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Game Over Online ~ Gunman Chronicles

GameOver Game Reviews - Gunman Chronicles (c) Sierra Studios, Reviewed by - Adam Fleet

Game & Publisher Gunman Chronicles (c) Sierra Studios
System Requirements Windows, Pentium 233, 32MB Ram, 400MB HDD, 4x CD-ROM
Overall Rating 79%
Date Published Sunday, January 7th, 2001 at 08:10 AM

Divider Left By: Adam Fleet Divider Right

It's been a few years since Half-Life gave the First Person Shooter genre a much-needed kick in the pants. Since then multiplayer games like Unreal Tournament and Quake III have taken over the market, with the a lot of help from Half-Life mod turned retail product, Counter-Strike. But the single player FPS is far from dead. No One Lives Forever recently earned our Gamers Choice Award with its '60 style, wry humor, and deeply enjoyable gameplay. And fast on its heels is Gunman Chronicles, another Half-Life mod come of age, this one with an emphasis on the single player experience. Developed by Rewolf Software and scooped up by Sierra for commercial release, Gunman is a futuristic alien-blasting tale with Wild West sensibilities. Though it lacks much of the innovation and polish of its sire, Gunman Chronicles makes good enough use of the slightly aged Half-Life tech and is a pretty fair showing for Rewolf's début.

The story starts out five years after humanity's first encounter with a race of hostile aliens known as the Xenomes. You are Major Archer of the Gunman, a force that passes for the law in the backwater country that is the Western Spiral of the Galaxy. For five years the Gunman have fought against wave after wave of Xenomes, each one meaner and nastier than the last. Hints of genetic manipulation lead to the speculation that someone or something may be behind the Xenomes, intentionally breading an army of aliens. Three guesses who gets to head the team sent to investigate, and the first two don't count. Grab your trusty laser pistol and strap on your combat armor, it's time for you to get to the bottom of this mystery once and for all. To do it you'll have to head back to the place you first encountered the Xenomes, a planet where you gave the order to pull out and leave your commanding officer for dead. Put aside those thoughts, there's no time to be troubled by the past, because if you don't get the job done this time, there might not be a future.

What you get with Gunman from the gameplay end of things is a pretty standard First Person Shooter. The game starts with a quick tutorial, put together in a slightly more interesting way by having you run around a space station during an accident to learn the control scheme. There's nothing here that veterans of FPS will have any trouble with. Following that is a trip to the firing range where players will learn about Gunman's configurable weapons. Once you've got a little target practice under your belt, it's time for action. There are four different worlds that you'll fight your way through, each with different styles. The first world is covered with jungles and Mayan-looking temples, while a later world's grand canyons will make you feel like you're back outside the Black Mesa compound. The game has something of a Half-Life feel throughout, from the fairly linear areas and minor puzzle solving, to the outlaw gunmen who roll around for cover. Though Rewolf was definitely paying attention to Valve's mood setting tricks, they don't quite have the flair for it. It is possible to overuse the exploding console, and I had had about enough of screen shaking earthquakes and explosions by the end of the game.

One of Gunman's best features, and likely the one it will be best remembered for, is it's configurable weapons. We're all accustomed to the primary and secondary weapon modes that many shooters feature these days, but Gunman takes it one step further. All of the weapons, with the exception of the knife you start the game with, are configurable in a number of different ways. Right clicking brings up an easy to navigate menu that lets you customize your weapons on the fly. The shotgun, for example, can be set to fire from one to four shells at a time, and has three different spread settings. There is an energy weapon called the Polaris Blade that can be set to various different ranges and powers, the consequences being variable accuracy and a nasty habit of overheating at higher power settings, damaging you with a vicious shock. All in all, it's a great idea, but the execution could have been better. The Mecha Gun, their version of your basic machine gun, can only be set to fire slightly faster, and the Polaris Blade has a pause before it works which makes it just plain hard to use. Don't be too surprised to see someone else run with this idea of customizable weapons and do a better job, but remember that Gunman was the first.

Polish is a word that I find myself using a lot to describe what's wrong with some games, and Gunman suffers from a large dose of lack of polish. It starts with the graphics and sounds, and seeps down into the gameplay. Part of the problem with the way the game looks is the Quake based Half-Life engine just plain showing its age. But this goes a step beyond just that. Some of the textures are grainy, and not all that attractive to look at in places. The skins for the gunmen and outlaws are pretty good, and the robots were nicely done, but the Xenomes themselves are less alien and frightening than they are just weird and strangely boring. The sounds in the game are fuzzy at times, and the background sounds used in an attempt to add that feel to the setting become repetitive and annoying after just a short sitting. Voice acting, as usual, is hit and miss. The music, what there was of it, picked up at supposedly dramatic moments, but was mostly a non-factor.

But still, when all is said and done, Gunman Chronicles is a pretty fun ride. At times it really does feel like a mod, and it may have been a stretch to release this as a commercial product, but it's not a bad bet for fans of FPS. Though there is a multiplayer mode, it's only deathmatch (until someone decides to tack on something else as a mod or later release) and even that isn't really that well put together. There are only a few maps, and while playing with the customizable weapons is fun, the overall balance isn't that good. If you've been playing Q3, UT, or CS, you're not going to be terribly amused by Gunman's deathmatch. This is first and foremost a single player game. And at a reasonably low price ($20 after a $10 mail in rebate), it's probably a worthy go for those looking for another shooter to spend some time on. If you only buy one action game this month, check out No One Lives Forever. But if you're a fan of this type of game, Gunman Chronicles is worth looking at. It has some great ideas and some genuinely fun moments if you can get past its unpolished aspects.

[ 39/50 ] Gameplay
[ 07/10 ] Graphics
[ 07/10 ] Sound
[ 08/10 ] Multiplayer
[ 09/10 ] Controls
[ 09/10 ] Bugs


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