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GUN (GC)
Pub: Activision/Dev: Neversoft
Rating: M/Players: 1
W- GUN is a game that had a lot of potential.  However, GUN is the prime example of what can happen to a game when it's rushed out for system launches and the holiday rush.  Despite solid production values, gameplay and atmosphere, GUN feels unfinished, ultimately suffering from it in several key areas.
First off, the whole experience feels...incomplete.  The main story can be nicely tied up in under 10 hours.  And while the gameplay and storyline are solid enough for that short ride, there's not much reason to play it after conquering it.  You can unlock some nifty weapons and an armored horse after beating it 100%, but there's no incentive to do anything else except ride around, shoot up bandits or townsfolk, and dream that Neversoft had time to add in some more random missions to reward dedicated gamers.  Alas, there's no secret missions to unlock, no more criminals to nab, not even the casinos offer up any new chances to play poker.  They did not add in anything else after beating the game, and you'll be either shelving it or selling it when you finish it up.  There's almost no reason to play it afterwards unless you want to tackle a harder difficulty or replay the whole thing.
Next, Neversoft tried to spice up the gameplay a little by giving Colton the ability to level up by beating side missions.  However, this "RPG-light" level-up system feels horribly tacked on (I noticed very little difference in his abilities outside of the length of Colton's Quickdraw function), but it does offer a tiny reason for beating all of those side missions.  This could have been improved upon immensely, but Neversoft obviously didn't get the time they needed to implement it better.
Going along with that, this is a sandbox game with very little sand.  In contrast, Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction offered tons of fun and replay by keeping enemies around, letting Hulk screw around with the environment, and creating sheer chaos in the sandbox it offers without any need for playing missions or side missions (and even those are very fun).  GUN fails to do that.  You can shoot up the innocents.  Do it enough and a posse is formed to kill you.  Beat them and the process repeats over and over again.  Random bandit encounters are possible, but you don't get anything out of it and they're mind numbingly easy to win.  This tragic lack of sand punishes GUN when it shouldn't have.
Next up, the final boss fight is frustrating.  All of the other boss fights are pretty fun to take on, but the General relies on a gimmick that the game doesn't properly prepare you for.  You have to master the dynamite bow's arc and timing to hurt him via exploding geysers, and he has to be standing right on top of them to take any damage.  It almost feels like blind luck instead of skill, which is not what final boss fights should feel like.  The second part isn't so bad, but oy.  My wife and I both agree that this difficulty was unnecessary.
Lastly, the game fails to impress graphically on the GC.  Even the Xbox 360 port is unimpressive, since Neversoft bumped up the quality on only some textures and left others current-gen, making it look sloppy and considerably worse than the GC/Xbox/PS2 versions.  I have every single reason to believe that GUN was rushed out to meet the 360 launch, and it falters for it.  The game looks remarkably like a Tony Hawk title set in the 1800's.  The animation is pretty good, but the character models aren't.  Women's faces looked rather...manish, outside of Jenny and the axed woman on the boat, due to the lack of detail.  Compared to multiplatform graphical gems like Beyond Good & Evil or Timesplitters Future Perfect, Neversoft simply failed to optimize the game for the system and in turn fails to stun anyone with the overall look of GUN.
Now, this is not to say GUN isn't a good game.  It is.  But it could have been bloody brilliant.  The gameplay is mostly solid, with plenty of interesting weapons to fight off enemies, excellent horse controls, a mostly adequate aiming system and the fun Quickdraw which slows down the game for Colton to tear apart his enemies in slow-motion.  The voicework is amazingly well presented, with an excellent cast that delivers some of the best dialogue I've heard in gaming yet.  The game's story is condensed into a short little affair, but is also pretty intriguing and keeps you going.  The gore and blood is over the top, but fits in with the gritty atmosphere GUN offers.  And the ride is pleasantly fun while it lasts.  It just could have been so much more if the game hadn't been rushed.  You'll probably like GUN while playing it, but don't expect to saddle up again once you ride off into the credits.