I have a brilliant financial plan: Games should be cost-adjusted to what they would%26rsquo;ve cost during the time they%26rsquo;re set in. You%26rsquo;re making a depression-era mafia epic? Price it at $2. Creating a caveman-themed, rocks-and-clubs beat-%26rsquo;em-up? That%26rsquo;ll be four boars. Star Wars RPG? 3,200 credits.
Lead and Gold is worth its weight in any currency. It looks and plays better than what I%26rsquo;ve come to expect from a $15 game; ask it to stand in the street with only its polish, lighting effects, gunplay and level design to defend itself, and it%26rsquo;d leave any other game in the third-person, team-based genre full of smoking holes.
That%26rsquo;s a terrific achievement - the looming goldrush of budget-priced shooters (looking to cash in on the success that Battlefield 1943 had) has a lot to learn from Lead. Its stripped-down feature set-six modes,six maps - makes it remarkably lightweight and the perfect shot in the arm to your action library, if you have room for a game that%26rsquo;s easy to pick up and put down.
You play as one of four old western archetypes: Trapper (a sniper), Blaster (a shotgunner), Deputy (a medium-range rifler) or Gunslinger (a pistoleer), all of whom are easy to learn and play. I love how well-animated these desperados are - Ihit the X buttonto leap over a ravine, then see the animation transition into a very Gears of War-like duck-roll as I hit the ground. Three enemies have gathered around a capture point, standing near it to lower my team%26rsquo;s flag and raise their own. I need to scatter them off the objective, so I use my Blaster%26rsquo;s special ability - holding L2 and pressing R1 to light a dynamite stick - and underhand it at them. Blam! Those that didn%26rsquo;t escape in time are blown clear off the platform.
Alongside loose gunplay moments like these, most of the excitement comes from Lead%26rsquo;s two unique attack-and-defend modes: Powderkeg and Robbery. In each, there%26rsquo;s a heavy object that the attacking team needs to carry: a bag of gold or an explosive barrel to destroy landmarks with. Robbery feels like gold rush rugby; relaying a giant pouch of precious metal like a football as you quick-roll through dust to dodge 19th century buckshot is a great feeling. Powderkeg lets you be a bastard as enemies try to carry large barrel-bombs into your base; try sniping the keg while it%26rsquo;s still in the hands of the player carrying it.
The %26ldquo;gangs%26rdquo; in Lead%26rsquo;s subtitle loosely refers to its teamwork-encouraging %26ldquo;synergy%26rdquo; system. Each character class has a passive trait that buffs teammates if they%26rsquo;re within a spit%26rsquo;s distance of one another, which provides an easily understood incentive for sticking with your compadres. Run and gun near a Trapper, Lead%26rsquo;s raccoon-capped sniper girl, and you%26rsquo;ll have a higher chance of dealing critical hits; hang with a Blaster, and you%26rsquo;ll have a bit better damage resistance. It%26rsquo;s a good idea, but Lead%26rsquo;s implementation lacks potency - I rarely noticed any character-specific stat-boost (aside from the generic proximity heal) from staying near my team.
Lead%26rsquo;s one significant disappointment is its lack host migration for multiplayer. If the preselected host among your session%26rsquo;s up-to-10 players quits, the entire game is lost. There's also no spitscreen at all, even for the co-op 2p mode. But Lead%26rsquo;s best asset is that it%26rsquo;s better than its cost. Let it be a side dish to your other shooter experiences, and it%26rsquo;ll be worth the sliver of gold it costs.
May 6, 2010