It's been a long development trail for High Moon's horror-western FPS, and that much is evident in a score of careful details, from the folksy jangle of gunslinger Jericho Cross' spurs to the sepia-and-brimstone haze that has settled on its warped west.

But on lengthier play it's also evident in less complimentary aspects, such as the multiplayer levels - the first to be created - apparently possessing more character than the single-player game's barren, tunnelled haunts, and the storyline opening with such clumsy, scattershot delivery as to risk filling the game's mythos with holes.

Other aspects, disappointingly, don't seem to have blossomed in that long development time. Evidence of the reputation-based branching that was to steer progress is still scarce, other than binary moral dilemmas to boost Cross' good or evil vampiric powers - but Darkwatch's most crucial element, the shootouts, remain as solid and vicious as on its first showing.

The restless dead disintegrate messily under gunfire or a savage stock-whip, with the latter playing a vital role in putting a skull-splintering halt to their unflinching charges.

Regardless of the location-specific damage, being quick on the trigger rather than sharp with your shooting is the priority, save for breaks in the mob rushes to trade rifle rounds with distant snipers.

Enemies have a supernatural agility that allows them to lope into striking distance with alarming speed, but Cross has his own in the form of a vampiric double-jump, able to spring from the dust to a saloon balcony or cross a ravine in a lazily graceful arc.

It's a pleasing mechanic, made even more so by the addition of a cancel that returns him forcefully to earth should you leap into a crossfire or overshoot your target.

Despite the responsive controls' best efforts, attempting airborne kills in passing may find even the most adept console shooter players pining for mouselook: it's likely to be the defining skill in the game's deathmatch.

That deathmatch looks well stocked, but we can't help but think most interest in Darkwatch won't have been stoked by its multiplayer prospects.

While the single-player game's enclosed bullpen encounters are at first exhilarating, they already show signs of overstaying their welcome - sometimes sprung too quickly to give you much chance of survival, other times so extended that the next wave's arrival draws a sigh of resignation, not a thrill of panic.

Darkwatch is a capable FPS - the developer's intention, after all - but if the promising setting continues to go underused, what should have been a double-barrelled roar will be just another gunshot in an already packed arena.

Darkwatch will be released for Xbox and PS2 in October