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Editorial

Seven Games That Nailed the Wild West

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Some of the best films ever made are set during the Wild West, so this high level of quality should naturally transfer to the medium of video games. Having looked at the history of the genre in games, dating from the early arcade days to the later PC and console years, OnlySP continues its Red Dead Redemption Week coverage by counting down the seven best Western-themed video games.

7. Darkwatch: Curse of the West

In 2005, American studio High Moon Studios’s first game was released for PlayStation 2 and Xbox. Darkwatch: Curse of the West is a first-person shooter blending the genres of steampunk, horror, and western. The game follows the story of an outlaw gunfighter-turned-vampire who is forced to fight against supernatural forces in the late 19th century American frontier. The art style—considered part of the Weird West subgenre—is incredibly unique and really allowed the game to stand above its competition. Not enough, however, to spark the intended media franchise; a sequel to the game was cancelled in 2017 and a planned film adaptation became stuck in development hell.

Darkwatch Western

6. Outlaws

In the early 1990s, American developer LucasArts worked on several successful graphic adventure games, featuring a variety of characters and settings: The Secret of Monkey Island and Monkey Island 2 follow the adventurers of a wannabe pirate in a fictional version of the Caribbean; Day of the Tentacle is focused on a group of three characters as they travel throughout time to stop the Purple Tentacle; and Full Throttle follows the leader of a biker gang framed for the murder of a beloved motorcycle mogul. The next setting, naturally, was the Wild West.

In Outlaws, the player controls retired U.S. Marshal James Anderson as he seeks revenge on the criminals who killed his wife and kidnapped his daughter. Featuring acting veterans John de Lancie, Jack Angel, and Richard Moll, the game was praised for its unique story and Clint Bajakian’s orchestral soundtrack reminiscent of the work of Ennio Morricone (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Once Upon a Time in the West). Like several other LucasArts games, Outlaws adopted a cult following despite its mediocre commercial success, and many hope that a remaster is on the horizon.

Outlaws Western

5. Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist

Sierra On-Line had published over 100 titles throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, including the King’s Quest and Quest for Glory series. However, while those series remain well-known to this day, Sierra developed a similar comic adventure game in 1993 that received far little attention. Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist puts players in the boots of the eponymous gunslinger-turned-pharmacist in the 1880s as he explores his town and completes several tasks. Designer Al Lowe, the creator of Leisure Suit Larry, claimed that Freddy Pharkas is one of his funniest games, giving credit for much of the comedy to co-writer John Mandel. One of the most underrated titles from Sierra, perhaps a remaster is in one day store for Freddy Pharkas

Freddy Pharkas Western

4. Wild Arms series

Japanese studio Media.Vision developed one of the PlayStation’s first RPGs in 1996, Wild Arms. The game follows the Dream Chasers, a group of young adventurers who seek great fortune throughout the world. The player controls Rudy—a boy who can operate powerful, forbidden weapons—as he and his friends work to stop an alien threat from taking over and destroying the world. The game’s interesting setting and premise won it several awards in the late 1990s, and ultimately led to a sequel, Wild Arms 2, in 1999.

Although Wild Arms 2 received mediocre reception, it sparked three additional sequels for the PlayStation 2 from 2002 to 2006, as well as a series of flash-based games in 2006, a handheld title for the PlayStation Portable in 2007, and a new Japanese-exclusive mobile game in September 2018. The series also led to the creation of the 22-episode anime series Wild Arms: Twilight Venom from 1999 to 2000, and the manga series Wild Arms Flower Thieves in 2001. With over ten years since the last main entry in the series, perhaps now is the time for a sequel to arrive.

Wild Arms 3

3. Gun

Throughout the early 2000s, American studio Neversoft had only worked on Tony Hawk games (with the exception of the acclaimed Spider-Man in 2000). Many were surprised, then, when the developer released the Western-themed action-adventure title Gun in November 2005. A third-person shooter set in an open world American Old West in 1880, Gun follows the story of Cole White as he sets out to avenge his adoptive father and learn the truth of his parentage.

The game received criticism for its depiction of American Indians; the Association for American Indian Development declared a boycott of the game for forcing the player to kill American Indians. Publisher Activision, in response, declared that the game “was designed to reflect the harshness of life on the American frontier at that time,” and the boycott failed to create further traction. The game, in the meantime, received positive reviews from critics and was praised for its soundtrack, performances, and open world setting, and its legacy remains clear to this day.

Gun Western

2. Call of Juarez series

One of the most successful and beloved Western-themed game series began in 2006 with the PC title Call of Juarez. Developed by Techland as “serious” Western-themed first-person shooter, Call of Juarez was an attempt avoid the overdominance of military and science fiction games; Call of Juarez features two playable protagonists: Billy “Candle” and Ray McCall. When Billy returns home to find his mother and stepfather murdered, gunslinger-turned-preacher McCall believes that he is the killer; as Billy seeks the true murderer, McCall sets out to avenge their deaths by killing Billy. The narrative effectively carries the game and reinforces gameplay elements. McCall’s levels are particularly enjoyable, featuring a number of intense gun duels, while Billy’s levels require a stealthier approach.

The game’s unique attempt to truly transport players to the American frontier was successful, leading to three additional instalments in the series: Bound in Blood (2009), a prequel following the story of McCall and his brother at the end of the Civil War; The Cartel (2011), set in modern-day Los Angeles and Mexico and following three law enforcement agents; and Gunslinger (2013), in which legendary bounty hunter Silas Greaves tells the stories of his travels. With the rights of the franchise seemingly returned to Techland earlier this year, a new instalment may certainly be in the works.

Call of Juarez Gunslinger

1. Red Dead Redemption

After releasing the well-received Red Dead Revolver in 2004, developer Rockstar San Diego soon began work on a sequel: Red Dead Redemption. Released for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in 2010, the game follows former outlaw John Marston as he tracks down his old gang members in order to see his family again. Red Dead Redemption is, in many ways, a masterpiece. The freedom granted to the player, accompanied by a beautiful musical cue and a relevance and reliance on an interesting story, is a technique that other developers can only learn from. The game was recently named one of OnlySP’s favourite games—find out why here.

Red Dead Redemption was followed up with a standalone expansion pack, Undead Nightmare, which adds a zombie horror-themed campaign to the game wherein Marston sets out to find the cause and cure for the zombie plague that has infected his family. Of course, a prequel to the main game, Red Dead Redemption 2, launches this Friday for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

Red Dead Redemption Mexico

Disagree with these choices? Let us know down below. In the meantime, OnlySP’s Red Dead Redemption Week coverage continues tomorrow with a look at the importance of historical video games, so be sure to bookmark OnlySP and follow us on FacebookTwitter, and YouTube.

Rhain discovered a long time ago that mixing one of his passions (video games) with the other (writing) might be a good idea, and now he’s been stuck in the industry for over six years with no means of escaping. His favourite games are those with deep and captivating narratives: while it would take far too long to list them all, some include L.A. Noire, Red Dead Redemption (and its sequel), Wolfenstein: The New Order, The Last of Us, and the Uncharted series.

Editorial

Three Single-Player Games to Watch Out for in July 2019

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Three Single Player Games (July 2019) - Sea of Solitude, Fire Emblem Three Houses, Wolfenstein Youngblood

July, the middle of winter down here in Australia. Even in the bizarre New South Wales climate, the biting cold makes for a great excuse to stay inside and play games. 

Weirdly for single players, quite a few prestige games this month include additional co-op modes. With acclaimed designers behind them, such games will hopefully avoid the pitfalls of accommodating multiple players, as too many games have done in the past.

Sea of Solitude

Release Date: July 5, 2019
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One

At first blush, Sea of Solitude looks like yet another story of a young adult struggling with questions of identity and mental health while exploring a beautiful but harsh fantasy world.

Actually, that’s what it is. ‘Quirky, life affirming indie adventure’ is a whole cottage industry these days, but the fact that such games are now more prevalent should never dismay.

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice was a masterpiece of refined design and storytelling, and Sea of Solitude appears be something similar—this time dealing with a fantastical vision of depression that turns ordinary people into literal monsters.

Players take charge of Kay, who has sought out the eponymous Sea—or rather, a flooded city based on Berlin—in the hope that there is a cure for monstrosity. However, despite its name, she is not the only person in the Sea. Avoiding the other monsters of the Sea seems to be a major part of the gameplay. These tense encounters are likely to provide rhythm and variety to the adventure and keep it from being a just walking simulator. (Not that being a walking simulator is inherently a problem.)

Although published by EA Originals, one would do well to remember that EA the company does not actually profit off the Originals that they publish. With a focused story and themes that still are not often explored in bigger games, Sea of Solitude should be of great interest to single player fans in a month otherwise dominated by multiplayer titles.

 

Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Release Date: July 26, 2019
Platform: Nintendo Switch

Almost certainly the biggest single player release of the month, and tied with Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 as another massive Switch exclusive, Fire Emblem: Three Houses might be exactly what single players need right now.

Lately the Fire Emblem franchise has exploded in both its popular profile and sales success, buoyed by a hunger for both deep anime RPGs and polished tactics games. Three Houses seems to have doubled down on exciting trends and features in both genres: particularly a Persona/Harry Potter inspired magic school setting and an even deeper tactical battle system that ditches the rock-paper-scissors for more nuanced character progression options. As with many Japanese RPGs, the story is also a major focus and hinges upon a time-jump.

The early part casts the player as a teacher at the Officer’s Academy, situated in the center of the game world and attended by students from the three most powerful nations. Five years later, the second and likely larger part concerns the drama between the player’s teacher and their former students, whose nations are now locked in a massive three-way conflict.

As is to be expected for a series finally coming back to consoles after a long time on the 3DS, Three Houses is a massive technical leap over its predecessors. The game boasts better realised battlefields, more detailed armies, and a slick animated style that appears much more consistent compared with the three or four different art styles on the 3DS.

With such improvements, as well as the overall pedigree of the Fire Emblem brand, Three Houses should have no trouble satisfying single player fans looking for a meaty middle-of-the-year RPG.

Wolfenstein: Youngblood

Release Date: July 26, 2019
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One

The recent Wolfenstein revival series is such a remarkable achievement in traditional shooter design and great, if goofy, sci-fi worldbuilding that the co-op focus of this latest instalment is somewhat disappointing.

Yes, as with F.E.A.R. 3 and Dead Space 3, following a well-received second chapter the Wolfenstein series now pivots to a co-operative focused chapter. Though the game is not a mandatory multiplayer experience, combat encounters and puzzles have been redesigned to accommodate the two player mode, giving single players an AI-controlled partner and bullet sponge enemies.

However, all hope is not lost for Wolfenstein: why else would it be the third game on the list? The narrative has been pushed forward in time, as B.J.’s twin daughters are now in their adolescence, now giving players a glimpse at the 1980s of Wolfenstein‘s skewed universe. Additionally, the level design itself is more freeform thanks to development assistance from Arkane, the developers of the Dishonored series.

Will Wolfenstein: Youngblood successfully deliver more of the series’s goofy charm and crazy alternate reality? Almost certainly. On the other hand, will the game be as fun to play alone as in multiplayer? That remains to be seen. Last month’s E3 demo that raised such concerns was naturally only a snapshot of a game in development, so MachineGames and Arkane have had plenty of time to resolve these potential downsides to a co-op focused game.

Those are our three big single player games to look out for this month. Other interesting titles coming soon include Stranger Things 3 on July 4 and Attack on Titan 2 on July 5, both games hitting Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

On July 12 we will see the sequel to an almost-fantastic Minecraft-like RPG spinoff, Dragon Quest Builders 2 on Switch and PlayStation 4, as well as the Switch port of “anime Monster Hunter”, God Eater 3

The week after, July 19 brings us Switch-exclusive Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order, and at an undetermined time during the month Klei Entertainment’s anticipated survival-sim Oxygen Not Included will finally leave early access on PC.

Have we missed anything that you’re looking forward to? Let us know in the comments below and be sure bookmark OnlySP and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. You can also join the discussion in our community Discord server.

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