Put down the gun, man.
The galaxy shudders as extraterrestrial insect hordes pour over its planets, devouring everything with their pitiless mandibles, reducing man, woman, child and politician to the same pile of indistinguishable toes, teeth and viscera. As if the bugs weren't destructive enough, an evil man attempts to harness their power in his quest for domination and vengeance, turning them upon hapless and helpless civilians as a display of his power and control. Sounds awful.
Sounds like a cool videogame, though. In fact, it sounds a lot like Starship Troopers...but it isn't. It's Sierra Studios' new first-person shooter, Gunman Chronicles. If the title doesn't tip you off, the storyline will.
You are a gunman in an outfit of men called Gunmen (hey, how about that!). You and your fellow Gunmen go to a planet to fight these bugs, and one of 'em eats your general. However, the bugs are somehow made entirely of silicon and can't digest anything! So then why do they eat, you ask? That's a mighty fine question.
Somehow, your general claws his way out of the subterranean worm. I guess the worm must have been dying on the surface of the planet as a result of eating something and lacking a digestive tract (at least this part makes sense). When the general gets out, boy is he mad! To think that he gave his life to save his men, and they all went and survived!
After the general escapes the worm, he joins up with some random rebel bad guys with no cause or organization name who are all dressed like Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders. You and your guys are dressed like Confederates while the general is dressed like a Union officer. That makes sense. The general and his guys are basically out to kill you and all the other Gunmen, and then let the worms kill themselves by eating everyone else.
Dumb, dumb, dumb.
Gunman is on the Half-Life engine, and the graphics and sound are standard Half-Life in quality. But the ridiculous premise lacks the fear and loathing lurking in Half-Life's crevices and themes.
You are introduced to your men after a long tram ride through a space station a la Half-Life. Now, at this point in Half-Life the train-ride portion of the game stops and the game part begins. However, with GC the train part never seems to end. In fact, the closest thing I can compare GC to is taking a railgun with you on Disneyland's Jungleboat Ride and killing everything that has glowing eyes or a vacuum cleaner heart.
As a result, GC's levels are bland and repetitive. The enemies are just like Half-Life enemies, but not quite as smart and not nearly as menacing. Furthermore, the enemies in Half-Life had dark hallways to lurk in and box-filled warehouses from which to ambush the uniquely nerdy, sci-fi Gordon Freeman. GC's levels include open canyons, generic corridors, and very few ambushes.
Not only do the levels lack diversity, but they also lack atmosphere. Half-Life had a creepy, paranoid science fiction feel with its dank sewers and blood splattered offices, while GC has a silly, cartoony look and does nothing unique with its level settings. For example, you'd think in a Wild West themed level there'd be some kind of show-down, stand-off or shoot-out...and you'd be terribly mistaken. Instead, there's a tank.
The tank is invincible and kills everything. It's also identical to the Styrachosaurus from Turok 2. Playing in the tank makes the boring on-foot missions feel as fast paced and as action packed as a mosh pit at a Cannibal Corpse concert. It's not that the tank isn't cool; mowing down units with Vulcan fire and watching them explore into blood and pieces certainly has its merits. However, the tank could have been fast and vulnerable and more richly armed. Instead, it's like a slowed down God mode.
The carnage continues when you take a gander at the burly weaponry. GC boasts weapon customization, which allows for some of the most powerful weapons ever seen in a first-person shooter. Basically, every gun has a slew of options, and in almost every case one combination of options makes for a kick ass gun. For example: change the shotgun's spread to rifle (which prevents the pellets from spreading out when they leave the gun) and it's shell use to 4 and you've basically got a gun that accurately shoots a huge, fast bullet.
GC's multiplayer is plain with only deathmatch and team deathmatch scenarios. You'd think a game that started as a mod would have better multi-player options and possibilities, but no, nothing makes these deathmatches different from any other.
While Gunman Chronicles looks a lot like Half-Life, it lacks the personality and creativity that made Half-Life such an epic game. Wheras Half-Life had an identity and a unity that kept the player's head in the game, Gunman Chronicles is too disjointed, and ultimately boring.