Nov 18

Written by: Thryon
11/18/2006 12:36 AM  RssIcon

Box Art
"You got a plan B? "
Gears of War
Release Date: November 09, 2006
Developer: Epic Games
ESRB Rating: Mature
Reviewed by: Brian Wray
From the very first time I read about the new Xbox 360 console and drooled over it impressive technical specifications, I dreamt of games that would take my breath away, that would shatter my sense of time and reality allowing me to become oblivious to the world around as I become immersed in this new virtual environment. Now a few days short of a year after the Xbox 360 console was released, Gears of War comes close to turning my dreams into reality.

On an Earth like planet called Sera, human wage a war for survival against the Locust Horde. It was not always this way. Long before the humans knew about the Locust Horde, they fought wars between each other for control of imulsion. Imulsion is a radioactive liquid that flows under the earth crust. The liquid was ignored till the discovery that it could be used as a valuable source of energy turned the liquid into an extremely valuable commodity. For generations humans fought humans for control of the imulsion. Then one day everything changed. This was the day the Locust Horde burst through the earth’s and started to eradicate all humans. The day, known simply as Emergence Day, changed everything. This is where Gears of War enters the picture and the fun begins.

One cannot talk about this game without talking about the breathtaking graphics. The crumbled world of Sera is rendered in incredible detail. For the first time I could clearly see the potential in these “next-gen” consoles. The in-game character models rival many computer generated character of other games. The various locations and architecture is simply stunning. The only issue I have with the visuals is the occasional texture pop-ins. This occurs when a model texture is loaded only after the gamer enters a zone and the model has already been created. To be honest most times gamers will be too busy not dying to notice pop-ins.
Screenshot
(Click for larger image)
Gears of War is a third-person tactical shooter. Gamers take on the role of Marcus Fenix, a former military hero that fell from grace. He is released from detention by Dominic Santiago and joins the ranks of the Delta Squad in an attempt to stop the Locust invading forces. For gamers who prefer games such as Quake, Doom or Halo that allows them to run into rooms with guns blazing, rocket launchers blasting and zappers zapping everything in site, stay away from Gears of War. Attempting the run-and-gun strategy in this game will result in many untimely deaths and a restart at the nearest checkpoint. The Locust Horde is very efficient as shooting big fat holes in the head of their enemies. Good thing the good guys have big guns. All major categories of guns are present, from the rifles, snipers, shotguns, machine guns and rocket launcher. The game also brings in a few unique weapons such as the Hammer of Dawn. The Hammer itself is a targeting system that calls down a giant laser shot from a satellite orbiting Sera. The Hammer of Dawn is extremely effective, but does require enemies to be outside to use. The Hammer will be required against some of the “larger” Locust that will act as obstacles towards completing missions. Bad guys do come big in this game. Standard drones stand tall at over 7 feet while Bommers and berserkers stand closer to 8 feet, but all are dwarfed by the larger beasts such as the brumak and corpser who stands about 40-50 feet in height respectively. To succeed against such brutal foes, gamers will need to learn to use strategy as much as fire power.

An important part of this strategy is the use of a cover system. Using various game objects such as wall and cars to duck behind, then lay a suppressing fire while other COGS move into play and repeat the process will allow smart gamers to flank the enemy and rain destruction upon their lizard like souls. That brings me to the next point, fighting with a partner.
Screenshot
(Click for larger image)
The graphics in Gears will sell the game; the multiplayer will ensure that people keep it. Without a doubt the real gem of this game is the multiplayer aspect. It is quite apparent that the game was designed to be played with a friend. Honestly, this game is the reason why Xbox Live even exist. Almost during the entire adventures, Marcus will be accompanied by another member of the Delta Squad. When playing single player, this partner will be controlled by the game’s artificial intelligence which does an adequate job of shooting bad things, but is not very effective at being tactical. At times, their foolish actions may even cause the entire party to get wiped out by the Locus. To fully utilize tactics such as flanking and suppressing fire will require another player. Gears of War allows for two players to team up to play the entire main campaign. A partner may not be required for the normal playing difficulty, but completing the game on the hardest difficulty is extremely frustrating and challenging without a coop buddy.

Of course the game also accommodates larger crowds of gamers. Gears of War allows for 8 players (4 vs 4) to compete for survival in a series of events. There is nothing revolutionary here as the offering is the standard fare of death-matches and variations of “capture the flag”, but the action is fast, fierce and fun.

I only have one complaint with the game. It is way to short. To be honest, I loved this game so much that I do not think it could ever be considered to be long enough. With insane graphics, rocking soundtracks, compelling storyline and gameplay that rocked my world, Gears of War is the reason why I shelled out over $500 on the Xbox 360. It is the fulfillment of the “next-gen” promise made by both Microsoft and Sony. No Xbox 360 owner should be without this title.
--Brian Wray

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