Lead and Gold has, in the run up to release, benefitted from a lot of blind hopefulness as half-starved fans of Wild West games look forward to a new title that might match their tastes. Cowboy games are few and far between, so the fact that Lead and Gold seems to slot nicely into that genre has got it a lot of attention from those of us that want to play as Wyatt Earp in our free evenings.
Unfortunately though, appearances can be deceiving. Lead and Gold: Gangs of the Wild West might look like a Wild Western at first glance, but the reality is that theme is only ever played up in a few scant bits of character design and description text. Everywhere it’s actually quite mooted and Lead and Gold more often evokes the idea that it’s a budget version of Team Fortress 2, rather than something in the same vein as Outlaws.
Cowboys, like Vampires, glitter in the sunlight
That’s not totally unexpected though; as a multiplayer shooter Lead and Gold lacks any singleplayer component where it could feasibly communicate any of the narrative or fiction that might support the supposed Wild West theme. All it has are raw gameplay mechanics and some cowboy-inspired flourishes, like having players place powder-kegs instead of C4.
That’s not a critical flaw, just a side-effect of the game design – but it does mean that you might be disappointed if you’re hoping for something that oozes more Wild West than Clint Eastwood’s spots. If you forget the Davy Crocket hats and swinging saloon doors for a minute then there’s very little in Lead and Gold that screams Western – the theme only really runs skin deep. The levels especially are often closer to TF2’s 2Fort than they are to the OK Corral.
Where most of the Cowboy influence is focused is on the playable classes, each of which is based on a cowboy archetype. The Trapper is the sniper, able to lay down bear traps and tackle enemies at a distance through her hunting rifle, while the Deputy is the all-round soldier with a non-scoped rifle and a pistol. The Gunslinger is for close-range killers, with a single fast-firing six-shooter, while the Blaster trades power for reload speed with a coach gun and satchel of dynamite.
Excuse me, Sir? You seem to be leaking...
It’s a classic set-up and developer Fatshark has covered all the usual bases with the class roster, but there’s a definite lack of depth arising from the limited weaponry. Each class has a special ability of its own, but aside from the Blaster’s dynamite blast they aren’t worth much and we’d much rather have had a few extra weapons or features. You can’t even crouch!
The Gunslinger especially feels undernourished – true, his pistol is more powerful than the version used by all the other professions, but it’s his only weapon and since he moves at the same speed as everyone else it becomes difficult to make effective use of it. The best he can usually hope to achieve is a few spray and pray kills through his fanning ability, but even that is limited in effectiveness by the fact that he only has six bullets.
Tactical depth is supposedly supplied through a power-up system called ‘Synergy’, which sees team members who work together and play well harness certain benefits like increased damage and accuracy. This too feels a little shallow though, mainly because it’s completely passive, but also because it feels arbitrarily handed out. At the end of the day, seeing a man surrounded with floating red crosses kind of ruins the illusion that he’s an authentic cowboy too.