Gears of War (360) – Review

Gears of War Cover “Gears of War” produced by Epic Games and distributed by Microsoft for the Xbox 360, may not offer a drastic difference from many first-person or third-person shooters, but manages to introduce several tactical elements and enough variety of battle situations, in addition to excellent graphics and sound for a highly immersive experience, to bring together an extremely tight game that is very enjoyable to play.

Story: A-

The story unfolds well after the events of “Emergance Day” – where non-human Locust forces,using a complex maze of underground caverns, made a massive attack on the human populace on the surface, leaving waste many of the cities and forcing the surviving humans to a small conclave on top of a plateau to avoid the Locust forces. Humanity has one last chance, to deliver a huge bomb to the core of the Locust network, but they lack their ‘Gears’, the soldiers that have been fighting the war and their numbers are dwindling every day. To that end, an effort is made to free Marcus Fenix (the player’s character) from a military prison before the Locust horde can overrun it, and thus beginning the most important mission to the saving of mankind.

Gameplay: A

Gears of War is best described as an advanced tactical third person shooter, much in the same light as Killzone and Halo, but with a lot of improvements in both game play and immersiveness. As a Gear, you can absorb a good amount of damage before going down, but by finding cover and avoiding damage, you can recover your health and live to fight some more, much like how Halo’s shield system works. You have a slot of grenade, a light weapon such as a pistol, and then two heavy weapon slots that can be used for machine guns, rifles, shotguns, and “The Hammer of Dawn”, a targeting gun for an overhead satellite that unleashes a destructive beam on some of the larger foes (though it requires the satellites to be operational and in open sky); weapons can be switched or ammo collected as needed when found, usually off the bodies of dead Locust forces.

Gears of War ScreenshotThe key part of the game that makes it tactical is the use of cover to make strategic attacks and defenses against Locust forces. Walls and half-height blockades can be used, allowing you to have full cover, but you can also aim over or around these obstacles at the risk of exposing yourself to enemy fire. You can jump, dive, and roll out from obstacles to open ground or to another piece of cover. Being able to jump from cover to cover, particularly when under a large number of enemy forces or those manning mounted machine guns, is necessary to flank your foes and progress forward in battle. As noted by Cliffb’s introduction in the manual, this system works really well and simulates real life paintball quite well. It also allows you to play your own strategy as you work the game, whether to hang back and stay in cover, or risk an offensive attack hoping to find shelter as you go.

You also have computer-controlled squadmates that you gain control of about 20% into the game. You have a few commands you can given them (to defend themselves, attack, or regroup), but for the most part, they’ll usually take your lead, staying as cover as needed but sometimes tend to get in the way if you try to stay back too much. If they do go down, however, you can revive them by getting close to them. There’s several points in the game that your 2 or 4 man squad will need to split into two groups and take two different paths that crisscross each other, allowing one team to provide cover to another team numerous times, and regrouping later. There’s also points that, for the plot, you’ll take one man, or go by yourself, to take care of business.

The computer AI is about as good as the friendly AI as well – they’ll use cover and show some team tactics in trying to get up to you as well, but by the end, you’ll likely be dealing more with their numbers and their level of cover as opposed to their general tactics. There’s also an unusual creature in the game called the ‘Krell’, bat-like creatures with razor sharp wings that live underground with the Locust, but fly surface-side at night. If you should be out at night and wander into a dark area, the Krell will immediately swoop down and literally slice you to bits. This is used in some levels to keep you from wandering off the main course too much, but also used as to make you find a source of light (or fire) to progress across a ruined city in the middle of the night. It’s a little annoying as what constitutes light and dark when the Krell are around, but like much of the rest of the game, checkpoints where you return to after you die are numerous and sufficiently frequent that it’s quite easy to take risks in the game.

There’s also a vehicle in the game, which has the odd stipulation that you can either drive it, or use the mounted gun to fight off the Krell. It’s nowhere near as fun as, say, driving a Warthog in Halo, but it does add another angle to the game.

Save for the aforementioned points where you can select between two paths to send you team down, the game is mostly linear in design, though a few sections have you travel to a target point, then return, usually meeting up with the Locust horde as you make the return trip. However, despite the linearity, there’s still a lot of freedom how you can appropriate battles due to wide areas and lots of cover. And while the gameplay really doesn’t change during the course of the game, the variety of locations and tactical situations pretty much keeps the game fresh throughout the story mission. I found that for myself, the game never dragged on, as I found typical to happen with many FPS and TPS games.

Value : Replayability: A

The story progresses over 5 acts, roughly between 2 and 3 hours each, as to make the full game just shy of 15 hrs for myself (on the easiest level, mind you). Selected points have prerendered cutscenes to keep the story going, but at many points while in the game, you’ll have a radio discussion with your control base and other teammates, as well as general chatter within your squad, which helps to keep the immersion in the game high. There’s also 3 different difficulty levels, with the last being unlocked once you finished the game on either of the lower difficulty levels. There’s also a special goal of collecting “cog tags” (similar to dog tags) of fallen soldiers, many in hidden locations, that make a return to the game worthwhile. More importantly, the story mode also allows for co-op play either at the same console or through Xbox Live, which can make the harder difficulty levels a bit easier to get through.

There’s also competitive online game modes, and to it’s benefit, they all are based on team modes pitting the Gears against the Locust. Besides a standard “battle” mode where both teams fight until one side is wasted with and without respawning (save for completely devastating close range attacks), there’s an Assassination mode that requires your team to kill the leader of the other team before they do the same to yours. These up to 4-on-4 squad matches can really get intense, since the maps have all the same types of cover and weapons that you find in the actually game, and a well-coordinated team can do quite well.

Graphics: A

The graphics are superb, taking advantage of every bit the 360 can give while still feeling gritty like a war-torn landscape should be. While greys and browns dominate the textures, there’s enough splashes of cover to keep it from being to bland. The camera, over the shoulder of your character, reminds me of the camerawork used for the reporters in the movie “Starship Troopers” – it’s not steady, wobbles a bit, particularly when there’s an explosion, but doesn’t have the motion-sickness inducing effects that bobbing-head HUDs have. The landscapes used for each of the main acts are sufficiently varied and incredibly well detailed, from streets of a ravaged city, to an industrial factory, a deep underground mine, and a high-speed moving train. One level really impressed me as you traipsed through the level in the middle of a downpour, and made me even feel wet and cold through how well it looked.

Audio: A-

Sound is very immersive and important to the game – it gives you a clue where your foes are about to attack from, and can make hearing your teammates difficult when in the midst of a heavy battle. The voicework is quite good, with some great delivery at times for the more sarcastic lines. A subtle yet dynamic soundtrack helps to intensify the battles. It should be noted that there’s some aspects of the dialog that makes this game inappropriate for young kids.

Overall: A

“Gears of War” may not introduce too much new to what has been seen in third-person shooters, but it manages to use elements of these in the best way to create an very intense, immersive tactical game in both single and multiplayer mode. Despite little change in gameplay through the story mode, the game has an excellent length, pacing, and story, in addition to looking and sounding excellent. While there’s a few points involving the Krell, the overall game is outstanding, and should be part of most 360 gamers’ library, hands down.

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2 Responses

  1. Researches has pointed out that gears of War have increased XBox Live! by 80% , suddenly most of the people on my friendlist are playing GoW everytime I sign in.

    Meanwhile, I can’t stop playing Viva Pinata šŸ˜€ Damn, I need to complete insane mode for GoW.

  2. Hi,I’m a HUGE fan of gears of war and I was wondering why they made Gears of war for Playstaion 3 but didn’t make Gears of war 2 for Playstion 3

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