Last year Activision and Neversoft brought us GUN, an action packed Wild West third-person shooter. While it wasn't all it was made out to be, it delivered a solid slice of entertainment for its rather short duration. Now PSP owners can get a piece of the action, in a tweaked version of the game. While developers Rebellion have stayed pretty true to the original game, a few changes have been made and a number of PSP only features have been included to bolster the package.
You play Colton White, a young man with a talent for shooting. One day, after hunting with your 'father' Ned (who's played rather excellently by Kris Kristofferson), you board a steamboat to do some businesses. You gain possession of an important artefact and the boat is attacked, forcing you to jump ship, with Ned accepting his fate on the doomed steamboat.
So, this sets up the game's story, and gives you a reason to ride to Dodge City and start on your journey, with this mysterious artefact holding a secret that Ned wanted you to discover. As you might have assumed from the game's title, there's a lot of shooting in GUN. While the console versions of the game featured some pretty excessive auto-aiming, you'll be thankful of it on the PSP, as the controls are something you'll have to get used to in order to enjoy yourself.
By default you move Colt around with the analogue stick and control his aim by using the four face buttons on the right of the PSP. As you can imagine, this takes a fair bit of getting used to, and it's possible that you'll never quite get the hang of it. You can opt to switch things around, with movement on the right face buttons and aiming on the analogue stick, but this causes just as many problems. The auto-aiming is incredibly forgiving, so if you can get your head around the controls you shouldn't have too many problems.
Colton can use what is called 'Quick-draw'; this is GUN's version of 'bullet time' and it gives you a huge advantage during shootouts. Using the slightly zoomed view you can take out enemies with ease and quickly switch targets. You could get by without using it, but it makes the trickier confrontations that little bit easier to handle.
Combat in the game is exceedingly brutal, with decapitations and general nastiness. It certainly earns its 18-certificate and isn't for the fainthearted. Some moments even go beyond what you might consider decent taste, but the game's over-the-top take on the Wild West just about makes it bearable.
To get from area to area (the game gives the illusion that it's free-roaming, but is in actual fact pretty linear) you can walk, but it's much easier to mount a horse and gallop off. Horse riding is actually far trickier in the PSP game, once again due to the control limitations of the system. Riding was one of the best aspects to the original game, but here it feels a little clumsy, despite the developer's best efforts.
The biggest problem with the original GUN is its length, or lack of it. The main game is just too short. If you ignore side missions the story can be played through in less than seven hours, and the only real reason to play through the extra missions is to increase Colton's stats, but this is only really essential if playing the game on its hardest difficulty. In an attempt to give PSP owners a little more to do Rebellion has added a number of new missions, but other sections have been cut out, so in the end you're left with another fairly short game.
If you grow tired of the main story you can jump into one of six quick play modes. These are essentially all target shooting mini-games, with you shooting wave after wave of 'enemies', but they're good to pass some time. At first you're limited to quail shooting, but complete this and you'll unlock the next, and so on. Also included is a basic version of Texas Hold 'Em, should you ever get the itch for some cards. If you've got some mates this is playable with up to six players wirelessly, as are Deathmatch and 'Golden Cross', a simple game where you must hold onto the cross for as long as possible. These multiplayer games are a nice addition, but will only be of use to players who have friends with the game as there's no online support.
Considering the size of the environment and the limitations of the PSP, GUN is a nice looking game. Mountains can be seen in the distance and the land stretches for as far as the eye can see, but there are clear signs that the PSP isn't quite up to the task. Textures are rather rough, enemy models could do with a few more polygons and the frame rate bogs down quite regularly.
Audio is exceptional, with superb voice work and a great score. As already mentioned, the game features the voice of Kris Kristofferson, but Thomas Jane (The Punisher), Lance Henriksen (Bishop from Aliens), Ron Perlman (Hellboy), Brad Dourif (Deadwood) and others all put in strong performances. It's just a shame that you never really get to know any of the characters in any detail, with the game moving along at such a breakneck pace that it's all over in a few short play sessions.
There's no denying that GUN Showdown is an entertaining game, but you'll have to overcome the incredibly awkward controls in order to get any enjoyment from it. GUN didn't quite live up to the hype last year, and the PSP version doesn't really add much to the original, bar some mini-games and multiplayer modes that are fated to never be used. It's worth a look, but better played on a home console.