Game Description: Gears of War thrusts gamers into a deep and harrowing story of humankind's epic battle for survival against the Locust Horde, a nightmarish race of creatures that surface from the bowels of the planet. players live and breathe the role of Marcus Fenix. A disgraced former war hero, Marcus seeks Personal redemption as he leads his fire team against an onslaught of merciless warrior fiends. Gamers immerse themselves in an experience so intensely emotional and gut-wrenching that playing will be like controlling a blockbuster action movie. Control Marcus Fenix and his fire team as they pit advanced human technology against the overwhelming and horrific Locust Horde.
Receiving huge hype and easily ranked as one of the highest-profile titles of 2006, the Gears of War assault machine was successful in generating buzz, selling millions of copies and taking the lead in Microsoft's holiday charge. It certainly became the new reason to own a 360 according to most sources, but was it all that it could have been? I think it depends on perspective.
In my view, Gears provides an unsatisfactory experience for the solo player-- something I classify as an unforgivable sin. However, in spite of being less than impressed with what I usually regard as the most important aspect, I'm going to agree with the majority and call it a success. Why? More than the retail numbers, more than the stunning graphics, and yes, even more than the messy chainsaw melee kill, I'll remember Gears of War as the game that brought co-op back.
First and foremost, players' initial impression of Gears of War will likely be awe at the magnificent visuals. Although too much of the game exists in various shades of gray, there's no question that the amount of electronic opulence on display is currently second to none. Without overstating the case, it impresses in every area from the major elements all the way down to the fine details, but once past its formidable appearance there really isn't a lot to it.
A third-person shooter with heavy emphasis on taking cover, Gears' play style is very familiar and instantly accessible. Although labeled "stop and pop" as opposed to the traditional "run and gun", there isn't much here that hasn't been seen in other games. However, it's worth noting that the intelligent control layout makes it effortless to get into the action and rapidly absorb the nearly-nonexistent learning curve.
Sadly, in contrast to the cleverness displayed in its welcoming mechanics, the story mode feels flat and unimaginative. Utterly failing to create memorable characters or an engaging tale, logic and narrative continuity don't exist in the Gears universe. Lead designer Cliff Bleszinski has stated in interviews that he didn't want to weigh the game down and overwhelm players with too much story, but Gears' plot is laughable, and barely capable of stringing the impressive-looking set pieces together. With such anemic effort in this area, it feels almost as though Gears of War is less a complete game and more a solid technical framework within which to place one.
Other aspects of the adventure are also surprisingly weak, like the small number of enemy types, limited interaction and mobility within environments, and transparent pre-scripted segments that hearken back to games from generations past. As just one example, I was stuck at a door, unable to unlock it. I had somehow managed to make my way past the invisible "trigger point" meant to unleash a surprise enemy, and since I hadn't killed that particular enemy, I couldn't move forward. Once the enemy was dead, the door unlocked... and I scoffed. Oh, and there are minecarts. Nextgen design philosophy, this is not.
Although I wasn't impressed by the campaign mode, what I was impressed by was the ability to go through said campaign mode with a friend over Microsoft's Live service. Having the opportunity to crack Mystery Science Theater-style jokes in between giving directions and covering my teammate's six gave me a reason to keep coming back when the absurd plot and straightforward action weren't enough.
Plenty of other games have online multiplayer, but I'm a player who needs a goal; an objective or a reason to keep pushing forward against all odds. Although I've saved the world and even several universes by myself many times over, the chance to take on an entire adventure with another living, breathing person added the unique kind of excitement and addiction that's been missing from console games for far too long.
One of my favorite moments from the game was being perched comfortably behind cover and taking potshots at a lethal enemy gun emplacement. I had practically no chance of getting a headshot on the Locust soldier manning it, so I kept myself busy by being a target and making sure the heavy cannon was aimed at me. At the same time, my brother was slowly working his way towards the gunner, hopping behind fallen pillars and crumbling blocks, keeping out of sight while I talked him through it. It was a thing of beauty to watch him from a distance, slowly creeping... when the Locust exploded into a shower of unidentifiable parts with both my brother and I untouched, it was icing on the cake.
This co-op feature was extremely welcome and exciting enough to make me forgive Gears of War for its various trespasses. I couldn't help but celebrate the appearance of a full-length multiplayer option that didn't involve repetitively gunning down strangers in the kind of standardized fragfest that's become all too common in the last few years. (That fragfest is also in there for those who want it, but it kept my attention for less than an afternoon.)
Call me a jaded critic, a wet blanket, or anything else, but I'm not going to be dazzled into submission by stunning visuals and overlook a core game design that doesn't impress—but I do give credit where credit is due. My hat is off to Epic for bringing back a completely engaging style of play that hasn't been in vogue (or even possible) for quite some time. Its significance is not lost on me, and I'm hoping with both fingers crossed that the opening co-op salvo Gears of War unleashed is merely the start of a continuing trend.
This game earns and justifies every inch of virtual real estate in it. If Gears of War is anything at all, it is compelling evidence that videogames can be enjoyed purely as a visual and aural experience. Don't get me wrong, it's also a fun, frenzied shooter. But the one thing that sticks out in most people's minds about this game is the presentation, and that's precisely where its triumphs lie.
No other console game has provided this much detail, that many visible alien pores, this many expended clips, that many shiny intestines and this much buckets of thick, syrupy blood coating the screen. Say what you will about the game's vapid story, violence and its prevalent "Fuck yeah" attitude. But this is great interior and exterior videogame designing.
Lead Designer Cliff Bleszinski has dubbed the style destroyed beauty. Stand in the midst of all that destroyed beauty-of crumbled nongeographically European buildings and infrastructure-and you'll notice that no textures are repeated or glossed over. Or if you could pop your head up from your cover, try staring into the muzzle flashes from guns blasting in a darkened building across the street. It's there where you will find the game's heart-flashes of brilliance in an otherwise mundane setting.
Outside of the presentation, the game is everything we've all seen before. In a thinly veiled critique of the current Middle Eastern conflicts and a realization of every environmentalist's nightmare, aliens from under the planet Sera's crust rise up and retaliate against humans using and fighting over a precious fuel source. The vaunted stop ‘n' pop gameplay is only a refined version of what we've seen in shooters in the past decade or so. The protagonists appear to be nothing but former linebackers, one of them voiced by a parody of linebackers, Office Linebacker Terry Tate. All of them are smart alecks, but none would exactly make great dinner conversation (i.e. "Eat shit and die," "Shit yeah," and "That's my kinda shit").
In the multiplayer modes, weapon balance issues pop up. The much-ballyhooed chainsaw lives up to the hype, but go against another chainsaw and it's really luck of the draw. Not exactly what you'd want to hear regarding a skill-based shooting game. Players can also melee each other with grenades, which result in instant kills. There's little to guard against this. There's also major hit detection issues (e.g. players die from a chainsaw even though they were able to roll away, or being able to "tag" people with grenades from several feet away).
Despite the developers' name, I also couldn't shake the feeling how decidedly "un-epic" this game felt. It mostly is a result of a design decision to keep big fights to a minimum, leaving most of the action to street corner skirmishes. Another problem is a lack of compelling context. Exactly how does main character Marcus Fenix feel about revisiting the decrepit home of his father, who was killed during the conflict? How important is it that the soldiers hold their position or push forward? What lives are at stake besides their own?
But enough of that. The game looks, feels and sounds great, that's all that anyone really needs to care about. I'm not being facetious. Even during the multiplayer, it's fun just watching people play the game. And that's where Gears of War's lasting legacy is-debuting the third Unreal Engine, which will be utilized by dozens of other architects in the near future. We've never seen anything like this game, but we'll be seeing plenty of its DNA very soon.
According to ESRB, this game contains: Blood and Gore, Strong Language and Intense Violence
Parents should keep this game out of the hands of children. The level of graphic violence is quite high, featuring blood-spattered fatalities, dismemberment, and too many instances of violent death to count. The characters in the game also spout salty language that most parents probably wouldn't want to hear their own child repeating, and although there is no sexual content in the game, it's quite clear that this is intended for mature audiences only.
Co-op gamers should celebrate. The ability to go through the entire story-based campaign with a friend (splitscreen or over Live) is awesome, and basically turns what would otherwise be an extremely beautiful but straightforward game into a must-play.
Action fans will have undoubtedly already been through the game by the time this review sees publication but for those who haven't, it's an extremely solid third-person shooter that excels individuals and plays it safe everywhere else. Although the playtime is relatively short, it wisely ends before wearing out its welcome. The gameplay emphasizing the utilization of cover is nothing new, an extension of several other games which employ the same mechanic. However, it's worth noting that this game absolutely nails the controls and has an extremely low learning curve.
Deaf and Hard of Hearing gamers have the option to turn on subtitles for the game's dialogue, a very welcome addition. Although all of the pertinent information is displayed on-screen, being alerted to enemies by sound plays an important role during firefights. It may not be a crucial element, but it is a small advantage that hearing-impaired gamers will have to do without. Even so, the game is extremely playable and the lack of sound is not a significant problem.