War games proliferate in the multiplayer gaming landscape, but the Western is a thinly exploited genre. Enter Lead And Gold: Gangs Of The Wild West. The class-based gunplay between teams of dusty scavengers is fast and dirty, but there’s a sense of strategy that rewards slowing things down a beat and keeping an eye on your fellow cowboys.
Four classes each offer unique weapons, from pistol to long-range rifle and devastating shotgun. Each class also has a special trait: The pistol-packing gunslinger can fan out many shots at once, and the sniper can lay animal traps. Characters also radiate halos of positive effect that affect nearby friendlies. One class buffs up accuracy; another increases the chance for critical hits. In effect, this is a formal mechanic underlining Left 4 Dead’s lesson: Stay close, work together.
Most of the time, these buffs are a background effect, but when you’re defenseless while toting heavy powder kegs to blast open new objective areas, the assist comes in handy. Other elements, such as the cartoonish aesthetic and glowing teammate outlines, evince inspiration from Valve games like L4D and Team Fortress 2. But the similarities are mostly skin-deep.
Even balanced matches can quickly turn into a massacre. The weapons can be slow to reload and aren’t always amazingly accurate, but that feels appropriate to the setting. And what the weapons lack in speed, they make up for in sheer power. The six maps are winding and multi-tiered, with many close quarters for deadly shootouts.
Thoughtful touches enhance gameplay. Downed characters can be revived by nearby friends. (Do you take the moment to help out a comrade?) And each team has a flag that may be carried into the fray to act as a mobile spawn point. A sudden respawning amid a firefight can turn the tide, or just land you atop a body pile. The third-person view is unusual for a game of this type, but it shows off the well-designed characters.
Developer Fatshark promises DLC to expand maps and classes, but at $15, the package is appropriate. Dedicated PC tuners will want more video and control customizations, but for simple gunslingers, Lead And Gold has the glint of the good stuff.