Hands-on: Lead & Gold: Gangs of the Wild West

Multiplayer first-person shooters are a dime a dozen lately, meaning Lead & Gold: Gangs of the Wild West has a lot to prove for itself. The gameplay is definitely fun, but it's clear that its main selling point is the format. As a downloadable game (confirmed for PC, planned for XBLA and PSN), it's one of the most polished multiplayer shooter experiences available in the space.

Priced at $15, Paradox Interactive's shooter is competing against the likes of Battlefield 1943. Like DICE's shooter, the production values are impressive and highlight by colorful, animated visuals. The style is reminiscent of Team Fortress 2, with the characters donning an almost psuedo-cel shaded look. Combined with the Wild West theme, it can oftentimes look identical to Valve's shooter.

Of course, there are far worse places to look for inspiration. In many ways, the gameplay is also similar to Team Fortress 2. There are four classes for players to choose from, and each features distinct and valuable traits. The primary difference between the four classes is their range: some classes are equipped with shotguns, best for short range fighting, while the requisite sniper is obviously equipped to handle long distances. Beyond their weapons, each class is equipped with a special ability. One can throw dynamite, while another can "mark" an enemy. (Marked enemies take twice the normal rate of damage.)
Obviously, you'll want to be smart about your class choices, as balanced teams are more likely to capture objectives. However, there's another aspect of the classes to consider. Not only do classes offer unique abilities, but they also dispel an area effect that benefits teammates. For example: one class allows teammates in range to heal, encouraging players to stick close to each other. A "marked" enemy will appear on the entire team's HUD, offering a good indication as to where on the map players should progress. The class system adds an appreciable depth to the cooperative play.

Spawning also requires a tactical decision. Each team has a leader, represented by a flag. The flag represents an additional spawn point for the team, allowing a team to make further progress into enemy territory. So long as the leader doesn't allow his flag to get captured (by dying and having the enemy drop the flag), teammates will be able to spawn in a far more advantageous location.

In addition to all of these mechanics, there's an XP system (as is standard for the genre nowadays) that rewards nearly every action in the game. Kills, single shots, objective captures, etc. all offer an XP bonus. In fact, you'd be hard pressed to go for a few moments without doing something that helps increase your experience. Unfortunately, I wasn't privy in my demo to what kind of bonuses are unlocked by XP.

Lead & Gold isn't revolutionary in any means, but it's difficult to turn such a saturated genre on its head. Instead, it offers an accessible, but simultaneously deep, multiplayer experience for a price that's incredibly reasonable. It definitely demands a look when it launches on PC (and possibly consoles) later this year.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.