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Mad Dog McCree Gunslinger Pack (Wii) artwork

Mad Dog McCree Gunslinger Pack (Wii) review


"You'll quickly come to learn that timing is everything, which isn't so bad, but there's an unwelcome complication: the exact timing required is never quite clear. You have to aim and shoot before a certain point in any video footage. If you shoot too soon, though, nothing can happen except wasted bullets because the available video isn't ready to produce video of an enemy dying at that point in time. If you shoot too late, you might fire five or six rounds and then be shot anyway because you passed some arbitrary point where the directors weren't ready for you to succeed."



Listen up, partner! If you're the sort that bristles at the thought of a bit of Western slang, you'd best be gettin' your hide to another part of this here Internet and you'd best steer clear of the experience that is Mad Dog McCree: Gunslinger Pack. There's just no reason to stick around and you won't be missing nothing you can't do without. Why? There's a whole passel of reasons, I reckon, but mostly it comes down to this: if I was to say that the whole blasted thing is a technical nightmare and a wee bit generic to boot, well, that'd be like sayin' the ocean is wet!

I could jaw at you all day, but we don't got no time for that. So unlike this here compilation, I'm going to put a bullet in the slang and act like what I am: a game reviewer. What I naturally say at that point is that Mad Dog McCree: Gunslinger Pack is a mostly unpleasant affair with only its historical and nostalgic value contributing anything to a worthwhile experience.

Included on the disc are three separate games that you might remember from the arcade glory days: Mad Dog McCree, Mad Dog II: The Lost Gold and The Last Bounty Hunter. Back in the very early 90s, when the sight of more than a few colors on-screen was enough to set the graphically-aware to drooling, the trio of Western-themed games made the rounds and generated some decent income for its creators. Full-motion video was as realistic as visuals had ever gotten and ever will get, so gamers were ready to give up things like decent hit detection, reasonable controls and even longevity. None of those things mattered in the face of what we believed at the time was immersion.

Almost twenty years have passed and now we place a lot of stock in those design elements that we once were content to ignore in the name of progress. Sprites have evolved to polygonal characters that have done a lot of things, from playing volleyball in bikinis to scaling the side of buildings in medieval Jerusalem to slaughtering alien hordes on planets unknown. Now-beloved heroes and heroines have accomplished great things and we've been in control almost the entire time. We're no longer content to simply watch, which is one reason that Mad Dog McCree: Gunslinger Pack falls so short of the mark established by its peers.

Mad Dog McCree, the first game in the series, features a grand total of about 5 minutes of play if you view all of the video clips and manage to work your way through the experience in a single attempt. That will not likely be your experience, however. Instead, you'll probably spend an hour or two reaching the final showdown and in the process feel like you're in control maybe two or three minutes.

The feeling that you're not in control exists mostly because you're dealing with video instead of polygonal characters. Responsiveness is downright laughable as a result. This plays out in a number of ways, all of them bad. Consider a typical stage. Following a bit of exaggerated dialog, you'll get to shoot at various gunslingers that pop up from the Old West landscape. As they make their move, time will temporarily freeze and you'll need to swing the on-screen sight into position before squeezing off a shot. What often happens at this point is that you'll fire two or three times and nothing will register, then a bullet hole will appear on-screen before you're treated to footage of a grim undertaker muttering about your failure.

You'll quickly come to learn that timing is everything, which isn't so bad, but there's an unwelcome complication: the exact timing required is never quite clear. You have to aim and shoot before a certain point in any video footage. If you shoot too soon, though, nothing can happen except wasted bullets because the available video isn't ready to produce video of an enemy dying at that point in time. If you shoot too late, you might fire five or six rounds and then be shot anyway because you passed some arbitrary point where the directors weren't ready for you to succeed. This can on occasion lead some players to think that the game's hit detection is faulty. Most fatalities actually have nothing to do with aiming.

Don't believe for a second that you can scrape by without devoting effort to careful shot placement, however! In addition to nailing the timing almost perfectly, you also need to aim precisely. That's not always easy when you're being forced to hastily move a target reticule around the screen. Worse, there's no chance to make a second shot if you fire a wild shot once the window of opportunity opens. You have automatically failed, even if shots two through six find their precise target and even if your opponent still hasn't fired at you. Video will continue uninterrupted and a bullet hole will appear on-screen in due time. Another potential issue is that you might have a target and not even know it, like when the video zooms closer to a building. You're supposed to realize then that you must shoot the smoking chimney. If you don't, you'll be treated to video of a grinning bandit who will shoot you no matter how many times you fire at him first. You might have to attempt the scene dozens of times before you realize what you were doing wrong.

Mad Dog II: The Lost Gold, the second game on the disc, is in some ways more forgiving. It also tries to mix things up a bit by offering the concept of a "guide" who will help you through the adventure. This is kind of neat and gives you reasons to perhaps play through multiple times, except that the checkpoints are now spaced too far apart. You'll have to complete several simple areas, only to die on a more complex one and then have to sit through a bunch of video--shooting every now and again in the time frame that trial and error has taught you to follow--before failing again. The game also tries to include more humor, which sounds neat at first but ultimately means that you're watching a guy's face slam into a cow patty a bunch of times. It gets old quickly.

That leaves only The Last Bounty Hunter to save the day. While it's generally better than its two predecessors, though, the final offering can't live up to such a tall order. It provides four villainous targets, kind of like the arcade classic Gunsmoke, and your job is to take out each threat before a final showdown and the closing credits. The environments feel more alive, with gunmen swinging from chandeliers or trying to fire at you from the back of a speeding wagon. Repeated plays don't always offer the same exact setup, either, since the order in which enemies appear at certain points is randomized (a fact that causes the generic background music to frequently stutter). There's still a lot of room for improvement, but at least you can see that the developers were attempting to work with their available resources.

Unfortunately, the limitations inherent to the full-motion video game were pretty significant and Mad Dog McCree: Gunslinger Pack doesn't ever overcome them. For $20, you can see first-hand why the genre was so short-lived and maybe stroll down memory lane if you were actively gaming back in the day. That's going to justify the investment for some folks, but I feel sorry for anyone who picks up the compilation without a proper idea of what to expect. I reckon it'd be a bit like sticking your hand in a hole and finding out belatedly that an angry badger was waiting inside.

Rating: 3/10

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Staff review by Jason Venter (June 26, 2009)

Jason Venter founded HonestGamers in 1998, and since then has written hundreds of reviews as the site's editor-in-chief. He also is a prolific freelancer with game reviews, articles and fiction available around the Internet.

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