As a fan of both spaghetti westerns and first person shooters, I was cautiously optimistic about this online-only Western fragfest. With a £10 price tag it was unlikely to be a Modern Warfare rival, but the cowboy theme and promise of blowing your mates' hats off with a proper old-fashioned revolver, Clint style, was too much to pass up.
The budget feel of Lead and Gold is immediately apparent, with just four different characters and a handful of game types available to choose from. All of the game modes bar one are team versus team matches, and the majority are familiar takes on the standard deathmatches and base-protection games you usually find in multiplayer titles. The stand-outs are a structure defence mode where one team has to destroy two towers by lugging barrels of gunpowder over, and a two-player co-op game where the main aim is survival (made simple by the bog-standard enemy AI).
With only four characters available, players are likely to find a favourite very quickly. There's a decent balance between the different cowboys (and cowgirl), each having their own preferred weapon and skills, although the sniper has the clear advantage in some of the more open levels. Luckily there's a handful of well-designed levels based around a town or a settlement, complete with inns and stables for short-range shooters to take refuge in.
As Squee pointed out in his review, only a couple of hundred players were online at any one time in the first week after Lead and Gold's launch, making it difficult at times to get a game going. I also experienced some glitches, including moon-walking opponents and - I swear I'm not making this up - one player who somehow launched themselves directly upwards like Superman. This was no rocket jump, this was the kind of sight usually brought on by a healthy dose of moonshine. The bugs and slow-down don't ruin the game, but here's hoping they're sorted out in time.
Still, Lead and Gold has plenty going for it too. Teammates show up clearly at all times thanks to a helpful silhouette that can even be seen through walls, so you always know where your buddies are. Enemies also clearly show up thanks to an overhead marker, although this may put more sneaky players off entirely. And although the graphics are rather basic and the game modes limited, Lead and Gold is still great fun when played with friends. There's tons of amusement to be had out of shooting a powder keg as your mate carries it towards a tower and watching them explode (in a sadly non-gory fashion) across the sky.
Modern Warfare can breathe easy - Lead and Gold won't be displacing it as king of online shooters any time soon. But if you're after a change and your budget is tight, you can do a lot worse.