Releasing a Wild West-themed game in the same month as Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption might be seen as a gutsy move – or a completely foolhardy one depending on your point of view. Thankfully Fat Shark’s Lead and Gold: Gangs of the Wild West is a completely different ball game to Rockstar’s controversial cowboy-based magnum opus, and in a genre hideously underserved by developers there’s always room for one more wild west game.
Lead and Gold: Gangs of the Wild West is a purely multiplayer-focused team based game split into several all too familiar game modes. There are four character classes on offer, so you can choose between the heavy duty demolition and close quarters expertise of the Blaster, get nippy on your feet with decent medium range fire support with the Deputy, set yourself up as a long range sniper with the Trapper or just wade into the thick of things with the rapid firing Gunslinger.
Everyone will settle into a particular niche, and if you’re thinking the game sounds a little bit like Team Fortress 2, slap a Stetson on that game and you’ll be halfway there.
New players might want to cut their teeth in the game’s only single-player mode – Practice. Here, you can face off against a set of enemy bots and get to grips with the game’s main mechanics. There’s one map, and the tutorial seems to just tail off confusingly, but it’s handy for getting the gist of how the game works so you don’t look like a total n00b when you finally venture online.
Running and firing will come as second nature to any team deathmatch multiplayer game veteran, but if you’re new to this type of game, the controls are extremely easy to pick up. Movement is mapped to the left stick, and your lookspring is mapped to the right. You can switch your look axis around to suit your tastes. Zooming in on a target is accomplished with the L1 button for precise aiming, while the R2 button fires your weapon.
Each class is equipped with a primary weapon and a rapid-firing pistol as a sidearm. Switching between weapons in tight spots will save your life more often than not, so a quick stab of the triangle button will bring up your pistol allowing you to loose off a few shots if things get crowded.
The classes also have secondary abilities which you can call into play at any time. The Blaster can throw dynamite bundles at enemies. These short fuse explosives are great for scattering gathered masses, which makes the Blaster class a formidable opponent.
The Deputy can tag enemies, highlighting their position for other team players. The trapper can get busy with bear traps, laying a maximum of two in strategic locations. If an enemy gets caught in one they’re stuck for a limited time and if you’re lucky to find a trapped enemy, you can put them out of their misery without fear of reprisal.
Lastly the gunslinger has a superb rapid firing “fanning” action, rapidly tapping the hammer on their pistol to loose off quick shots at the expense of accuracy. Developers Fat Shark have put a lot of thought into their class / character balance and it shows in each of the game modes and there’s certainly no penalty for switching between classes and becoming a jack of all trades (in fact for most of the games I got involved in, that’s precisely what I did).
Game modes range from simple capture the zone stuff to the more complex gold raids and objective destruction modes. The latter is particularly satisfying, with the objective being for an attacking team to destroy two targets with barrels of gunpowder. Complete the objective and it’s an easy win. Playing as a team is vital because any player carrying the gunpowder barrels will move slowly and be vulnerable to enemy fire.
Conquest mode was the most fun though, with a choice between simple zone capturing or a slightly more complex “capture the zones in order” game, which can build to a hectic climax whether you’re an attacking or defending team.
Each game map is varied and detailed, with plenty of destructible stuff to help you unlock health and gunpowder barrel spawn points, and fixed gatlin gun emplacements for greater firepower. You can spawn on your team-mates or at your team base, though naturally it’s not always easy to avoid running into that multiplayer annoyance, the spawn camper. It’s quite amusing to note that even the bots spawn camp in Practice mode, so you can bet that human players are going to do the same as well.
Dying will give you one last chance to kill your aggressor, in a “Call of Duty” style last stand. It’s extremely difficult to aim and shoot (and the game’s models twist awkwardly at times if your killer is behind you and you try to pan your gun around to pop a few shots off at them). It’s a nice touch all the same, and it does mean that you need to make sure your enemy is put down effectively – twice – if you don’t want to end up gutshot after a kill.
The other main innovation in Lead and Gold: Gangs of the Wild West is Synergy. Each character class has a synergy effect, everything from healing powers to granting team-mates more accuracy, strength and shot power. Enemies also radiate synergy effects, so if you get too close they can actually damage you without even firing a shot.
The game has full trophy support and there’s a neat progression / levelling system if you’re good enough to consistently rack up the kills or place in the winning team when playing, but it’s an absolute non-starter for single players so don’t go near it if you’re not an online gamer. Thankfully for those of you who are, even this early in the game’s lifespan there’s plenty of games to get into and I had no difficulty picking and choosing between quick matches or the more tailored multiplayer modes on offer. Naturally you can set up your own friends-only games and servers if you don’t want to play with a bunch of strangers, but playing against random faceless PSN players is surprisingly fun and good spirited for the most part, bar the odd team killer or spawn camper.
The wild west setting gives the deathmatch game a pleasant new twist, and though you might struggle to milk any longevity out of the game once you’ve seen everything on offer, it could turn into a cult classic if you can encourage a bunch of friends to stump up the £11.99 the game costs on the PSN store. That said, it’s never going to challenge the big guns like Call of Duty or Battlefield Bad Company for sheer spectacle.
If you’re stuck in a game drought or just fancy picking up something a bit different then you could do worse than this. It’s by no means perfect, and it’s not the prettiest PSN game you’ll find on the store but it’s solidly put together, rewarding and the world needs more cowboy games so just go and grab it on that basis alone.