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Sunday, November 7, 2010
First Impressions: Lead and Gold
How many multi-player third-person-shooter games set in Old West do you encounter? Not many. Lead and Gold is just such a game. Made by Swedish developer Fatshark, it's available for PC on Steam, and it's also part of the Frontiers Pack, along with Shattered Horizon. Four-packs are available for those who want to build their own gang, and there's also a PS3 version for console players. Although this game is rated Mature, there is very little blood and no gore, so it is suitable for players that might have shied away from similar games because they didn't want to see close-ups of their teammates being dismembered by explosions.
There aren't many Western games at all, despite the Wild West being a perfect setting for shoot 'em up and adventure games. I've been very glad to see this underrated genre getting some attention this year. Lead and Gold does a good job of making an online multi-player game that focuses on how the West was fun. All seven of the maps are filled with southwestern motifs like cacti, old saloons, trains, and waterwheels. The gameplay has all those Western movie cliches that fans love, such as ricocheting bullets and shooting off hats.
Lead and Gold has several team-based game modes that include such uniquely Western things as blowing up vaults and mines with powderkegs, stealing sacks of gold, and having high-noon shootouts. There's also a co-op mode, where 1-2 players can fight together against waves of enemy bots. A nice tutorial mode is included for practicing and learning each class before you dive into online competition. Developer Fatshark provides dedicated servers for players, in several US and EU locations.
Gameplay is very team-focused, with all four classes needing to work together to complete objectives. When hit with a near-fatal amount of damage, players can get knocked down. They can continue to shoot their pistol while waiting for another teammate to help them up. Additionally, there's the unique ability that allows players to respawn near each other. One player can pick up a flag that allows other teammates to spawn wherever that player or the flag is. If the flag-keeper dies and someone from the other gang picks it up, it will be sent back to the base. Players can choose between spawning in the base or spawning at the flag. Having the ability to spawn near another teammate and get directly back into the action has a few consequences that one should keep in mind. First, you might actually spawn in front of a teammate, directly in their line of fire. It's possible to get accidentally team-killed this way. Second, you might startle a teammate and get shot that way, too. (I'm sure there's some saying about never sneaking up on a cowboy.) Lastly, you should be careful when attacking an opponent who's carrying the flag, because he might suddenly spawn three teammates. It's something to be aware of if you're trying to have a one-on-one shootout with another Gunslinger; he might unintentionally bring some backup.
these directions. Also, if you're someone who can be trigger-happy (like me), you'll find that you can't switch weapons while reloading and you can't turn off auto-reloading. So you need to be careful about how many shots you take, and make sure you're not stuck reloading at inopportune times. Additionally, actions seem to queue up to a degree. If you keep trying to fire your gun while it's reloading, you'll end up firing off a shot or two after it's loaded. So, watch what you're doing while waiting on the reload to finish. Although not being able to interrupt a reload and quickly switch guns may be a little more realistic, it can be frustrating to players who are used to similar games where you can just switch weapons at any time. Personally, I prefer first-person perspective, but I'm not going to take points off for that from a game that clearly says it is third-person. The game's perspective works well for what it is, and I'm sure there are some gamers that prefer it. I would've liked the inclusion of a first-person option. Although, I guess one can't see the neat feature of getting one's hat shot off in that perspective. There are some things that just work better in third-person.
Lastly (and this one might be a major complaint for some), there is no voice chat. Some of you might think this is a blessing. However, this is a feature that is almost standard in many similar online games, and that some players will miss.
Overall, it's a very satisfying (if imperfect) team multi-player Western game. If you're a fan of old West gunfights and looking for a shooter with online team competitions, then this is the game for you. Our rating: 4 shot-up hats.