Give me a really bad game over a mediocre game every time. If a game is ruined by dreadful voice acting, or a hideously steep learning curve with precious little to reward you for the slog, or a trite and meaningless storyline that drags an average game down into the very pits of awfulness, I'll write you a review filled with frothing bile. Flecks of spittle will flow freely from my mouth as I vent my rage. And as we all know, that can be lots of fun. For those of you who don't know, perhaps a trip over to Seebaruk's review of Painkiller 2 would be worth your while.
Lead and Gold: Gangs of the Wild West brings me no such anti-joy, though. Aside from a couple of what could be shruggingly described as ‘features' and a rootin' (not to mention tootin') Wild West skin, it's about as generic an online shooter as I've ever played.
Which isn't to say it's particularly un-fun. Because, when all's said and done, running around with your mates shooting people online is a pretty bloody good way to spend an afternoon. The only real problem is that there are better ways to do it than this. True, Lead and Gold has the suitably low price tag of £9.99, but seeing as you could get Team Fortress 2 for the price of a few pints more, it's kind of a hard sell. And if you already own a better online shooter, Lead and Gold is unlikely to hold your attention for long before you say ‘sod this, guys - let's go play Battlefield instead'.
Not that anyone will hear you when you do say it, though, as there doesn't appear to be any microphone support. I used Xfire's microphone support during my games, which limited me to one line of communication - which meant one teammate became quickly tired of my rambling and the others were mercifully spared, which can't be right.
The big feature that supposedly sets Lead and Gold apart is the synergy system whereby each of the four character classes has an ‘aura' that they radiate that powers up a particular facet of your nearby teammates' capabilities, be it damage or accuracy. Perhaps with time, elite players will learn to optimally leverage this synergy like a team of desperado marketing executives, but on the weekend of release they seemed to occur more-or-less at random while everyone ran about shooting one another.
There were precious few servers available on release weekend, which may have been on purpose to recreate the feeling of the sparsely-populated Old West. Similarly, the outrageous lag was perhaps meant to suggest the visual effects of drinking a gallon of moonshine hooch before each round.
But don't let me put you off. It's only a tenner, and I am a grumpy, jaded, never-satisfied old man. With a group of like-minded gunslingers, this is not without its merits, simplistic and generic as they are.