Lead & Gold Review: Fool's GoldS

Do Team Fortress 2, only set it in the Wild West. Looks simple on paper, but is it really that easy to copy Valve's successful formula for multiplayer shooters?

Lead & Gold: Gangs of the Wild West is a team-based online shooter, where you can play as either the red or blue side, and then take on your opponents in a variety of objective-based levels across a bunch of different of maps. You can choose from different classes, each with different weapons and abilities, and the game has a clean, stylised look to it.

So far, so Team Fortress 2.

The thing is, looks are about where the similarities end. And for Lead & Gold, this is a problem.

Loved
Nice Duds: Lead & Gold looks great. The classes are easily distinguished, fit Western stereotypes without looking clichéd, there's a consistent and effective style to the world and the lighting effects on the maps bring an unexpected level of polish to the game's visuals.

Maps: For a multiplayer shooter, map design is crucial. And despite being the product of a relatively small team, Lead & Gold has a great variety of maps, each unique and each featuring memorable choke-points and room for flanking. The ones where long-range combat are emphasised are particularly well designed.

Good Ideas: Lead & Gold knows the little tweaks and features that have worked in other recent shooters, and isn't afraid to hand-pick some of the best of them. These range from roaming spawn points (Battlefield) to the "not quite gone" mechanic of leaving a near-death player on the ground with the use of their pistol (Left 4 Dead). After all, good game design can often be as much about knowing what to borrow as what to invent.

Hated
Lag: Hoo boy. Lead & Gold's network code is bad. Really bad. I can't remember the last online shooter I played that was so crippled by it. I'd estimate around half the games I played I ended up quitting because the host was lost or the game bogged down into a ghost chase. Making things worse is the fact the game lacks dedicated server support, meaning you can't get around this if you tried.

Nobody's Home: I didn't just have problems playing games. I had problems finding them. Since the game's launch barely has the global online playerbase numbered over 100, and most times has been sitting at around the 40-60 mark. This means you've often only got 1-2 games to choose from, and in some cases, no games at all.

Loose Goose: Aside from the Trapper's scoped rifle, most weapons in the game feel very loose, making precise aiming difficult. I know this may be realistic for the time, but it's also not much fun. Same goes for Lead & Gold's collision detection, which is a bit skittish, making jumps and the navigation of tight spaces a bit tougher – and slower - than it should be.

Silence: Lead & Gold does not, at this time, support dedicated voice chat. So you're going to have to come up with a workaround. While for some game modes this won't really matter, for others – the ones that require teamwork to accomplish complex objectives – it's sorely missed.

For a small team, on what is obviously a small budget, Lead & Gold is an admirable attempt, and one that, on the times it all came together, I had a lot of fun playing.

With its current litany of technical woes, though, I can't really recommend people give up playing something like Team Fortress 2 for it. It's just too rough and lacking in features that in 2010 gamers rightly take for granted, even when you consider its generous price ($15).

Now for the upside: the upcoming PS3 and Xbox 360 releases will hopefully address most of those concerns (as could promised updates to the PC edition)!

Lead & Gold was developed by Fatshark and published by Paradox Interactive for the PC (version reviewed), PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Released on April 9 for PC, April 22 on PSN (PAL), Xbox 360 & PSN (NTSC) TBA. Retails for $15. A copy of the game was given to us by the publisher for review purposes. Played all maps and game modes using all characters.

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