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The US box art for Gunman Chronicles. European variations mimicked the style of Half-Life's box art.
|Release date(s)||November 20, 2000|
|Genre(s)||First-person shooter, Space western, Action Adventure|
Gunman Chronicles or Half-Life: Gunman (previously Gunman: TC and simply Gunman) is a first-person shooter space western video game originally created as a mod by the now defunct Rewolf Software. Gunman Chronicles was originally a Quake deathmatch mod named Gunmanship 101, then it was moved to Quake II's engine before becoming a Half-Life mod. At the Half-Life Mod Expo in 1999, Gunman Chronicles stole the show and Sierra approached Rewolf to make a retail version. After significant work, Rewolf was given some office space, funding and a mapper (Jeff Lane) by Valve Software to help complete the project. It was released as a standalone game. Plans were drawn to release Gunman Chronicles on Gamecube, but for reasons unknown, any such plans seem to have been cancelled.
According to the game's introductory cutscene, the Gunmen act as a sort of military police force for humanity's inter-galactically expanding colonial empire at an unknown time period in the distant future. During a mission five years prior to the beginning of the game, the Gunmen were dispatched to a planet called Banzure Prime to investigate a communications breakdown with a research colony there, under the command of their leader, known simply as "The General". While investigating the colony, they come under attack by massive, worm-like organisms that form one part of a larger genus of creatures known as "Xenomes". The General, seeing his men have no chance by themselves, takes command of one of the Gunmen's dropships and begins performing bombing runs on the attacking Xenomes, destroying several before being captured in the jaws of one of the larger creatures. Meanwhile, the player character, Major Archer, rallies the remaining gunmen and orders them to retreat to the remaining ships and get off-world immediately, assuming that the general is already dead. The General, still alive as his fighter is dragged underground, pleads (apparently unheard) for rescue over the radio, but the Gunmen leave before having a chance to receive the message.
The game skips five years ahead and places the player in direct control of Major Archer, preparing for a mission aboard a Gunman space station dubbed 'Aeronautica'. After a training level, Archer and a small detachment of gunmen are deployed to a dinosaur inhabited jungle planet, under orders to investigate an outdated but extremely high ranking Gunman distress signal. The signal is soon revealed to be a trap, and the gunmen come under heavy attack both from unidentified human forces and the indigenous fauna. The player is eventually forced to fight his way through a series of catacombs, where he encounters the General, still alive despite having been eaten alive on Banzure Prime. He reveals to Archer that the silicon based xenomes are incapable of digesting carbon based humans, and that he, the scientists from the research colony, and the other gunmen consumed by the xenomes managed to fight their way out of the creature's gullets after Archer left them for dead. The vengeful scientists and gunmen have now formed a rogue cell, with the General as its leader, and are engineering new xenome breeds to use as weapons and to exact their vengeance upon Archer. The General allows Archer to leave, so as to watch him die at the hands of the planet's vicious reptiles, but he manages to sneak onto the Generals cargo ship, bound for a falling moon that plays host to an outdated AI that has been unstable for sometime since the General left it. At the moon, the ship comes under fire from the now fully insane AI's aerial drone. The General dumps the cargo module Archer is hiding in and leaves the AI facility's science team behind.
As Archer progresses through the facility, he learns that the AI's primary battle is not with the humans, but with a major Xenome infestation. Despite the Archer and the AI's best efforts, the Xenomes manage to destroy most of the kata-space anchors that keep the moon from falling to the planet below. The AI and Archer come to a truce, in exchange for help escaping the moon, Archer agrees to take the AI's mainframe core with it. Major Archer and the AI get on an aerial drone, but fail to navigate through an asteroid field and crash land on a desert planet called Icnus which turns out to be the General's main Xenome facility. Archer battles his way through the facility and causes the worm xenome to break loose.
The AI helps Archer to the General's location and engage in a firefight. The AI Super Drone defeats his Kata-Drone and as he is walking towards Archer, the worm Xenome comes out of a crevice and consumes him once again. More Gunmen troops arrive shortly after and control the Xenome infestation. The AI makes the facility its home.
Influence, genres and themes
Gunman Chronicles, taking place at an unknown time in the distant future, contains many themes; most notably the design focuses on Science Fiction, Cyberpunk, Steampunk, Futuristic and Western. While the game takes advantage of these in many instances, it still has a wide variety of influences. The Gunmen's Federal Starbase, Aeronautica, and the Facility at the Ferrin Moon harbor a vast collection of Techno-Futuristic and Cyberpunk themes and architecture, although they also seem to contain many designs, most notably textures and architecture, that bear striking resemblance in appearance to some of the works of the Swiss artist; H.R. Giger, who is best known for designing the Xenomorph creatures for Ridley Scott's award winning film Alien and its sequels. Many Xenome creatures in the game also resemble Giger's work. Parts of the Gunman Chronicles world seem to contain influences from novels such as Dune.
A demo for Gunman Chronicles was created by Maverick Developments, who also created the training room level shipped with the original version of Counter-Strike. The demo included levels not available in the full game. These can be added into the regular gameflow using the Gunman Chronicles Demo Addon.
Just like the games and mods based on the Half-Life engine, Gunman Chronicles featured WON technology for online multiplayer, which was later replaced by Valve's Steam on July 2004. Half-Life and its mods were updated to accommodate this new platform, but Gunman Chronicles did not receive such treatment since it was released as a standalone, independent game. As a result, Gunman Chronicles was never released on Steam, and players were not able to play online until the Gunman fanbase developed an unofficial "Gunman to Steam Patch" which enabled multiplayer matches. Unfortunately, it failed to keep the players' interest and the fanbase is very small.
Oddly enough, redeeming a Gunman Chronicles genuine CD-key on Steam gives access to a "Half-Life Platinum Pack" that includes Half-Life 1 and several add-ons: Half-Life: Blue Shift, Half-Life Deathmatch, Half-Life: Opposing Force, Team Fortress Classic, Ricochet and Day of Defeat, but not Gunman Chronicles.