Home | News | Reviews | Previews | Hardware
Lead & Gold: Gangs of the Wild West
Score: 72%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Developer: Fatshark
Media: Download/1
Players: 2 - 10
Genre: Online/ Third Person Shooter

Graphics & Sound:
What do you get when you combine "spaghetti-western" characterizations with fast-paced, multiplayer mayhem? Paradox Interactive is hoping that Lead & Gold: Gangs of the Wild West can answer that question for you. It should be noted that Lead & Gold: Gangs of the Wild West does not set out to re-invent the wheel, and that is probably a good choice. Graphically, it shares a strong resemblance to Valve's popular title Team Fortress 2 (as in "OMG, this looks just like a westernized version of TF2!"). It is often said that imitation is the highest form of flattery, and in this case, there are far worse places to look for inspiration. The color palette is vibrant and lively, with characters that have a comic, cel-shaded appearance that evokes amusement in an old, Saturday-morning cartoon type feel. The stylized outfits of the four character classes are well thought out and will certainly call to mind certain western idols, real or fictionalized. Audibly, Lead & Gold: Gangs of the Wild West performs well enough. Sounds of gunfire are crisp and clean, while running on different surfaces make the appropriate noises. The music is a bit underwhelming, but serviceable. As a package, especially considering it is downloadable content, the graphics and sound are well above what I expected.

In a genre already saturated with entries, perhaps the most important question to ask is how can Lead & Gold: Gangs of the Wild West distinguish itself from the pack. Unfortunately, I'm not sure it can. Taking a great game like Team Fortress 2 (I hate repeating a theme, but the comparison is too tangible to ignore) and slapping a coat of western paint on it does not make it a new game. Lead & Gold: Gangs of the Wild West is multiplayer only, meaning that their is no solo campaign. There is a single-player tutorial which allows players to try out the different classes and get a feel for the game before jumping into live matches, but this only goes so far playing against bots. Gameplay consists of choosing to play as one of the four character classes and then joining a match, of which there are six types. The classes available include a pistol-wielding gunslinger, a marksman (actually markswoman in this case), a shotgunner and a rifleman. The match types are all standard fare, so expect variations on Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, Domination and Sabotage. Matches are timed affairs taking place in various western-themed maps. Most of the maps are well designed, being not too big or small. Basically, if you have played any other multiplayer shooter on the market, there will be little in the way of surprises for you in Lead & Gold: Gangs of the Wild West.

Lead & Gold: Gangs of the Wild West is extremely easy to grasp, especially in a genre where most of the player pool already has multiplayer experience. The initial learning curve is almost non-existent, consisting mainly of learning how the guns fire, how accurate (or inaccurate) certain weapons are and how the maps are laid out. Getting a good balance of classes with teammates that work well together is probably the most difficult thing a player will face. There is a decidedly smaller player pool than in most online games, so finding a good match that will go the distance is often an issue. Experience and perks earned during games are not persistent; each match is a stand-alone variant, so player skill and knowledge of the arena are the real difference-makers in each game. The guns are not incredibly accurate (I suppose that could be attributed to historical data, but I found it frustrating), and aiming can take some practice, even for experienced players. Not surprisingly however, in a game this easy to play, the biggest frustration comes in the form of the "idiot factor." Lead & Gold: Gangs of the Wild West is not immune from the moronic subset of players who feel the need to join the game only to shout racial epithets or sexual indecencies.

Game Mechanics:
As easy as it is to pick up and play, there are some nuances that will separate the wheat from the chaff in Lead & Gold: Gangs of the Wild West. Each class has a special ability and an aura which affects the teammates nearby. Appropriate use of these special abilities can be game-changing, such as the placement of a trap in a strategic location or the marking of a particular enemy, causing that unfortunate soul to take double damage. Like the special abilities, auras are also important. Auras add benefits such as boosting accuracy or healing of all teammates within range. Since players can only be affected by one of each type of aura at a time, having a good balance of classes will ensure maximum effectiveness. This also means that players should move as a team, something that, in my experience, does not naturally occur often in pick-up type multiplayer shooters. As players gain experience in a match, they will level up. Leveling up increases the beneficial affects of the auras. As mentioned above, experience does not persist, so each match starts with all players on the same level. I can understand this on some level, but it left me with a feeling that my game time did not really matter, removing any real sense of accomplishment from the matches.

Available via download for $15 through PSN, Lead & Gold: Gangs of the Wild West offers players a fairly cheap and somewhat entertaining game for a reasonable price. It is certainly not a replacement for the other multiplayer shooter games currently available, but it offers casual gamers a bit of fun while giving hardcore players a little something different. While the features are not as fully developed as I would have liked, there are some good ideas here that could well find their way into games to be released down the road.

-The Mung Bard, GameVortex Communications
AKA Buddy Ethridge

Related Links:

This site best viewed in Internet Explorer 6 or higher or Firefox.