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_Undertaker-01.jpg (1584 bytes)

Due Summer 2001 for PS2.

_Hotel-01.jpg (2633 bytes)Okay, imagine you’re in an old west movie. I know you’ve done it before, we all have. Somebody has wronged you in a serious way, and what do you do? Well, if your western is like every other western out there, you saddle up and head for some revenge. And that’s exactly what Gunslinger is. According to Adam Goldberg, the producer of Activision’s very intriguing title, Gunslinger is the result of the love affair with westerns that has informed so many previous titles. I would describe it as a playable movie, but that will give you the wrong impression, so let’s take a walk through the dangerous world of the wild, wild west – Fresh Prince not included.

One of the exciting things about the next generation of consoles is that we are supposed to begin seeing games that are more intelligent. That’s not to say games that are more full of little things to keep track of or more buttons to memorize, but games that think, feel, and interact. The leap in technology that is embodied in the next generation of systems should not simply be used to support better graphics and sound; the future of gaming does not rest with higher polygon counts and better particle rendering. The future of gaming, as evidenced by the better designers and producers attending E3 2000, is in a more immersive, more rewarding, and more emotionally involving experience. Graphics will continue to improve, and eventually game developers will be able to provide us with as realistic a vision as they can imagine, and even if that vision includes things that could never exist in reality, they will be presented in a way that will completely suspend our disbelief. In the first generations of games on the new systems, graphics and sound will be of utmost importance, and for awhile they will satiate our desire for something more. But eventually, probably sooner than most of us think, we will be hankering for more.

_Train2-01.jpg (2586 bytes)That’s where Gunslinger comes in. Don’t let the early graphics, as shown in these screens, fool you – this game is more impressive than most of the other titles in development for the PlayStation 2 or most other systems. In development for only three months, it is already clear that Goldberg and the gang are not satisfied with creating another action/adventure shooter that has snazzy graphics. In Gunslinger you will truly interact with the game’s world. Your actions in the game, whether you rob the bank or catch the robbers, all build toward your overall reputation. Create a bad reputation and people will react to you that way – they’ll be hesitant of you and you’ll be constantly running from the long arm of the law.

Gunslinger creates a western world located in the American Southwest of the mid 19th Century. You can saddle up your horse, find a point on the horizon, ride to that location and loook back at the terrain you’ve traversed. A push in many of the new games is this giant, fully explorable world, and Gunslinger delivers. In towns you can visit the brothel to chat up the ladies, or you can pull up a chair in the local bar and play a few hands of poker. The graphics will be spectacular. As you play cards with others in the bar, you’ll be able to guage the worth of their hands by reading their poker faces. If someone on the street gives you a dirty look you can expect that to intimate the feelings that character has towards you.

You begin the game with a six shooter and a horse, basic equipment for an up-and-coming cowboy. After that you’ll interact with all the standard character types from western movies, including railroad workers from China, prostitutes, local sheriffs, gangs of outlaws, and I’m sure they’ll throw in some alluring school-marm in need of assistance from a rough and touble character such as yourself. It is like a movie, in that the structure involves the conventions of the western and the play requires you to create a character that interacts on an emotional level with the non-player characters. This aspect of the game, as well as the fact that you will find crusty old cowpokes who will teach you new skills for a fee, brings Gunslinger into the realm of RPG, although in a way unlike any game ever before.

We’re still a long way from the release of Gunslinger (Summer 2001 is the plan so far), but it is great to get an early glimpse at a game created exclusively for a console system that so radically redefines gaming conventions. We can’t wait to see a more complete version at next year’s E3. At that time, I imagine more developers will have caught on to these new realms opened by the progress made in the hardware, but Gunslinger will be one of the first we actually get to play.

 --Shawn Rider