One of the many sad things about being a grown-up is that it's no longer acceptable to run around school playgrounds with a stick in your hand. You still can, obviously - but if you do the police will show up and ask you to "help with their enquiries"…. enquires that will probably lead to several weeks in the local hospital. I don't know about you, but to me that sounds like a heavy price to pay for a make-believe game of cowboys and Indians.
Under the circumstances, you'd most likely be better off playing Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood- a Western-themed FPS from Techland and Ubisoft. We've already had a fair bit of time spinning our pistols in the single-player campaign, but last week I saddled up to check out the multiplayer side of things in the violent and untamed scrublands of The Wild West (or more accurately, a swanky bar in London's Covent Garden).
While Bound in Blood's single-player game sees you following the turbulent exploits of Ray and Thomas McCall, multiplayer lets you pick a character class from a rather generous range of 13 gunslingers (although eight of these will need to be unlocked first). Initially it may seem a little hard to appreciate the differences between these load-outs, since there's far less variation than in something like Team Fortress 2. With the exception of the Native American (who gets a bow), everyone is armed with some combination or variation of pistols, shotguns and rifles. "Okay," you’re thinking. "Guns are guns. You point the long end at someone and then you pull the trigger. How much variety can there be?"
As it happens, the somewhat contradictory answer is that there is lots of variety as a result of minor alterations. You see, there's a curiously small-scale focus to the action in BIB: this being the Old West, you won't find people running around with 50-round clips jammed into their laser-sighted machine guns. Most weapons will be able to fire no more than six shots before they need a reload, so you've got to make every bullet count. Under these circumstances, everything is centred on the nature of your gun - how it fires, and what it fires.
This situation became apparent within seconds of starting a free-for-all deathmatch - or a Shootout, as it's called here. Each of the thirteen classes is armed with one or two weapons and has a different running speed and health rating. Since most classes will take a dirt nap after one or two hits, and since your rate of fire is limited, it's essential to find a load-out that you're comfortable with. The Miner gets a shotgun and several sticks of dynamite to lob around (the nearest thing you'll get to a grenade), while The Spy is extremely quick but is only armed with a puny little Ladies Gun. The Hombre, meanwhile, is a badass Mexican who gets to run around with a sawn-off shotgun in each hand. This means he can fire up to four times between reloads, but his firepower is only effective from a relatively close range. To use him properly you'll have to use his speed to dash up to your enemies and unload in their face.