The Good, The Bad, and The N00b.
Last week's GDC had a good range of “it” spots. I'm not so much talking about the nighttime, extra-curricular Parties (although I am thinking fondly and blearily of you, Disney, Square Enix, Activision, Nordic, Nyko, and, I'm pretty sure, Illfonic), but rather of the numerous modest, daylight-hour demo-dens that formed a sort of diffuse, working-class hub of diligent editorial activity. These were small, unassuming venues that you'd only visit twice if the showcased titles were particularly interesting.
[image1]Publisher Paradox Interactive chose to hunker down a few blocks off the main GDC show-floor vortex (making camp in what looked like a high-endish, rented corporate Union Square apartment space), with but a handful of reps, a modest-but-vigorous bar and a mere three game titles—thanks to the latter of which the people at Paradox basically couldn't get rid of us for the better part of three days. The first of Paradox Interactive's attention-getters had the deceptively-modest title of Lead and Gold—and it's looking like one of the most promising things to happen to Western-flavored video gaming since Activision's Gun.
Picture a very graphically-clean, responsive, third-person, Western-flavored, tactical action-combat game—a sort of Posses of War, if you like—and you won't be far off the mark. Lead and Gold is a follow-cam game that puts players in the cowboy boots of four Old West character-classes, in some of the expected, familiar game-mode types, plus one or two quirky ones. While there will be a stripped-down single-player component to Lead and Gold (for the purposes of tutorial), the game's primary focus is on team-based multiplayer combat.
Our first exposure was as straightforward as it gets: A team deathmatch in the very few 'streets' of a spare frontier town right out of a spaghetti western. It seemed logical, then, to start out with the game's Gunslinger class. He's the only character that doesn't have some kind of secondary weapon—but he does have the singular (and to a serious Sergio Leone fan, rather gratifying) ability to 'fan' his revolver via the controllers' shoulder bumper, increasing the rate of fire at the cost of subsequent accuracy. At close to medium range, the Gunslinger's high-caliber fanning technique can be devastating. (In your copious, Dorito-munching, couch-denting spare gamer time, make sure you at some point watch the classic movie A Fistful of Dollars, where one memorable scene offers an epic, one-on-five example of the technique).
[image2]The next class, the Deputy, has a doofier-looking hat, to be sure, but just as useful abilities. His repeater carbine is certainly effective at longer distances. He also has the marked ability to, uhrm, 'mark' members of the opposing team—meaning that, in a game lacking (obviously and logically) a traditional radar function, his team members will be still able to track the location of enemies in a more traditional sense (i.e., through walls, at least within the range of his influence). It can't be overstated what a benefit this is in a game that is otherwise deadpan-faithful to the old-West notion of not knowing where the other guys are until they emerge from behind the General Store and start unloading on you. The burly, shotgun-toting, mining-expert Blaster, meanwhile, has a likewise passive effect on nearby teammates which automatically boosts their resistance to damage in combat.
Probably the biggest bane to my existence during my stay(s) at the Paradox compound was the Trapper, a female take on the classic 'frontier hunter'. For starters, her passive ability allows nearby allies to enjoy an increased likelihood of striking gunfire 'critical hits', and she can snipe from long range, too. For even more annoying seconders, she has the ability to lay clamp-jaw bear traps on the playfield. It is very difficult to spot the goddamned things in the first place, until they crunch tight on your leg just as you're running from a pack of dudes gunning for you; and in the second place, they hold the victim in place for an excruciating amount of time. I don't even want to think of how many times I managed to broadcast my (theretofore otherwise-unknown) location and condition clearly to all other players in the room just by bellowing “shit!” each and every time I managed to plant my virtual foot in one of these fucking things. I say all this with love. Dark, seething, tainted love.
In addition to the obvious, obligatory game-modes such as Deathmatch and Domination (territory), Lead and Gold offers a gold-thieving mode which requires players to first cart explosive kegs to blow doors and safes, while the opposing team defends said gold. Of course, you're little more than a lumbering, explosive, waddling duck while you're hauling around those explosive kegs, and any gun-hand laying for you is just waiting for a chance to light up that explosive payload in your hands. But it can also be used offensively by the savvy gun-hand, by hurling the thing away and cranking off a well-place shot or two. The game offers a similar, humorous style-point opportunity in the form of letting players shoot the hats off of their opponents (do this to a badass hat-wearing Gunslinger, and the damage-reflecting scheme reveals that he is, in fact, balding---a nice touch).
[image3]The environments we've seen thus far include the aforementioned Frontier Town, complete with lots of X-Y-Z access to flights of stairs, balconies, alleyways, rooftops, saloon interiors, a leaning-tombstone graveyard, and other shooting vantage-points, as well as a wide dusty main street suitable for proper gunfights; a sprawling mining encampment with many indoor/subterranean locales; and more remote, natural locales, at varying times of day, all with different degrees of occasionally-destructible terrain features. The clean, crisp environs and the uncluttered nature of the game engine seem to cry out for additional DLC content, and we're looking forward to seeing what this new franchise might have in store.
Lead and Gold: Gangs of the Old West has a lean, mean swagger into the still-underrepresented territory of classic, Western Frontier gaming, and we're eagerly anticipating its ride into town. Any self-respecting gunslinger-wannabe gamer we see out there better be keeping an eye out for this promising six-shooter multiplay fest: You better treat the genre right, and check back with Game Revolution for our full review—or we'll come back and kill every one of you sons of bitches.