Monday, May 6, 2013

"Outlaws", Windows, 1997.

All right, we've seen Classic-era Lucasarts games, early-stage ones, and now for a couple of late-stage ones. Like Loom or, say, Afterlife, this is an anomalous title, without precedent or follow-up (well, barring a "handful of missions" pack) in their catalogue. It raises the question of why no one had made a Sergio Leone-style Western game before this, and the answer probably was: the technology wasn't there yet, and getting the right cinematic-minded crew together to provide the necessary production values probably would have been prohibitively expensive any earlier. (Some people may argue that the technology still wasn't there yet, or if it was, they were eschewing it by re-using the Dark Forces engine from two years prior -- which in the mid-'90s was positively a geologic era.)

OUTLAWS. A GAME OF THE OLD WEST. WHEN GUN CONTROL MEANT LOADING QUICKLY AND SHOOTING STRAIGHT.

The gameplay's packed with strategy, puzzles, and plenty of gun fighting action.
First person shooter action lets you set your sights and pull the trigger.
After you gun down the last outlaw you'll ride off triumphantly into the sunset.

Get ready for the good, the bad, and the even worse. As Marshall James Anderson, you'll face a horde of ornery, gun-slinging outlaws. You'll shoot your way through a twisted plot of greed and revenge. You'll arm yourself with firearms, as well as your wits. You'll fight alone, or engage in multi-player gameplay over modem, LAN or Internet. So go ahead, and make your day.

TRANSLATION: THIS AIN'T NO LUCASARTS ADVENTURE GAME, WE CAN DO THE FIRST-PERSON SHOOTER GENRE SAME AS THE NEXT UNINSPIRED COMPANY. But hang on, then they talk about puzzles and strategy. Is this more of the "find the red key to open the red door" business? And that sunset bit? Come on, screenshots, don't spoil the ending! (Anyhow, for the evolved, post-modern Western, a happy ending is something that we shouldn't expect to be given!)

Is that phrase "arm yourself with firearms" as awkward for you as it is for me? You'll equip yourself with fighting equipment. You'll clothe yourself in battle clothes. You'll feed yourself with tasty food. It just falls a shade too far on the side of the tautological and, hence, extraneous. "As well as your wits"? Now they're poaching from their concurrent Curse of Monkey Island advertising campaign, our next stop!

And here's a real sign of the times: "engage in multi-player gameplay over modem, LAN or Internet". The modem and LAN technologies still exist, but are games still developed with supporting them in mind? Certainly it's no longer a selling point. Then we end with a Dirty Harry riff: "So go ahead, and make your day." Yes, Dirty Harry is also a movie in which Clint Eastwood, who played The Man With No Name in several spaghetti westerns, also acted. But invoking it here is somewhat non sequitur. May as well end on a quote from the Bridges of Madison County, also starring Eastwood, also not a Western. Of course, what those other works do share is the primacy of the gun. But you know what, copywriter, you don't need to invoke that in an ad whose central image is a flying bullet. It's already implied.