A Fistful of Gun Preview – Meet the Outlaws

Published: September 11, 2015 1:00 PM /

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Clayton Boon has wronged a lot of men. A wealthy railroad baron, he annihilated his competition with what people say was a deal with the devil himself. Yet as he basked in his wealth and success, he certainly didn't expect to see those who were on the receiving end of his injustices fight back. They are the testaments to Boon's sins. They are some of the baddest gunslingers in the west. They are our heroes of A Fistful of Gun.

There are eleven playable characters in the upcoming top-down shooter from Devolver Digital, A Fistful of Gun, all with very unique playstyles and controls. Each character carries a different weapon, ranging from a revolver and shotgun to a bow and blunderbuss. Since each character can aim, fire, and reload with different weapons and in different ways, it's likely that you'll find a favorite character and stick with them instead of expirementing too much, as it's possible to do well in the game with anyone. But just who are these vengeful gunslingers? Well, I'm glad you asked.

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Lets start with Noah, the "shotgun aficionado." Noah was a school teacher who fought in the American Civil War, only to come back to find that a railroad was built right through his schoolhouse. Surprisingly enough, he's the only character whose in-game bio mentions a need for revenge, but I digress. What makes Noah stand out is just how annoying he is for me to play. See, he only aims in the direction he's facing, so you often have to run right at the enemy to be able to shoot them. And considering you die in one shot, that's not a very good trait. Also, you have to use two different buttons to work the different barrels, which means that's one extra button to shoot your second shot. Overall, I didn't spend much time with Noah.

Next up is Two Feather, a renegade archer. Two Feather uses a bow and arrow, which means there's no need to reload, but for some reason there isn't any horizontal aiming either. Using the face buttons, you can shoot arrows at your opponents with a tap, or hold the button down to charge the arrows up. While Two Feather never has to deal with pesky reloading, the lack of four more directions to shoot and the short range of quick-firing arrows make him kinda rough at anything other than mid-range.

Then we have Billy, who claims to be inspired by God, Jesse James, and his mother's chili. Billy can also only aim in the direction he's facing, but it's not as much of a problem considering his quick fire rate and long range. Much like Two Feather, Billy doesn't have to reload either. So what's the catch? Well, it's that you must match up the barrel Billy's shot is in with a face button. That means that if it is on top, you have to hit Y, and to the left, X, with A and B being down and right respectively. This means not only do you have to keep an eye on enemy placements and screeching bullets, but you also need to look over Billy's head to know which button to press. This was simply too much for me to handle, and I couldn't get past even the first stage of arcade mode while playing as Billy.

After Billy, on the roster is Pablo, a demolition-enthused desperado. Pablo doesn't use any projectiles, rather, he plants bombs that can be remotely detonated. The bombs will expode in a bomberman-esque cross, wiping out any enemy the flames come in contact with. I found Pablo really tricky to use at the start, but eventually, I managed to quite enjoy playing as Pablo.

Next is Abel, the deadliest gunfighter in thirteen states. Abel's a toughie, because he's both the most accessible and one of the trickiest characters at the same time. On the plus side, he can aim anywhere and has six shots in his revolver that can be fired no strings attached. The problem is that his bullets don't always go where you want them to, even when playing with a keyboard and mouse rather than a controller. Also, you can't reload after you've expended all six bullets, and you can't fire again until you've fully reloaded. So you have to keep an eye on your bullets, which can get annoying.

Smack dab in the middle of the roster is Virgil, a sheriff with a love of blunderbusses. Virgil's old-fashioned shotgun is aimed with the right stick, fired with the right trigger, and then you must rapidly mash left trigger to fully reload it. Unlike Abel, you can fire your gun without fully reloading, but the spread just won't be as wide or go as far. While he's not instantly accessible in story mode, he is the best beginner's character in my eyes.

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Duke is a man who fights racial prejudice with a giant Gatling gun. Sounds like a solid strategy if I've ever heard one. Like most machine guns in gaming, the multi-barreled beauty Duke lugs around is prone to overheating after being fired enough, and it's incredibly slow to aim. Not only is aiming slow, when firing, movement is as well. So if you don't have a horde of enemies practically lined up for you, holding down the trigger is far from the best option.

Tao was exiled from China for being too violent, and he brought his fireworks with him. Tao is one of the more interesting characters to play as, considering he can plant rockets that will fire in any direction. The problem? There's a few seconds of delay in between planting the rocket and it actually firing, meaning your intended target could've sidestepped the projectile already. This means that the best strategy is just to run around with the trigger squeezed tightly, planting rockets in every direction to crush your foe. Rockets can also be destroyed by an enemy bullet, so don't be surprised if your ace in the hole projectile is suddenly gone. 

As we near the end of the roster we reach Zeke, an eccentric cowhand raised by rattlesnakes. Zeke can only be played as with a keyboard and mouse, which makes sense considering how important precision is to his playstyle. Zeke carries a rifle that can only hold one bullet at a time, but said bullet can pierce multiple enemies if lined up correctly. Left click is to fire and right click is to reload, but there's a catch. See, aiming with Zeke works a bit like aiming in Yoshi's Island in the sense that he actually has an aiming cone, with a precise line bouncing back and forth in that cone. If you can line up with your target and fire, then the bullet will surely hit head-on. 

Dutch was a knife thrower in the circus, now a bloodthirsty juggler. Similarly to Zeke, Dutch can only be controlled with the keyboard and mouse. You hold down and release left click to throw a knife, and right click reloads. But the twist? Dutch can also teleport with the middle mouse button, allowing you to warp all over the battlefield and throw a blade into your enemy's skull before they even know what hit them. It's great fun, and Dutch was my favorite character to play as in this build because of it.

And finally, we have The 13th. An entire regiment of Confederate soldiers, The 13th is easily one of the most interesting characters to play as. The 13th can only be controlled with the keyboard and mouse like the two proceeding them, which I found a bit puzzling considering how easy it would be to control them with the controller. Either way, The 13th are ten soldiers, nine of them carrying rifles while the man in the middle holds the Confederate flag. With a click of the mouse, all nine soldiers will fire, and then they must wait for the flag to be raised once more to fire again. However, the catch is that they're extremely slow, and have a huge hitbox. Each bullet that hits the soldiers will wipe out one gunman, until you're completely wiped out. So if you're sure that you can just bulldoze through your enemy, they're a good choice. If you play more tactically? Might be best to consider somebody else.

These are the eleven heroes. United by a common hatred of Boon, they are all viable in their own way (sans Billy). Each and every one of them have unique strengths and weaknesses, which is what makes experimenting with the different gunfighters so much fun. And with nine player co-op, I can imagine seeing some crazy combinations ride out into the west.

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A Fistful of Gun was previewed with a code provided by the developer.

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Filmmaker. Entertainment critic. Genre film aficionado. Has bad taste and hot takes.