You’d think that the stories of the cowboys of the Wild West would prove fertile territory for shooting games but there have been remarkably few in the history of computer gaming. Now, like buses, they’re starting to arrive together. Last year we had the impressive first-person shooter Call of Juarez follow-up, Bound in Blood and now here’s the multiplayer online High Noon in the shape of Lead & Gold: Gangs of the Wild West.
Once you’ve logged on you can choose between four character classes, each of which has their own special abilities and weapons. The Gunslinger carries a heavy revolver which he can rapidly fire in close combat; the Trapper uses a long range hunting rifle and sets bear traps for the unwary; the Deputy has a repeater rifle and the ability to tag enemies for your team mates to shoot; while the no-nonsense Blaster blows everyone away with a double barrel shotgun and sticks of dynamite.
As well as these individual weapon skills, each class has a unique ‘synergy’ that will enhance the abilities of your colleagues. The Blaster can improve defence protection, while the Deputy amplifies damage, the Gunslinger increases accuracy and the Trapper ensures more critical hits. Each of these synergies operates within a limited range, so you’re encouraged to keep as close together as possible during gameplay.
When you examine the game modes, the need for close cooperation becomes even more evident. As well as the basic Shootout (i.e. Deathmatch), Conquest mode involves taking over the enemy’s territory zone by zone and staying there until your flag is raised. In Powder Keg, one team has to gather the explosive kegs and blow up targets while the other side tries to blow you up; the fun part is that you can’t shoot while you’re transporting the kegs, so you have to rely on your compadres for protection.
Gold Fever is a rush to collect as many sacks of gold before you’re cut down and the aim of Robbery is to steal three bags of gold from a bank vault while it’s being defended. Finally, Greed is a contest to see how many gold sacks each team can grab from the spawn points.
Unlike Call of Juarez, Lead & Gold is a third person shooter and we found the mouse unduly sensitive when trying to line up shots on the enemy. This is compounded by the fact that you can be targeted by multiple foes on all sides at once and you will need to make use of the spawn flag that can be constantly relocated to get yourself out of trouble. One unusual variation on the ‘Team Fortress’ model is that once you or your foe has been downed, either of you can still point and shoot until you receive the killing shot, which makes for more unpredictability.
Experience points are earned by killing foes, reaching targets and gathering items and much of the scenery is destructible. Locations are ideal for this kind of combat, ranging from dusty towns to ranches, mines, gulches and even an abandoned fort. The graphics look like a slightly cartoony version of a Clint Eastwood movie (the developers are big fans, apparently) and suit the mood completely, though maybe if there’s a sequel it would be nice to see some Sioux Indians and a wagon train in a tight circle…
Company: Paradox Interactive