Lead and Gold: Gangs of the Wild West Review
Simple can be very good, when it is handled right.
Take Paradox's latest PC title as a prime example of that. Customizable gear, upgradeable abilities, unique outfits – there are none of these things in Lead and Gold: Gangs of the Wild West, and yet no shooter has so firmly grasped my attention since Team Fortress 2. Lead and Gold is a class- and team-based shooter stripped down to basic components, and simplicity is its greatest virtue.
There are four, archetypal characters pulled from the wild west period. The Gunslinger wields a lightning-fast six-shooter that is utterly lethal at close range, assuming that you hit your target with his fanning technique (the old time equivalent to spray-and-pray). The Trapper sets down a bear trap to keep anyone from getting too close to her and her buffalo rifle. The Deputy and his repeater carbine can keep the lead flying at medium range, while the Blaster and his dynamite keeps the opposition on their toes. There are no additional weapons, power-ups, or the like. What you see is what you get.
Four classes sounds paltry, especially when compared to Team Fortress 2 (an obvious inspiration), but few shooters are so evenly balanced. Each class has a particular role to play, with Gunslingers up front, Deputies in the middle, Trappers at the back, and Blasters to fish out the campers. Teamwork is essential, and Lead and Gold offers incentives to teams that diversify their lineups and stick together. Each class has a unique Synergy Effect, so you can count on doing extra damage when in the presence of a Deputy, and better armor with a Blaster leading the charge.
Two elements that I would love to see in other shooters are revivals and spawn-flags. Similar to the Last Stand perk in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, a player who hasn’t been blown completely to smithereens can take potshots until an enemy delivers the killing blow. Going one step further, gracious teammates can revive wounded comrades, thus saving a few points on the scoreboard and keeping the battle-formations intact. Revivals add a welcome layer of strategy to the usual running-and-gunning, and a dose of comedy when a circle of half-dead players feebly try to finish each other off.
Each team has a flag to carry on the battlefield, allowing dead players to choose between spawning back at camp or next to the flag-carrier. Obviously, there are tactical benefits to protecting and reviving the flag-carrier, especially since a dropped flag is easily sent back to the enemy’s camp. As the flag-carrier, do you risking diving into the fray and bank on respawning reinforcements, or do you play it safe in the background and hope your teammates can make up for your absence? Such decisions are paramount as you delve into the various modes available. In addition to the usual deathmatches, Lead and Gold features five modes that push your team’s capabilities to the breaking point. There are three variants of capture-the-flag involving sacks of gold and explosive powder kegs, but none are particularly noteworthy. Conquest tasks teams with advancing along a path of objectives, in alphabetical order, and is a personal favorite. In the cooperative mode, Gold Fever, two players venture out to collect sacks of gold from increasingly large waves of enemies. Unintelligent enemies that seem to appear from nowhere make Gold Fever the black sheep that almost nobody likes.
The maps are perfectly sized for the five-on-five matches, although I wish there were more than six. Not all are available to each game mode, so you can expect to see the same two or three maps over and over if you choose to stick with a particular team. Whether the battle takes you to a cliff-side mining town or through the blinding cornfields of a farm, the maps are incredibly intricate, with interior rooms, hiding spots, and rooftop catwalks at every turn. I can't recall a multiplayer game with such complex environments, but thanks to the spawn-flags, the action is never far away.
Fast, spot-on controls for sprinting and jumping, combined with amazingly detailed levels, make Lead and Gold an incredibly intense experience with bullets flying around every corner. Meanwhile, the strict classes, revivals, and spawn-flags create a deceptively tactical experience. I hope to see new maps and new classes in the future, because Lead and Gold: Gangs of the Wild West is an incredibly polished and enjoyable shooter that deserves the attention.