Friday, November 18, 2005

Here Today, Gun Tomorrow


Far too short. The gameplay is narrow, but with a wide view.

When you make a large world designed with freedom and choices in mind, it's important to remember to fill that world with lots of interesting activities that actually contribute to freedom and choices.

It doesn't take very long, after you've learned the ropes, to find that there is simply nothing at all to do other than a few repetitive sidequests or advancing the plot.

There's no dynamic to the game, no feeling of making an impact outside of the fixed storyline. The cities feel like facades from a spaghetti western. The countryside has tumbleweeds, grazing buffalo and not much else.

The weapon mechanics are slick and friendly, but there are few situations where weapon choice takes on any significance. It's usually enough to plug away with whatever you've got, every now and then dropping into the (apparently now a requirement in every game*) slo-mo system to plug the bad guys with your pistol(s).

You can scalp enemies. This serves no purpose whatsoever and is not tracked. Do it often if you like repeating activities that have no impact on the game.

The story itself is engaging, but it zips along. There's never a moment where a segment doesn't feel rushed. The characters don't get fully fleshed out and they aren't expressive enough to develop much attachment to them. The voice acting is great, though, and helps a bit, but the body language is a canned loop that is absolutely laughable.**

I feel this game should come with a label: Warning! This game contains a cheap end-boss fight that will be so stupidly frustrating that not beating it won't impact your self-esteem.

Here are a few things I would have liked to see:
--An American Bison stampede
--A herd of Mustangs
--A detailed duel system
--The ability to swim
--A barfight - which would also mean hands & fists combat
--Buildings that had some purpose
--Stagecoach/train robberies
--Cattle rustling
--Claim jumping!

*As dictacted by the Bullet Time Act of 2005

**Why, oh why does everyone do that stupid fucking shrug when they've finished talking? Way to recycle the 'lame skater punk' mocap data, Neversoft.

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