We recently had a chance to catch up with the latest build of Gun for the Xbox 360 at Microsoft's X'05 Toronto show. The game was playing on a standard 360 console instead of a development kit and looked complete with various levels available for play. For those who don't know what Gun is about, it's a new shooter from Neversoft and Activision that places you in the old west with cowboy boots, a horse, and a couple of old fashioned weapons. Gun is definitely an original take on the shooter genre and feels like a lot of fun. Let's look at why Gun is shaping up to be a very solid release.

When looking at the graphics department, I have to say that Gun wasn't exactly the best looking 360 game at X'05. However, that does not mean that it is ugly in any way. Gun's graphics are truly amazing, although not the highlight of the experience. Where Gun truly shines is in the gameplay. Gun offers you a variety of ways to defeat your enemies and get around the world. I was also impressed by the freedom it gave you to roam around town to the weapons store or in selecting your missions. Travel from missions is also made easier by riding horses. Most of the time, Gun will be played in a third person perspective with a targeting reticule to help you aim. However, once the going gets tough in the west, you can switch to a first person mode that slows down time. The game does not let you switch to this first person slowdown permanently since you need to build up a special meter in order to use this ability.

While a show floor is not the best place to hear Gun's audio, the title sounds fairly promising. The voice acting seemed suitable and the cutscenes looked like watching a cowboy movie. You also get to hear a lot of "aiaiaiai" during gameplay. I'm assuming that's Native talk for "die with excruciating pain!"

A lot of the same shooter mechanics seen in other games are present in this title. You can roll to the sides with your character, crouch and switch guns. The weapons that I was able to play with included a rifle, a pistol, a shotgun, and a machetti for up close and personal battles. You also get some dynamite to throw at enemies and this works exactly like the grenade in games like Halo. While the rifle, pistol, and shotgun must be selected for use, the machetti is always available like a melee attack regardless of the weapon you have equipped. The game also lets you do scalp people although this didn't seem to give you any bonus and was just some gratuitous violence thrown into the mix.. The horse mode in Gun is also one of the highlights of the game. While on the horse, you still have the same basic play mechanics of most shooters. But you also get some new abilities such as trampling over enemies, making your horse stand up on two legs to kick them if they're too close and jumping over some places at high speed. You also get some bonuses from riding the horse such as having the horse take most of the damage from shots fired at you. You may want to watch out though because sometimes horses are hard to find and you may get stuck on foot. And who wants to be on foot anyway right?

Instead of just being an average shooter, Gun tries to put some emphasis on interactivity with the environment. While escorting a carriage in one of the missions, I had to blast a wooden wall with some TNT barrels in order to get through. Since the enemy is smart enough to look for cover when it is available, another way to use TNT barrels is to roll them to where the enemy is hidden and then shoot the barrel once it gets close enough to do some damage. The only problem with that tactic is that I didn't get to use it very much since Gun is filled with open plains instead of tight spaces with cover being somewhat scarce.

From the missions playable at the show, I was able to play against Indians, other cowboys and a couple of bosses. I was told that the Indians become your allies later on in the game but it seems that for the most part, you'll have other cowboys as your allies. Indians try to kill you by using arrows while cowboys use rifles and other gunpowder weapons. You'll encounter Indian enemies pretty early on with cowboys coming in a little later. The boss battle I was able to play involved a gunfight against two twins with one on foot and another on horseback. I started out on a horse cellar with the two outside and had to take some cover and roll from time to time. Gun also presents you with some missions like protecting the carriage while you're stationary on top of it, and shooting up cowboys. You may also find yourself in a bar when 10 people come in and you have to hide behind the counter while shooting people all over the place with the slow down move.

Gun truly exceeded my expectations. It seems like a really fun game to play and the many ways to play the game promise to throw some variety into the mix. Horseback riding is definitely a highlight since the mechanics for it seemed to be well done. If there's one problem I found with this game, it is the difficulty. The game just didn't seem all that hard when I played it on hard mode but that was probably too early in the game to judge. Although I was told that "Insane" mode is that much harder so I'd recommend playing in "Insane" mode once this game comes out. Gun was truly one of the gems of the show and although not the best looking game, it was definitely a lot of fun.

More Coverage: Jason's Opinion
Alright, I'll admit it, my first thoughts on this game when I heard that it was a western were not very positive at all. In fact, I almost completely dismissed it before even trying it. However, after seeing it in action and getting a chance to try it out, my reservations about it have been eliminated. Neversoft should be praised for stepping outside of the typical action boundaries and pulling off what I thought was never possible. GUN is an exciting, well-written western epic that will surprise a lot of people with its amazing graphics and a completely free-roaming environment. This game is well planned, well developed, and well executed. Plus, I have never seen horseback riding in game look so realistic. Action fans should definitely check this one out.