Since the release of the Quake 3 engine source code in summer 2005 a lot of modifications and spin-offs have emerged. One such spin-off, Smokin' Guns (formerly known as Western Quake 3), is all about classical Wild West themes: big rifles and revolvers, wailing steel guitars, bank robberies, and smooth talking. It's a game you don't want to miss.
Packages for the game are available for Arch Linux on x86-32 (built by me from the ArchLinux User-community Repository) and for Linux Mint. For all others, Valery Reznic has used his Magic Ermine to create a self-sufficient binary of Smokin' Guns that should run on both 32- and 64-bit x86 architectures.
"Howdy, partner!" -- your first game
Upon first start you will be greeted with the game's main menu screen, accompanied by atmospheric background music. The menu is represented by a wooden table with different items as choices. A click on the twin pistols, for example, leads you to multiplayer mode, while the bottle with gun oil in the upper right corner symbolizes the options area.
Click on that bottle and take a quick look at the options panel to check whether everything accommodates your system configuration and habits. You want to check at least the Player pane to set your name and the Controls pane to take a look at the control bindings and adjust them if you wish.
When you are done, press Escape to get back to the main menu. Now click on the single revolver to enter Single Player mode. In the list on the left, choose the map wq_dry (Dry Gulch), which is well suited for beginners because it has a simple layout with almost no dark areas and mazes. Click on the bullet in the lower right corner of the screen to start the game.
After the map has loaded you will find yourself at some random location, hopefully without any enemies in close proximity. If you see any, try to find a hiding spot or get rid of them with your gun (press the left mouse button to shoot).
Take a look at your equipment. You always start with a Remington 58 six-shooter and one knife. To change weapons, select a category by pressing the keys 1 to 4. You can press the numbers repeatedly to choose among weapons in the same category. In theory you should also be able to cycle through your weapons with the mouse wheel, but this didn't work for me.
Press B to bring up the Buy menu, and use the mouse or number keys to navigate. You have some starting money, so why not spend it? A good boiler plate for example (from the Equipment section of the Buy menu) can keep a few torso shots from hitting you, which is important because you can't get any hit points back. If you're a cheapskate, you can also just run around with your revolver in the hope of finding something lying on the ground.
Now find an enemy to practice on. You should be able to locate one quickly by listening to gun noise, screams, and footsteps. When you have one in your sight, aim and shoot at them. Normal fire, with your left mouse button, will take a bit of time to aim and fire a precise shot. At close range, use the right button (alternate fire) to shoot more rapidly but with less precision.
Chances are that your magazine will run out of bullets soon. If this happens, find some cover (press C to duck) and hit R to reload. Some guns' magazines (e.g. your Remington revolver's) need to be reloaded as a whole, while some will take individual bullets (e.g. the heavy Peacemaker revolver or the shotguns). You can move while you reload, but you won't be able to attack in the middle of doing it, so be careful.
An air full of lead: the weapons
By now you're past the rookie stage. Pick up some money in the buildings or earn some by killing your opponents. Aim for the head and torso -- these body parts take the most damage.
Try to find or buy another six-shooter, then press 2 repeatedly to equip two of them at once. You have one pistol in each hand now, each commanded by a mouse button. Reloading is a bit tricky now; so tricky, in fact, that it's mentioned in the game's FAQ: hold R and press the appropriate mouse button to reload one of the guns.
What kind of weapon would suit you best right now? Maybe a Smith & Wesson six-shooter for a skirmish in the saloon, or a Winchester rifle to defend yourself against an incoming cavalry regiment? Then again, a whiskey bottle with a piece of lighted cloth in its neck (known as a Molotov Cocktail today) might last longer if you're facing a pack of foes in a tight space.
Dynamite and Molotov Cocktails need to be lighted with the right mouse button and then thrown with the left. But watch it, the fuse will eventually reach the explosive even while it's in your hand. Dynamite will explode instantly too if it is hit by a bullet.
You can be a sniper by buying a Sharps rifle and a scope from the Equipment menu, assembling them with the Enter key, and zooming in with the right mouse button.
Be sure to check out the equipment section in the manual to learn a few more tricks. Specifically, take a look at the descriptions of the knife, the Gatling gun, and the explosives.
Whatever weapon you choose, you can be sure that it conveys the Wild West feel. The guns have magazines of an appropriate size and a realistic rate of fire. They are pretty loud, too. The only thing I miss is an aim that is influenced by your movement speed, your body position, and the recoil.
Duels, bank robberies and other adventures
Aside from the classic Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and Round Team Play game modes, SG comes with a bank robbery mode, where your team has to either steal or protect a money bag, and a unique duel mode. Bank robbery maps start with br_, duel maps with du_, and deathmatch maps with wq_.
In round-based game modes (Bank Robbery, Duel, and Round Team Play) you can buy additional weapons, equipment, and ammunition at your starting area. In the Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch modes, where you respawn instantly when you die, you can buy stuff at any time.
Duel mode deserves some extra explanation. The map you're playing on is divided into separate areas, each of which serves as a fighting ground for two duelists. The game play is round-based; for each round, the players are matched up in pairs of two and assigned to an area each. The duels then run simultaneously.
You're only allowed to buy six-shooters in this mode, and buying is only possible during the opening sequence at the beginning of the round. Directly after the start of the duel, you don't have a cross-hair to aim with. After some time it fades in, thus giving players with a good eye the edge over their opponents.
What makes Smokin' Guns so great
Smokin' Guns' weapons, maps, player models, bot taunts, and music all contribute to a highly atmospheric gaming experience. Considering that most of today's commercial games focus on better effects instead of innovation, Smokin' Guns is a real feat for free software.
I'd only wish for smarter bots that will actually rob the bank and more players on the Internet servers. Perhaps we'll meet someday at high noon in Coyote Canyon?