Westerado: Double Barreled started life as a standout Flash game on Adult Swim's website. In that version, the graphics are a bit messier, the controls are a bit more complicated, and the story is a bit shorter. However, the essence of the original is fully intact in this new remake. The same eye catching visuals and engrossing soundtrack draw players in, and the same tense gunfights play out as you tear across Clintville . The murderer may change every time, but this is the same Westerado you're familiar with. For better and for worse.
Westerado is a tale of revenge. You play as a lone gunslinger who is after the man who burned down his ranch and murdered his family. There are numerous tasks to complete for the folks in the surrounding town, and each task will get you a hint and one step closer to your prey. Your character is quick on the trigger, so you can pull a gun on just about anyone at any point during dialogue scenes. The consequences for this recklessness range from a funny non sequitur to having an entire town of people chase you down with shotguns.
Westerado is composed with clever wit. Every character is a stereotype, and they're all aware of how generic they seem, so winks to the ongoing action or subtle hints at the player are slipped in without breaking the flow of the story. The decision on when to draw a gun to get information and when to lean back and let people gab is simplistic if you've ever seen a Western or two.
There isn't so much a breaking of conventions here as a dancing around them, playfully but respectfully picking up all the toys out of Clint Eastwood's toy box. The soundtrack enhances this, with a main theme that will be stuck in your head for days. The soundscape perfectly sets the stage for rooting and or tooting your way across the desert.
[caption id="attachment_36686" align="aligncenter" width="582"] Being blunt is not always the right course of action.[/caption]
The game's origins as a browser based title mean that its easy to play through the main campaign in one sitting, even with the additional areas added into this version to explore. This means that you're encouraged to play through Westerado multiple times in order to see all the content, especially since going down one quest line will most likely mean that other quest options will be closed off to you. There is good effort put towards reflecting your actions in the world with specific dialogue and a few changes to the terrain based on who your lone gunslinger sides with.
However, ninety percent of the dialogue still stays the same from one playthrough to the next, with subsequent runs encouraging the player to skip through prompts to get to the new content. This leaves once funny exchanges tedious and lessens the impact of the whole production.
Talking isn't all you do in Westerado, and sometimes you have to do more than draw a gun. When it works, the combat is superbly tense, evoking feelings of waiting for opponents to fire at the other end of a showdown. Having to cock your revolver for each round gives plenty of opportunity for a rogue bandit to peg you unexpectedly, and everything always shows a deliberate pace that is accurate to the time.
There are a few kinks though, as enemies will aim at you regardless of where their buddies or innocent bystanders are standing. With a bit of practice, you can easily dance around a single opponent and watch as he mercilessly gun down his own posse and then shoot off his hat and watch him flee.
Graphically, Westerado is a bit of give and take. The backgrounds and environments are lovely to look at, and there are moments like the sunset over a bridge pictured above that are worthy of a desktop wallpaper. The character models are a bit low-res compared to everything else, which is understandable considering how the murderer is a randomized character for each new player.
I still found myself wishing for character portraits or just a bit more detailed models during the conversations. Instead, everyone in Westerado is a zoomed in mass of blocks when speaking to you. There is certainly a minimalist charm to that way of doing things, but it was a bit too minimal, especially when combined with the trope-filled dialogue.
[caption id="attachment_36695" align="aligncenter" width="587"] Wandering down strange paths will sometimes lead to strange encounters.[/caption]
Similar to a game like Fallout: New Vegas, there are very few characters who are vital enough to Westerado to be spared your bullets. If you feel the need to shoot someone you're questing for, feel free. There were some cases where the game wouldn't invalidate a quest even though the person it needed to progress no longer drew breath. That will happen in an open world narrative like this, but the game is so short that it just seems logical to start over and try the quest again, which just contributes to the overexposure players will have to certain dialogue and early quests.
I also must point out that Westerado hit some performance snags while running at full screen on my 1080p monitor, with the frame rate dropping to about half the normal speed. The developer tried several fixes and ultimately didn't have an answer as to why this was going on, but it doesn't seem to be a widespread issue among my colleagues. The game ran fine once I bumped it down to a lower resolution windowed mode.
Westerado: Double Barreled is close to greatness. Its shooting is exploitable, but when it works it hits the right tone and sets a great mood for the experience. Its story is well told and funny, but its stereotypical characters and repeated content lead way to a bland feeling overall. A single playthrough is short and exhilarating, with each subsequent run betraying the lack of depth in what's presented. Then there is the fact that a good chunk of this game is available for free on the Internet elsewhere. Add all that up, and you have a package that will appeal to those who want to support the original production and Western fans who want something a little less meaty than Red Dead Redemption. Everyone else will certainly find things to like, but they may end up wishing that Westerado rode off victorious into the sunset long ago.
This game was provided for review by Adult Swim Games. You can procure your own copy on Steam.
Westerado: Double Barreled is great fun in quick bursts, but runs out of steam in a hurry and never recovers from its overstretched ambitions.(Review Policy)