Released in 1976, Outlaw wasn’t the first arcade game to explore the Old West tradition of the shootout (Midway/Taito’s Gun Fight had done the same thing a year earlier), but the Atari game was the first to put the player in the middle of the action.
On the simple black and white screen (with a plastic Western town overlay), a lone desperado ran out from behind a building, turned, drew and fired – directly at you. To survive, you had to be quick on the draw.
The cabinet had a light gun (a mock Colt .45) held in a front holster, ready to be drawn and fired once the outlaw stopped running.
Outlaw ensured there could be no cheating by flashing a warning if the gun was drawn too soon or wasn’t returned to its holster between duels. This was a question of honour, and a fair game was the only way to pass the “Dude” and “Greenhorn” ratings to earn the coveted “Top Gun” title.
For an even higher score, gunfighters could ignore the “Half-fast Pete” outlaw option (who was more accurate but slower on the draw) to face off against the faster “Billy-the-Kid” opponent, who could draw faster.
Outlaw was converted to the Atari 2600 home console (then known as the Atari VCS) in 1978, but the cartridge game looked and played more like Gun Fight than the Atari arcade game.
Home players had to wait several more years for a true first-person light gun shooter, but as long as the arcade Outlaw was still around, gamers could still get a taste of good old frontier justice.