Last fall, Activision released the western-themed shooter, Gun, one of the year's most under-appreciated titles. Overshadowed by high profile holiday releases - not to mention the spotlight-hogging launch of the Xbox 360 - it arrived on multiple consoles, mostly receiving attention for being a less-than-next-gen 360 launch title. Thankfully, this console cowboy is getting a second chance to prove its gaming grit with Gun: Showdown for the PSP, a near-perfect port of the original title that packs some new goodies into its saddle bags.
As with its console counterparts, Showdown's greatest strength is its Old West narrative, supported by a cinematic presentation and superb voice acting, all of which immerse you into a gritty world that'll have you seeing tumbleweeds long after you click off your PSP. Don't expect Little House on the Prairie, though, as Gun: Showdown easily earns its mature rating with profanity, prostitutes, guns and gore, yielding an experience that fans of HBO's equally mature Deadwood will surely appreciate.
As a matter of fact, Deadwood 's own medicine man, Doc Cochran (Brad Douriff) lends his cred to the menacing mix, voicing Showdown's villainous preacher. He's joined by Hollywood-caliber talent, including Thomas Jane, Kris Kristofferson and Ron Perlman. Their performances, coupled with the slick story, take you back to a time when brothels were as common as Starbucks are today.
Of course, story and style are worth about as much as a three-legged horse if they don't have the gameplay to support them. Thankfully, Showdown mostly hits its target in this department. Buoyed by a death-dealing arsenal of revolvers, shotguns and rifles, Showdown's gun slinging is satisfyingly fast and furious. Add to this the ability to throw knives, whiskey bombs and dynamite, and you'll discover that it delivers plenty of blood-spilling bang for your buck. "Quickdraw" mode - Gun's "bullet time"-esque mechanic - also makes the leap to the PSP, offering on-the-go gunfighters the same immersive battles as the console version.
When you're not filling foes full of lead, you can saddle up for some of the best - and most realistic - horseback riding on a handheld or console. In fact, Showdown actually one-ups its console cousin here by giving players a single steed to call their own. The original Gun missed the whole man-and-his-horse loyalty thing and forcrd gamers to jack different mounts like they were pimped Pontiacs in a Grand Theft Auto game.
Dealing death, riding horses and dealing death while riding horses (did we mention Showdown 's sweet mounted combat?) will keep you riveted through much of the main story. There's plenty of other stuff to do - ride for the Pony Express, play Texas Hold ‘Em, mine for gold - in the form of side quests, but none of these activities deliver the same rootin' tootin' good time you'll experience within the main story. You'll want to tackle some of these anyway to up your RPG-inspired stats, but you'll long for the meatier story missions.
The original Gun was criticized for its short length, and Showdown does an admirable job of addressing this, padding the package with additional content that's not just tacked-on filler. Six, PSP-friendly "Quickplay" games offer a variety of shooting and hunting challenges that provide perfect pick-up-and-play sessions. And three ad-hoc multiplayer modes - Deathmatch, Golden Cross and Poker - are welcome additions, despite not being infrastructure/online compatible.
As a port, Showdown stumbles in some areas - the single-sticked PSP offers the usual control headaches, and the visuals take a slight hit. But the extra content, excellent main campaign and action-driven gameplay more than make up for this. Whether you've saddled up with a previous version of Gun or this is your first time strapping on the six-shooters, this title is not to be missed, as it captures this underrepresented genre like no other game.