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Lead & Gold: Gangs of the Wild West

Score: 75%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Developer: Fatshark
Media: Download/1
Players: 1 (Practice); 2-8 (Online)
Genre: Third Person Shooter/ Squad-Based/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

The graphics in Lead & Gold: Gangs of the Wild West are not too shabby, with an obvious and pervasive Western theme, as would be expected. The environmental models are well done, depicting old West towns and even an old steam engine train on a damaged bridge. The characters are nicely designed and well detailed, also, but occasionally have some glitches.

The first glitch I noticed was when I was holding a rifle, but the rifle wasn't quite in my hands. It wasn't all the time, but sometimes it was just "off," and it broke the suspension of disbelief a bit. Of course, the suspension of disbelief was damaged beyond recognition when I shot an opposing gang member and they fell to the ground, then used their dying breath to take a few last shots at me, deforming wildly to continue to aim at me even as I ran around behind them. I get the idea of allowing players to fire off some return salvos and even have the chance of being healed by a teammate if they hang in there long enough, but the strange looking contortions gave the would-be cowboys a more possessed zombie look, apparently possessed by their weapons, which led them around uncomfortably in a rag-doll fashion while relentlessly aiming at me. Truly disturbing.

The sound effects are typical old West movie: there's a lot of gunfire and people crying out when shot, as well as a mission bell that chimes when a round starts and sounds like the bell you'd hear in an old Western at high noon. If this game does anything well, it sets the mood. So much that I found myself playing while wearing a cowboy hat, eating some beef jerky and drinking the closest thing I could find to sarsaparilla - an Iron Beer.


Gameplay:

The first games I played were in the Practice mode, which pits you against A.I.-controlled cowboys in an enemy gang. First off, I found this to be a little buggy here and there and slow as could be imagined with horrible lag. It was not-quite-unplayable, but would have been unplayable if I was playing against humans... I don't get too embarrassed when the computer whoops my tail, but I don't much care for it online against some thirteen year old.

As it turns out, it must have been using my computer as the server and having me play against myself, requiring a lot of resources, because the gameplay was a lot better when I played online against others; the lag was much less pronounced and, possibly since I wasn't the only one on my team, opponents didn't simply lay there, constantly contorting and shooting at me. It seems real people are too impatient for that; they tend to respawn in greener pastures.

Lead & Gold: Gangs of the Wild West is not only team-based, but class-based, with synergistic effects that teammates have on each other when in close proximity. This means that one player will contribute a resistance to taking damage, for example, to all teammates (including themselves) when the gang members stick together. Hang out on your own, and you don't even get your own synergy effect. Mind you, these synergy effects combine, if they're different, but don't stack in the case of more than one of a given class in the same group. This helps to encourage and promote diversity in gangs. In order to get the best combination of synergy effects, you'd want to have one of each of the classes in your gang and to keep close to each other as you play, moving as a unit. Additionally, you regain health quicker when close to teammates, not to mention that they can bring you back to life from the brink of death if you get shot down and not finished off before they heal you.

All these factors contribute to Lead & Gold: Gangs of the Wild West being an extremely team-minded game. In order to do well in Lead & Gold: Gangs of the Wild West, you need to work well with your team.


Difficulty:

As with most online shooters, the difficulty greatly depends on a combination of factors including your opponents' skill level, your network lag, your PC's capabilities and, of course, your skills. In Lead & Gold: Gangs of the Wild West, there are additional factors that affect the difficulty based on the fact that the game is a team-based game. First of all, the different character classes each have different special abilities and different weapon ranges, making them more suitable for players with certain play styles. The Trapper, for example, with her long-range scoped rifle, makes them better for sharp-shooters who like to camp somewhere high and take out enemies from a distance. The Blaster, with his high-powered, short-range weapons, is better for a more in-your-face player. Additionally, there are benefits to be had when players stay close to each other, so a team that works well as a team is likely to have an advantage against a team comprised of Rambo wanna-bes.

If you find yourself getting capped way too often, you may want to switch to a long-range class and try to play things a bit safer. You will also want to avoid touching your own flag. The player with the flag acts as a spawn point until killed, so your opponents are likely to try to take out the player with the flag. If you're not very experienced, don't be that guy. Also, if the flag is in a bad area and you don't want to spawn there, press (E) to switch back to your gang's base and spawn there, instead. The base is always up off the ground, such that the other gang can't get into it.


Game Mechanics:

It would be difficult to overstate the importance of teamwork in Lead & Gold: Gangs of the Wild West; several aspects of the game promote this style of gameplay.

The first, as mentioned briefly above, are the synergy effects. The Blaster profession radiates an Armor synergy effect, reducing the amount of damage taken by close members of his gang. The Deputy, by contrast, radiates the Damage synergy effect, increasing the amount of damage done by close gang members. The Gun Slinger radiates the Accuracy synergy effect, improving the likelihood that your gang members will hit their targets to begin with, and the Trapper radiates the Criticals synergy effect, which increases the chance that her gang members would get a critical shot on their targets. Pack the four of them in close together, and you've got four mean hombres with increased armor, damage, accuracy and chance of getting a critical shot off. Sound unstoppable? But wait - there's more! Sticking together also increases the chance that you'll have a chance to be healed if you get knocked down and not out, on top of the fact that being near your gang members will cause you to regain health. All things considered, it would probably be a good strategy to tie your gang members to each other, were that an option.

In addition to the buffs, there are worthwhile unique aspects to the professions that makes each one a contributing member of an old West "A Team," of sorts. The Blaster is your tank character, and delivers awesome amounts of damage at close range, with his double-barreled shotgun and dynamite sticks. You don't want to get in close to this guy. The Gun Slinger wields a repeater carbine rifle, making him more effective at medium to long-range, but he can "tag" an enemy gang member, causing him to show up on his team's H.U.D. as a Sheriff's star, marking him as a target who can be easily tracked on the other side of buildings and such. Nice. The Gun Slinger carries a single heavy revolver, but has a fanning technique which allows him to shoot at a great rate of fire. Last, but not least, the Trapper is the only female character, and wields a powerful hunting rifle with a scope slightly longer than its barrel. While this gun is great for scoping in from a great distance, ther reload is slow and the scope is pretty much useless when on-the-run or even somewhat close-up. Luckily, you can switch to her revolver if you find yourself close up unexpectedly. For more strategic, plan-ahead types, her ability to set out steel bear traps makes her an interesting profession to play. The real fun, though, begins when someone gets caught in one of her traps and finds themselves surrounded by your close-knit gang of bandits. Yippie-kie yay.

There are prettier games on the market. There are games with a larger following and more substance. However, there aren't likely to be games that have a stronger team element, and if there are any, they're not likely to be a mere $14.99 USD, as Lead and Gold is on Steam... and, at one point I saw that it was on sale for half off, making it more than worth picking up and giving a try. While the Practice mode had me worrying off the bat, the online gameplay was very enjoyable. If you're only going to buy one game this year, this probably isn't that game - unless you're on a tight budget, but if you enjoy online games with a strong team element to them, then you could definitely do worse than Lead and Gold.


-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

Minimum System Requirements:



XP/Vista/Windows 7, Dual-core processor (Intel Core 2 Duo 2.4 GHz or AMD Athlon X2 5200+ 2.6 GHz), 1.5 GB RAM, 2.0 GB free hard drive space, DirectX 9.0c/Shader3.0 compatible graphics card with 512+ MB (NVIDIA GeForce 7800 series or ATI Radeon X1900), DirectX 9.0c compatible sound cards, DirectX 9.0c (included)
 

Test System:



MS Windows XP Home Edition, AMD Dual-Core, 3.11 GHz, 2 GB RAM, Award Modular BIOS v6.00PG, Gateway HD2201 21" HDMI Monitor, ATI Radeon HD 2400 (256 MB), USB MixAmp, A30 Gaming Headset, 1.5 TB Western Digital Caviar Green SATA Hard Drive, Sony DVD RW, Cable Modem, VAIO Mouse

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