Version tested PSP
Yep, we're home on the range again, back in the big country, checking out all the pretty horses, and hellbent on restoring law and order to Dodge City in old California (sort of), thanks to Activision's decision to enlist the help of a hired hand to convert last year's western, GUN, for Sony's little big man, the PSP. British developer, Rebellion (not a bad company) has shown true grit in porting the title, with some technically impressive results, but unfortunately while the game's got a fair bit of good, it's also got it's share of the bad and the ugly too. How's this concept intro working out for you by the way? I'll level with you: it's not going as well as I intended. Am I (un)forgiven?
Maybe I'd be better off cribbing (again) from the original Eurogamer review of the home console versions. As more or less a direct port of those games, GUN Showdown is still "set in the harsh, unforgiving, lawless American West in 1890, a place where you trust no-one. A place where the preacher's a murderer, the lawmen are more corrupt than the criminals and even the women have the capacity to grow really unnerving facial hair on demand. Against that rather unsavoury backdrop, you play Colton White, on a mission for truth and revenge; that is, the truth of who your 'father' really is, and vengeance for his untimely death."
And as more or less a direct port of previous versions of the game, it's also still a third-person shooter that benefits from a compelling storyline enlivened by reasonably deep characterisation and decent voice acting. In fact, Rebellion's achievement in getting the game to look pretty much as polished on the PSP as it was on the PlayStation and Xbox is a fairly impressive one. First impressions are that in terms of draw distance, texture quality, cut-scene polish, and all that sort of stuff, the PSP version of the game absolutely holds its own against its big brothers.
There's one crucial flaw that becomes apparent very early on, though: The PSP only has one analog stick. Rebellion's solution is to map the first/third-person-standard dual-stick control scheme to the PSP by using its face buttons in place of the right analog stick. Thus the analog stick controls movement, and the face buttons control aiming, or vice versa. It's not a satisfactory solution. It's not a total disaster, in the single-player mode, because the slo-mo Quickdraw mode is, as in the console versions of the game, reasonably forgiving. But it does make the simple act of navigating the game world much more complicated than it needs to be, which is compounded by the way the PSP's twitchy nipple also complicates the simple act of riding a horse (which ramps up the difficulty of the Pony Express side missions).
Equally irritating is that as the game goes on an increasing number of minor technical glitches begin to emerge. Enemies slide around without animations, or you'll occasionally be stopped in your tracks by invisible obstacles, for example, and towns are almost comically sparsely populated. That said, it's probably not such a big deal that some of the console content has been cut (such as an interactive cannon sequence during the steamboat massacre at the start of the game, which is slightly annoying; or the removal of scalping, which isn't annoying at all).
It's more of a big deal that the developer has done little to remedy the chief criticism of its console counterparts - it's still very brief. Rebellion has gone to the effort of adding various bits of new content, but none of it really stands up. The most obvious new addition is a series of 'Quickplay games' - five-minute mini-games that all consist of shooting waves of targets to achieve a high score. There are also a few new missions and weapons that appear in the main game, and a version of Texas Hold 'Em that can be played from the main menu. And finally it's possible to play multiplayer modes either wirelessly against other players, or against AI-controlled bots if you've got no PSP-owning mates.
But playing multiplayer games against bots is no fun because there's no recourse to quickdraw to remedy the inadequacy of the control scheme. Indeed, all of the extra content is undermined by the limitations of the platform, and in any case it's not really sufficient to keep you entertained for more than a few minutes. Indeed, because of the limitations it's hard to imagine that a PSP port of GUN could have been any better, even if Activision had forked out for a few dollars more (sorry, I'll stop now). What that means is: it's GUN on a handheld platform, but it doesn't work quite as well as it does on consoles.
5 / 10