting.
I'm told that GUN was created by the same team responsible for the Grand Theft Auto games, but GUN isn't as riveting as those titles and doesn't provide the same free-wheeling independence of movement. You shoot bad guys, you shoot Indians. You then curiously help Indians. You're a sheriff, briefly. Whatever.
Stupidly, there's no multiplayer option at all, an option that should be available to any action game on the 360. Given how much fun Call of Duty 2's multiplayer version is, I have to think that GUN's creators could have done the same for the Wild West as Call of Duty 2 did for World War II. This is truly a missed opportunity.
Graphics and sound
For an Xbox 360 game, GUN is pretty disappointing graphically. It doesn't offer the high-resolution attention to detail you'd expect from a 360 game and looks instead like something you'd see on the original Xbox. After a while, the Wild West settings all start to blend together. The sound, on the other hand, is quite good. The music is appropriate to the genre, and the in-game sounds are all excellent. The voice-over acting is excellent, which isn't surprising given the actors involved.
As noted previously GUN isn't horrible, but I can't really recommend buying this title unless you're an absolute sucker for the Wild West. The story is great, but the graphics and gameplay are sub-par and repetitive. My son and I tried repeatedly to get into GUN but kept giving up, and my suspicion is that most people will simply be bored by it. Even Perfect Dark Zero (see my review), which isn't a great game by any stretch of the imagination, was good enough to convince us to finish it. GUN doesn't provide even that level of attraction. My advice is simple: Skip it and move up to one of the better second generation Xbox 360 titles, such as Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter or Far Cry Instincts Predator, both of which I'll be reviewing soon.