|Gears of War|
|Platforms||Xbox 360, Windows|
|Genre||Gritty Third Person Shooter|
|Score||8 Gameplay: 10
Fun Factor: 9
|Buy from Amazon|
Gears of War is a third-person shooter for the Xbox 360 and was the original poster child for Epic's new Unreal Engine 3. It's a gritty look on a post alien-ravaged Earth and its main feature is many very large linebackers hiding behind stuff and shooting guns wildly. That's my one sentence summing up, but this game is actually deeper than it seems to be. The cover system, while not completely original, is what all the combat and gameplay is built around. The game punishes you severely for run-and-gun style of play and forces you to be patient in a world of chainsaws and spiked grenades. Gears of War sold very well, but it was not until this last month that I got to play through it completely, and that I did (twice). Now let's get right into my review.
I wasn't sure if I was going to be a fan of Gears of War's cover system and its lumbering protagonists, but the game really comes together. Marcus must weigh 400 pounds with his armor on and you can feel it. When he ducks down to run the camera drops down too and you feel like you can smash into anything. Shooting from cover is fun even if you have the advantage of seeing from the third person. Holding L pulls you up close to Marcus' head so you can pull off precise shots, or you can just wildly shoot blindly from behind cover. There are many options. When you're going to toss a grenade it also gives you a trajectory so you can easily throw them into a band of enemies. The Locusts themselves are also pretty intelligent and try to pin you down or toss grenades back themselves.
Even though I rated Gears a 10 in this category, it has kind of a major fault: close combat. Distant shooting and gunfight standoffs are absolutely brilliant. Everything about that works and thankfully that's 95% of the core gameplay. However, every once in a while an enemy runs up to you and you have to switch into close quarters combat mode. Of course, there's basically no close quarters combat mode in this game. You can rev your chainsaw and shoot your gun randomly while hoping you can turn 180 degrees in under 8 seconds, but most of the time you and the enemy just sort of do pirouettes and then you'll get whacked over the head and die. It's really awkward and you just hope you have a shotgun and have a clue where the bad guy is. That's my only complaint about the gameplay.
Fun Factor: 9
Gears of War has a very fun single player campaign, it clocks in at a perfect shooter length at around 5-8 hours and is broken up into distinct levels so you get a nice variety. The game also allows you to play co-op online with a friend over Xbox Live which I took advantage of my second time through. This really made the game a whole new experience as playing with someone else allows you to work even better in teams and take advantage of the cover system. Of course, this also introduces a few more problems. There are some parts of the game, where if your partner dies, you have to start from the last checkpoint. It doesn't matter how well you were doing, you just have to restart. Of course when you're by yourself and you die, the same thing happens, but it's frustrating when you or your buddy die for the 15th time seemingly right before the next checkpoint setting you back 5 minutes. Also I'll dock fun points for my major gameplay complaint (close combat), as that can really suck the fun out of the game if you're caught off guard. But these are relatively small things in the grand scheme, this game is simply a blast to play, whether you're alone or with a friend.
Graphics and Sound: 8
I really liked how this game looked. I won't say gorgeous because it's not. It's gritty, dirty, dark, and just plain nasty at times, but it conveys the desperate times of Sera and its last human residents. The main characters are huge, but aren't comically large, they look like linebackers in giant pieces of armor with huge guns strapped on them. The environments can feel repetitive at times because the game is very gray, the only interruption is that of red blood splattering the pavement. There's a few types of enemies but nothing really made one grunt stand out from the next grunt, but I have to admit, those guys were scary and you could always tell from a distance what kind of bad guy you were dealing with.
I can't say I remember any music and the voices were generally a mixed bag. The game is full of one liners, compare that to my Sound description of Call of Duty 4. Most characters just spouted crappy line after crappy line and I was trying to figure out if this was character development or just filler. Marcus' voice on the other hand is great, deep and gravelly (voiced by John DiMaggio), the perfect voice for someone who has seen so much violence and destruction. The real highlight was the sound effects though. Chainsaws ripping through flesh, bullets ricocheting off armor, and the piercing scream of Wretches are done perfectly and are extremely effective.
Aliens invading Earth is nothing new. A ragtag band of tough guys saving it isn't either. But there's something redeeming about Gears of War (well, except for the fact that you're not actually on Earth, you're on Sera, but you wouldn't know that from anything in-game). The game takes place 14 years after the initial attack, so all of the worst damage has been done. Now it's just what's left of the humans against the Locusts, a tunneling species made up of really ugly bad guys. You control Marcus Fenix, a prisoner who is jailbreaked at the beginning to help out the remaining Cogs' cause of destroying the Locusts. You lead the Cogs (basically marines) through different areas to first map the Locust tunnels and then blow them up. It's all very linear, but told in a convincing fashion through long cutscenes and decent voice acting. The story dives a bit into Marcus' past, but doesn't explain as much as I'd like and you never really learn anything about your cohorts.
Gears of War is a very fun game with nearly perfect gameplay and it has one of the most distinct looks out there. The story leaves you asking for more (and not necessarily in a good way) but overall this game is great. Play it with a friend over Xbox Live and you will have a six hours of your life sawed away in memorable fashion. The game had my heart pounding at times and at others I wanted to throw my controller, but it balances out in the end and you will be satisfied. I'm looking forward to another go playing as Marcus Fenix and his fellow Cogs. For the record, like most of my reviews, this score is based solely on the campaign experience.