By Marty Mulrooney
Lead And Gold: Gangs of the Wild West is a new third person online western themed shooter. Developed by Fatshark, it was recently released on PC and PlayStation 3, with an Xbox 360 version still in the pipeline as well. So, how much bang for your buck will you get when playing the PlayStation 3 version?
Plenty actually! The first thing that will strike you about this game are the visuals, which are strongly reminiscent of Team Fortress 2 (even down to the red/blue character variations). There is a similar chunky, cartoony style to the proceedings, which admittedly works very well; based on looks alone, there is very little indication that this is a smaller budget release at all.
Coupled with strong sound design, Lead And Gold offers a strong experience from the moment you pick up the controller. Sure, there is limited use of advanced graphical effects, and the engine isn’t revolutionary by any means, but it certainly does its job and does it well. Sadly, the western music can sound a little generic and may grate over time as it repeats throughout, but it isn’t awful and is balanced out by the excellent sound effects. Firefights sound satisfyingly authentic, with bullets constantly whizzing past and pinging off various surfaces.
As this game is strictly online only, there is no single player mode per se. However, there is the option of playing a tutorial which places you on the map against bots, (or you can play the Gold Fever mode solo) but the A.I enemies really suck so this isn’t advisable. I personally would recommend just diving straight into the real game headfirst: the controls are easy to pick up and you should be running and gunning in no time. Besides, everything is much more fun against real opponents anyway.
The online play is limited to 5 player vs. 5 player matches. You can chose from one of four classes at the start of every round/when you die. These are as follows:
The Gunslinger – A good shot with his powerful revolver at close to medium range. Secondary ability allows a flurry of shots. Makes team members around him more accurate.
The Deputy – He uses a carbine rifle, effective at medium to long range. Secondary ability allows him to ‘tag’ enemies for other teammates. Makes team members around him do more damage to their opponents.
The Blaster – He uses a double barrel shotgun, effective at close range. Secondary ability allows him to throw sticks of dynamite. Makes team members around him take less damage.
The Trapper – She uses a scoped hunting rifle, effective for long range attacks. Secondary ability allows her to set bear traps. Makes team members around her score critical hits on their opponents.
The effect each player class has on the rest of their team is known as a ‘Synergy Effect’, namely Accuracy, Damage, Defence and Criticals (as explained above). This makes teamwork essential, as sticking together makes everyone much more lethal than they would be when fighting alone.
However, this is sadly where the first problem with the game presents itself: a lack of voice or text chat. Without these vital communication tools, you have to blindly hope you are fighting alongside team players. When I first started playing I died a lot because everyone kept just running off in different directions and doing their own thing. It was only when I found a game full of in-the-know players that I finally got to grips with the ‘Synergy Effect’ mechanic and racked some kills up. We basically all stuck together and thus kicked ass.
Elsewhere, dying results in a Call Of Duty 4 style ‘ last man standing’ mode where you can shoot from a prone position on the floor, and even be revived by your fellow team members. Most of your enemies won’t allow this to happen of course, but very occasionally they will forget to check and it can be hilariously entertaining to blast them from behind when they think they have killed you already.
Another cool feature is the use of checkpoint flags. At the start of a round, any player can grab this flag, wearing it on their back. When they die, it stays in place on the spot where they perished, creating a temporary spawn point. You can also spawn to a player’s location whilst they are still alive and wearing this flag, which can come in handy on the larger maps.
The five different game modes are largely the tried and tested team deathmatch (Shootout) and capture the flag (Greed) variants. The Robbery and Powderkeg modes admittedly have different objectives but both feature a similar mechanic of carrying something heavy, whether that item is a bag of gold or a powder keg. Of course, you can’t shoot whilst doing this so it is often best to simply throw the item instead. The powder keg is also a ticking time bomb if it gets shot… far too dangerous to hold onto for too long!
Sadly, the six available maps are rather limited overall, with some of them completely negating certain player classes; after all, what use is a sniper rifle in an underground mine, or a shotgun blaster on a wide open map? ‘Deadwater Rance’ mixes the best of both worlds, featuring open spaces as well as close quarters, but is unfortunately the exception rather than the rule. Furthermore, The Blaster class is overpowered whilst The Trapper is certainly the hardest character to excel with, especially since you often won’t be anywhere near your teammates. Also, you cannot see before a game begins what class your teammates have chosen… this can of course result in unbalanced teams.
At the moment, the PlayStation 3 version of Lead And Gold: Gangs Of The Wild West is in desperate need of an update from Fatshark (the PC version has already been treated to a new map and some other improvements). With some tweaks here and there this could undoubtedly be a very successful online shooter for the PS3. You just about get your money’s worth for 12 quid, although a price reduction would make it a much more enticing purchase.
However, taking into account the omission of voice chat, the balancing issues and a lack of map variety, the game in its current state can only be cautiously recommended. The experience system certainly needs reworking: at the moment it seems quite elusive and detached, only applying on a ‘per match’ basis. With Red Dead Redemption about to hit stores (offering 16 player online multiplayer matches alongside a lengthy single player campaign), only time will tell if Lead And Gold is here for the long haul.
7 OUT OF 10