Editorial | 5/20/2010 at 6:11 PM

Battlefield Report: May 20, 1911

    Dear Doris,

    The cactus-covered plains of Arizona are beautiful, but I heed them nothing when I remember your face. I will be returning soon. The cattle that we are bringing from Mexico are moving along just fine. My concern right now is to keep them safe from rustlers, which are plentiful here.

    Last night we took the fight to their door and raided the ranch where we found some of their horses. Don't worry - I'm fine, and I won't be making a habit of it. You should have seen Billy in action...our boy is growing up to be a fine young man. I hope he remembers who taught him how to ride and shoot so well, and I hope it serves him in a better living than driving beef every year.

    I'll write you again in a couple of nights. By the time you get these letters I will be in Wyoming, much closer to home.

    With love,
    Angus Redbot

It was bound to happen; and it will again...hopefully this addition to the saturation of coverage already received will not turn you off to this game. However, the game most prevalent to my attention right now is Red Dead Redemption, so it gets the Battlefield Report treatment. I apologize in advance if I don't shake it up a bit - I'd rather not use this monthly feature to hype a game that's still fresh on the shelves. Plus, our review is pending, so I won't go into what I like most about this game. Instead, I'm going to describe my first Gang Shootout and let you decide how much fun I had.

Shootout is essentially a deathmatch-style multiplayer versus mode for up to eight players. Gang Shootout is the team version. I initiated the match in Armadillo without having a posse ready - oops. Within about 20 seconds, a small posse of three random players were facing off in the street against...me. The game instructed me to draw and shoot whomever I could nail before they nailed me. I was ready, but my draw wasn't quick enough; I landed two shots on the poor bastard on the left before I was dead in the dirt.

"Naw, dang."

Upon respawning, I realized for the first time that the game had automatically assigned me as a U.S. Army soldier, and had changed my appearance and weapons loadout to match. I was a fat slob that took up 5% more screen space, I was outgunned, and had to use unfamiliar weapons. In other words: I was either going to have to fight hard, or suffer through the next ten minutes.

After a second to catch my breath and inspect my weapons, I figured my first and most immediate course of action should be to get cozy with some cover. I found a fairly secluded hay bale and commenced to peeking around the edge, watching for movement. Since sprinting marks you on the enemy's radar, all I had to do was wait for someone to sprint across the gap. Sure enough, the other team quickly overestimated their quarry and began scrambling for better position - their impatience would be their undoing. One of them - having grabbed a sniper rifle - stood by on overwatch, but until I started banging away with my repeater rifle they had no clue where I was. This helped me to get my first unimpeded kill of the match...at which point my position was compromised and I had to high-tail it out or wait for them to get into better position.

A quick dash to the stables and a couple of ledge hops, and I was tucked away in the hay loft. One of the other gang members spawned inside a nearby building and promptly sprinted outside, which marked him on my radar. I'd like to say that "I made quick work of him", but to be painfully honest he reacted quickly to my shots and fired some of his own back. I was forced to swap cover, and the brief pause in flying lead gave him a chance to find a tree and tell his teammates where I was hiding. After another short exchange of fire, he finally left his head sticking out long enough for me to shoot it off, but by that time his fellow hombre had taken the opportunity to sneak up and stick me like a pig with his Bowie knife.

I respawned and checked the score: two kills, two deaths. Not bad so far! I had my doubts that I could keep the score even, but for the moment I was elated. A long-range shot snapped into the wood next to my character; time to leave the score screen and get to some cover, dummy! I swapped to my repeater and started searching for movement again. A flash of color caught my eye. Raising my rifle and preparing to fire, I suddenly realized that what I was aiming at was another U.S. Army soldier, far in the distance. A glance to the radar confirmed it was true - someone had dropped into the match on my side of the Shootout!

Confidence bolstered even more, I moved up to a feed storage shed and pressed to the wall. The other team's sniper was perched on the barn. He had seen me move, and had lined up for a headshot. I crouched and leaned out, appearing below his crosshairs and getting a bead. I fired three rounds, one of which was a good hit and sent him back into cover. At this point, my newly joined teammate had gained the attention of the other two hombres - the distraction was welcome, but their firefight was moving toward where the sniper and I were playing cat-and-mouse...and stray bullets were randomly pelting the wood of the storage shed and plunging into a stack of nearby hay bales. It was making me nervous, and I missed a good headshot opportunity on the sniper (although I made two more good hits). Between the two of us, someone was going to have to either move out or get a lucky shot; we were both too cautious to get hit more than once before ducking back and regenerating our health.

But I was stubborn (please contain your gasps of shock), and it paid off: I finally connected with a bullet to the dome. The telltale ba-dink! Achievement notification sounded - it was Red Dead Rockstar, which added insult to the fatal injury I'd just inflicted. Not only did I cap you, but I got an Achievement for it, ya prick!

The fight continued for another couple of minutes - minor highlights including some slick pistol kills and getting waylaid once by a double-barreled shotgun - before coming to an end. My final score was eight kills for eight deaths, which is good enough for me...unfortunately we still lost the fight because my pardner wasn't able to quite hold his own.

That is the account of my first Shootout match, and to date the only one I've had. Take what you will from this story, and leave your comments. Don't forget to tip the bartender.