Gun – Showdown – Review

g-gun200Gun: Showdown

(Activision for PSP)
by Mike Delano

Man, Sony just can’t get a break sometimes. Sure, the PS3 launch was a (most likely planned) glimpse into the end-times, a violent disaster that left most disappointed and the rest with, well, Resistance. But when they get their act together with production, the PS3 certainly seems like the true next generation of gaming, with greater in-box processing power and potential than the 360 or the Wii will be able to match, visually speaking.

This viewpoint doesn’t quite sync with the legions of Sony haters who live to bash the company at every turn. It does, however, sync nicely with the attitude a depressingly large portion of the gaming public (gauging by sales and the attitude of just about any gaming media outlet) has about the PSP, namely that it’s a horrific failure unworthy to compete in the Nintendo-dominated handheld market. But while the haters can safely trade barbs about the PS3’s predicted underperformance, the PSP has been around for a little while, and calling it less than the best handheld on the market is just willful ignorance.

Really, the only complaint about the PSP hardware itself is the lack of a second analog stick, which will likely be corrected in future versions. Outside of that oversight, it has the biggest, brightest portable screen around, the sleekest design, and the best games. Sure, many of them are ports or pseudo-ports, but PS2-quality versions of Virtua Tennis, Outrun 2006, Tekken, and WipeOut were unthinkable on any portable system until now. You’d trade these games for Brain Age and Mario Hoops? (No offense, DS.)

Oh yeah, Gun: Showdown… It happens to be the perfect game to accompany a PSP rant. It may not be a system-seller like Metal Gear: Portable Ops, but it’s a great example of the consistent quality that gets churned out, relatively unheralded, for the system. Simply, you’re a cowboy in the Wild West, and you get to participate in all of the GTA-like exploration, violence, and horse riding that goes along with it.

Its predecessor on the PS2 was described as the video game version of Deadwood, which speaks loudly to the quality of the series’ presentation, and doesn’t lose anything in the translation to the handheld. It’s a big, colorful world to explore, with the kind of depth you’re not used to having on the go. It has a no-frills adult storyline, and voice acting that ranks among the best of the year. It’s not without its problems – the control scheme and aiming precision chief among them – but they don’t ruin the experience.

There may be more pressing purchases than a PSP, but if you’re in the market for a handheld, Gun: Showdown is just another reason why Sony’s little machine is the future of portable gaming.