Old West-style games are generally ones of clichéd fun. Sit down behind a controller, pop one into a console, and you can safely bet you’ll be playing as some kind of cowboy on some kind of quest for revenge. This is not necessarily a bad thing; let’s be honest, playing as a railroad builder, hammering railroad spikes under the baking sun, or as a prospector, slowly sifting through pans of river water for hours wouldn’t exactly qualify as fun. So it should come as no surprise that Western on-rails shooter The Lawless follows the same trend.
The Lawless puts you in the spurred boots of a nameless protagonist who, after witnessing a man killed by a gang of what I can only assume are no-good-bandits (the game doesn’t really give a solid back story for your actions), decides to go on a quest to sit down with each individual gang member and give them a scolding.
Ha, ha! Just kidding. Actually, he decides to use the fact that the untamed West is “lawless” (see what I did there?) to his advantage, and goes on a sun-baked hunt to mercilessly track down and execute all four gang leaders. This is where the game begins.
“Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! *Click*”
In typical on-rails fashion, you’ll play through a series of missions, wherein the game moves you forward, taking away the need for player control. Instead of moving your character, you fire his gun, using a combination of bullet time and tap-to-shoot mechanics.
There are a total of four missions (five, including the tutorial, and ten if you include the hardcore mode), which have your character unleashing his gun-powered rage on a series of enemies within. Each mission ends with a rather anticlimactic shooting of the nominated bandit leader, and after the fourth mission, you’re done.
Yep, you’ve played for about ten, to fifteen minutes, and then you’re done. If you only bought the full game, and not the hardcore mode, then you’re done completely. If you purchased the hardcore mode, then you get to replay all the same levels with no aiming reticule, which makes the game way more infuriating than it sounds. Even if you desperately want more out of The Lawless, your only option is to go back and try your hand at leaderboard competition or attempt to snag a few achievements. That’s it.
The length of the game is its most glaring flaw; as glaring as the sunlight on a waxed window, in fact. But that can still be forgiven if there’s some semblance of replayability outside of leaderboards. But, there isn’t.
In shooting (pardon the pun) for a heavily cinematic experience, the developers forget that we’re playing a game. Even cinematic-heavy games still need to give the player some manner of choice to keep users immersed. The Lawless doesn’t allow player choice at all.
The level of demand that The Lawless requires from the player reduces the game from an actual game, to a mildly interactive quick-time-event; the equivalent of “press ‘x’ to win”. The game lines up targets and demands you hit all of them, or you’ll die, before forcing you onward and repeating the process. Even the game’s seeming difficulty is really from having to tap the rigidly specific targets correctly and quickly; (unpolished game mechanics, in other words).
This is not a saving grace, but I do want to mention the game’s positives before I close. The Lawless looks and sounds excellent. Guns roar properly, the settings are realistic and believable, and the voice acting (while brief, like the game overall), is done well, giving each character emotional weight. Excellent polish can’t save this “game”, though.
More of a proof-of-concept cinematic than an actual game, The Lawless will fail to entertain even the most desperate gamer. It’s graphically and audibly polished to a bright sheen, and the core gameplay mechanics would be fun if they were implemented better. But they aren’t, and thus, there are only a few minutes of fun to be had here. The Lawless is packed to the bursting point with potential, but offers next to nothing in its current state.