Prior to this current generation, the Wild West seemed an untapped vein of video game potential. The untamed plains; lawnmen attempting to keep a grip of social order; and to say nothing of brandishing a six shooter whilst careering down main street on the back of a stagecoach. Call of Jarez and Red Dead Revolver have since filled the void, but Fat Shark feels there is more to be said. Whereas the aforementioned pair concentrate on adventuring across the frontier, Lead and Gold is solely a multiplayer experience, putting players in the spurred shoes of one of four archytpes and letting them exchange gunfire for bragging rights.
Lead and Gold is a class-based, third-person shooter set in a time when men were real men, women were real women, and the natives were complaining bitterly about their raucous neighbours. You have the choice of the quick firing sharp shooters, a sniping hunter, the rifle carrying deputy, or the shotgun toting red-neck. Each has their own set of positives and each is varied enough that everyone will find one which suits their own play style. Though, there is more to them than simply their effective combat range, as all have an extra skill that they bring to this gunfight. Whether it’s the sharpshooter’s quick fire, the hunter’s ability to set bear traps or the red neck’s love of wanton destruction as he merrily tosses sticks of dynamite into the fray, each of their varied talents proves useful as the bullets starts flying.
As with any class based shooter, the key is a balanced team. In Team Fortress 2 a whole team of medics might be well covered when it comes to private health insurance, but it is very unlikely to bunch through the enemy lines, and the same is true here. To encourage such diversity and team work, each class exudes one of four bonuses to others in close proximity. This can be extra health, toughness, accuracy or strength, and when combined they can turn your lone gunman into one hardened varmint, simply by sticking close to your gang.
What ultimately makes Lead and Gold a success, however, is not the tweaks that have been made to a tried and tested genre, it’s the way that their chosen theme has been embraced for more than simple window dressing. Squint and you’ll see its classes mimicked in many of its kin, but the setting, although bearing more than a passing aesthetic similarity to Team Fortress 2, is its identity. Aside from the traditional team deathmatch and conquest modes, there are game types that place you in the very centre of Spaghetti Western plots as you attempt to raid gold mines for their riches and blow rival cowboy’s farms sky high with barrels full of gun powder.
The highlight centres around relieving a bank of the content of its safe. Not only must one team break into the opposition’s bank and make off with large sacks of gold, but first they must lug a barrel of gunpowder to the safe to crack it open. A posse of cowboys first sneak into a building, tottering beneath the weight of a keg, and then a moment later – after a loud bang – disperse laden with gold and pursued by the law. It’s something quite unique.
Each of the available maps is set around locations plucked straight from the Big Book o’ Wild West – the gold mine, the frontier town, the panner’s waterfall, the farm – but rather than feeling clichéd, they enhance the experience. One futuristic spaceship is very much the same as another, but these familiar surroundings just further reinforce the sentiment that you’ve just come in off the range to sort out this ruckus.
Set in any other timeframe or location it could easily have been brandished as “just another class-based shooter.” Instead, the choice to go out West has woven a great deal of character into the game’s makeup, from class loadouts to the handful of gametypes contained within, Fat Shark have produced a well rounded title. Now get! I’m gonna find me a posse and mosey back online.