Epic Games
Microsoft
Action
1-2 (2-8)
11.07.06

Gears of War (Xbox 360)


Gears of War is an exclusive Xbox 360 tactical third person (over the shoulder) shooter. Gears was developed by Epic Games on the Unreal 3.0 engine and published by Microsoft Game Studios. While this is certainly not a new genre of game by any stretch of the imagination - it certainly does not mean that you shouldn’t give this game a fair shot - you’ll be glad you did.

The story is OK. The game starts off with you in prison. From there you escape with the help of a fellow soldier of COG (Coalition of Ordered Governments). As you scramble to an awaiting helicopter you shoot at various obstacles that stand in your way. Once you get to the helicopter you are then told of the sad state of the world, and that you are needed to help defeat the aliens (typical save the world story). All in all, the entire story is pretty standard and disposable, but it actually is probably better that way. Gears is a lot like watching a kung-fu movie You don’t care why they are fighting, you just want to see some one get kicked in the face (in this case, it would be shot in the face).

Gameplay

While watching someone else play Gears it is easy to think this game will be a walk in the park. Sitting there watching someone else play you think, “Standard shooter with ducking ability, piece of cake. I’ll just run thru doom style.” However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. If you attempt to “run and gun” in Gears you will find yourself dead quickly and often. Gears requires you to play with some sort of regard to a plan. Running and Gunning simply will get you killed. One thing Epic did add to the game that helps a great deal is “blind firing”, which consists of being able to fire your weapon without aiming while crouching for cover. Blind firing allows you to get a general idea of the area your weapon is firing so that you can adjust your aim without getting killed. While not allowing you to run and gun slows down the action, blind firing adds high tension. Thus, making up for the adrenaline induced by the player having to frantically run at enemies when running and gunning. While you are blind firing you really get the feeling that you are ducking for your life. The Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) in the enemies ranges from great to…well… WTF? While parts of the game are a cakewalk, the game steadily increases in difficulty. At times this can be frustrating, but it is a positive frustration- the kind that makes you determined to keep playing. The game never seems too hard or unbeatable; it is a good steady increase. The weapons in Gears are pretty standard and do not seem to have enough variety. The only weapon to get excited about is the sweetest addition of your standard rifle, with a totally freakin’ sweet chainsaw attachment. Another downside (or upside depending on how realistic you like your ability to carry weapons view is) you can only carry 4 weapons at a time - and 2 are not your choice. The 2 guns you can’t drop for rifles or shotguns are bombs and a pistol. Bombs cannot be exchanged for anything, and the pistol can only be exchanged for a slightly more powerful pistol. That leaves you 2 spots (or 1 really seeing as you’re most likely not going to drop your chainsaw rifle for anything. It is just too sweet.) Using the chainsaw is a glorious and blood splattering experience. You will really enjoy it, especially in 1080 resolution.

The controls are smooth and responsive. There is no lag time when between the direction pressed and character moving. Reloading a weapon is easy. If you run out of ammunition while firing the game will automatically reload. The concept behind “active re-loading” is to simply press the shoulder button to start reloading. When this happens a bar will appear with a white block in it and a slider line. When the slider bar is in the white block, press the shoulder button again. If you time it correctly you will get a quicker re-load and quicker aiming for the life of the clip. If you miss the block, your gun jams and the reload takes longer than just letting the game auto re-load for you. If you happen to miss the block you might as well just let it go, since it’s a lot quicker that way. Mastering the active reload isn’t necessary, but it is a great deal of help in later stages of the game when enemies are numerous, fast, and powerful. Gears of War can be considered to be rather short (about 10-12 hours of gameplay) which for some reason seems to be a “problem” that a lot of great games seem to fall into. This doesn’t hurt the game at all though as the story flows well with no real hang-ups in the course of the game.

Besides the single player campaign, readily available is the co-op mode. Co-op is available both online and offline. This is probably one of the coolest features found in Gears of War. You are able to beat the game online with a buddy, and still unlock all the achievements as if you were playing solo. Online multiplayer in Gears of War is hands down extremely solid gameplay. Online teamplay with the COG vs. the Locust is a unique and thrilling experience. The 4 on 4 gameplay gets so intense, particularly when it’s down to 1 vs 1 and you know your whole team is watching. The game puts you on edge, and should be played by every Xbox Live owner.

Graphics

What can I say? It is the prettiest console game to date. Though the game took some time to get released, they accomplished their goal in spades of making sure it was the cream of the crop. If you don’t have an HDTV and needed a reason to buy one, this is your reason.

Sound

The sound is fantastic and was crafted with the same attention to detail as the graphics were. When a fellow Gear is talking and you walk away while they are talking the volume of their voice goes down relative to the distance away. If there is an explosion on your left, you know it is to your left. The 5.1 audio really does immerse you in the world of Gears. Do yourself a favor and play this game with the volume cranked up.

Replay Value

The Gears story mode has 3 difficulty levels and tons of achievements to unlock that are sure to have you replaying the game for some time to come. Couple that, along with the outstanding gameplay, fierce multiplayer modes, and the ability to download new maps, Gears of War packs quite an amount of replay value.

Bottom Line:

Gears of War is a definite pick up. This title is beautiful in almost every aspect from gameplay to graphics to sound. While the game is on the short side it does not take away anything from the overall game itself. Gears of War is a helluva lot of fun, and that’s reason enough to pick it up. There is a reason that this game took awhile to come out, Epic wanted it to exceed the exceptionally high expectations. They succeeded.

Related Links:

Official Website for Gears of War

-James Depping




9.8
9.0
9.2
9.2
9.3