How well do you know your controller? Do you have magic fingers? Western Press is one of those games that will test your reactions to the limit, because if you don’t know your way around a joypad, or come bearing the reflexes of a sloth, you may as well go home right now, because you’ve pretty much lost already.
Western Press bills itself as the most historically accurate frontier duelling game on Xbox One. Now, I’m not in any way going to debate that, because even the least knowledgeable gamer out there knows that the historically accurate frontier duelling genre is a small one. In fact, it probably consists of just the one game. This game.
Creating a genre of your own is all well and good, but the genre and game that you are trying to push needs to be fun, it needs to be enjoyable and it needs to have enough of a draw to ensure the spending of hard earned cash from the gaming community is money well spent.
Well, Western Press nails a couple of those requisite points, but it utterly fails with the most important one… whether or not this game is worth your money.
I’m sorry to say that it’s not. But that’s not due to it being a dodgy offering, because what is included is fairly decent fun. It’s just that there isn’t enough of it and within a matter of minutes of having loaded the Western Press up for the first time, you could quite easily be seeing the sun set and the credits roll, safe in the knowledge that you’ve maxed out the creativity from Surprise Attack Games.
Anyways, Western Press brings pretty much what it says on that original tin, putting you into the shoes of numerous historically incorrect figures as they prepare to draw pistols and show who is the baddest shooter of the entire Wild West.
This is done by following a series of quick fire button prompts that put any other QTE to shame, just due to the sheer speed of matters. Starting off slowly, as you learn your trade in a fight to the death against a pile of old tin cans, the whole premise and idea of Western Press is a simple one, as you make your way as fast as you can through 10 face button presses, with each incorrect press delaying your progress by mere milliseconds.
Obviously the cans can’t fight back, but dispatching them into a pile of scrap metal within a few seconds sees you moving on to a trickier opponent, one who will fight back. Eventually. You may well find that the face button prompts are interspersed with d-pad requests too. At least that mixes things up a little and ensures that the few moments of time that you’ll be left enjoying Western Press, doesn’t ever turn into a bore.
From here you are left to rinse and repeat matters until you’ve seen off the biggest, baddest, quickest drawers in the West with Wyatt Hurt, Poka Huntress, Silas, The Mayor and friends ready to go sharpshooting.
It’s all simple stuff, and even though a few of the foes you will face will see your battles taking place across a best of 3 format, for the most part, one shot and one win sees you swiftly moving on to the next. As long as you know your way around a controller, and as long as your fingers can hit buttons, the test that Western Press brings is near negligible.
But whilst the solo experience will be over in few short minutes, Western Press has quite obviously been created with bragging rights in mind and this is where the local and online multiplayer modes come in.
Whether you are wanting just a quick hit one off match against a friend, or prefer to create a 16 shooter full tournament of players and AI bots, Western Press has you sorted. Or it would have if the online component was actually populated with players.
It’s not, and much like many small indie titles that try to embrace the online world, Western Press falls flat on its face due to a lack of players. In fact, if you haven’t got a friend or 15 who also has the game, then you’ll be lucky to ever find a single online opponent. That’s not the game’s problem, it’s a fact of life for any small title trying to compete in the same space as the big online blockbusters, but you need to be aware that online options are severely limited.
So that leaves you with local battling to worry about and even though the options are all there for a good time – both deathmatch and last man standing modes are present – without 15 friends sitting in your living room, you’re going to mostly be left with the same old AI opponents. And just like the solo mode, the enthusiasm and draw of it all very quickly wears off.
It is also this multiplayer component of the game which introduces a memory mode feature. This does away with the super fast reactions needed in the main game for something a little more taxing, as you try to replicate ever increasing lengths of button presses at the same time as your opponent. Get one wrong, and you’ll find a bullet placed squarely between the eyes. Get one right though and Achievements a plenty will be coming your way… especially should you manage to gather up your inner Leslie Welch (Google is your friend here, kids!) and string together lengthy responses.
And that really is the entirety of the Western Press gameplay covered. I have to say that the super blocky highly pixelated retro visuals don’t really do it much of a favour either, and even though they allow you to realise the difference between the various characters, it would have been lovely to see something a bit crisper and more modern.
Thankfully the same can’t be said for the narration, as both that and the soundtrack are brilliant, really allowing you to get fully immersed into the Wild West feel that this game is trying to deliver. Again though much like the rest of the game, they are still in super short supply.
If you hadn’t yet guessed, that’s the running theme with Western Press. It may well be the most historically accurate frontier duelling game on Xbox One, but with that comes its own pressure. Pressure that should at least see more content available for the pistol duelling fans out there to embrace, instead of seeing a few minutes of button mashing fun before it all ends. But it doesn’t. And that’s a big problem.