Review by swfan10

"Best game on the 360? Yes. Best game ever? Not quite."

So here it is, the game that had many of us buying a 360 almost a year ago, and the game that will surely sell a multitude of more consoles.

The hype surrounding Gears of War is something only reserved for the big-time games (Halo, GTA, MGS, etc), and in order to hopefully save you some time I'll cut to the chase: Gears delievers on the the hype. For the first time in a long while, a game finally has risen to the call and delievered on everything it promised.

But, does this give it the right to be called the best game ever? I'm not sure. In this review I hope to shed some light on why I believe this killer app for the 360 is the game to own for Microsoft's new console, it by no means should take the place of some of the other beloved titles out there.

Gameplay

Gears of War is a behind the shoulder view, third person shooter. The action is intense, the heroes and villians are big and angry, and the guns are loud.

The main core of the gameplay isn't the normal run-and-gun type shooter. In fact, if you tend to want to rush into an enemy encampment hoping to destroy everything in your path effortlessly, Gears may bring you down a peg. The cover system is where the gameplay is at. With the A button you can slam against walls, cars, outcroppings, pillars-whatever. Once behind cover you can peak your head out and lay down some fire, aimed or not. From there, it's up to you. Do you want to roll and outflank your opponent? Do you want to dart to your right or left to a better positioned spot? It's all up to you.

The A button will become your friend, while some criticize the fact that it is used too much, I argue that I am glad the A button is so versatile. When I'm pinned down by five Locusts, I really don't want to have to press three buttons or more just to get out of cover and move to a better spot. When I want to get somewhere, I want it to be quick and efficient. Having the A button being used universally for the cover system makes this happen, and makes me happy.

The reload system is something I'm beginning to enjoy more and more. With the "active reload" system, whenever you hit the right bumper (awesome button for reloading by the way in the context of the control scheme), a little meter under your weapon appears. A bar on the left begins to slide towards the right, and if you press the right bumper again and make the bar stop in the right zone, you will do an active reload that takes two seconds, and gives your next few rounds a very slight damage increase. If you miss, you'll jam your gun and won't be able to fire (very bad if you're in a pinch), or you can opt to not play the game and let it reload regularly. The sniper rifle is probably the only weapon that I would say active reload is required, especially in multiplayer. If you miss and jam, it will be several agonizing seconds before you can shoot again, and by that time you're most likely getting flanked.

The chainsaw-wow. Probably one of the better developments in gaming history. With certain weapons you hold the B button and the chainsaw revs up. You walk up to someone, and an animation begins in which you cut them to bits. It's very satisfying, and the first time you do it, you'll cheer. Trust me.

Overall, the gameplay is top notch. Once you get used to the cover system and active reloading, you'll have a lot of fun taking down the Horde and fighting your friends online.

Sound

I never make a big deal out of sound in my reviews, but this game almost requires you get some sort of surround system to experience its beauty. The score is epic and military, and the sounds of your friends and the Locust are top notch.

On a nice system, there will be parts where your house shakes, and I love that.

In this department, Gears has set a new standard.

Graphics

The most beautiful game I've ever played. The environments were incredibly constructed, and everything around you makes you feel like you're really in a war zone.

The character models (notably the COGs) are awesome, while the Locusts all look alike (naturally).

I have to say you'll probably spend most of your time just dazzled at the graphics before you get the hang of the gameplay. I was awe struck at certain points in the campaign.

As far as console games go, Gears will be the standard for console games. Incredible.

Online

Naturally, with any shooter, you need a strong multiplayer component to make the game last. With Gears, it looks as though Epic wanted to make sure people kept coming back again, again, and again.

There are very few gametypes, and warzone will probably be what most play. In this mode, it's 4v4 (max, sadly), and your mission is to kill the four players on the opposing team. You start out at opposite ends of the map, and race toward each other, using cover to keep you alive.

You only get one respawn, which means once your dead, all you can do is watch. While some scoff at this aspect, I welcome it. It will keep the cover system gameplay in tact, and people who do rush out will only get killed that much faster.

The gameplay online is frenetic, and can get very intense when it becomes a 1v2 situation in the deciding round.

I really think the online component of Gears is going to keep gamers happy, but the only qualm I have is that it will become a race for the best weapons in the levels, especially the sniper rifle. For most levels, I have seen that whoever controls the sniper rifle, and is actually good with it, will win the match.

Also, teamwork is a very large component of this game online. If you don't work as a unit, you will get beat every. single. time. I've seen it happen in the many matches I've played so far, and trust me, you need to cover each other's backs at all times, or you will get owned.

Replay Value

Single player campaign is a 7-12 hour affair, depending on the difficulty you play on. Casual is fairly forgiving, hardcore will have you playing over things over, and over, and Insane will make you cry.

Multiplayer is where the longevity is at, and while this might not turn out to be Halo 2, I can assure you that this will be the game everyone plays until Halo 3 comes out.

Qualms

There are only a few qualms I have.

One: multiplayer, while balanced, still becomes a race for the best weapons. No matter what sort of cover you use, you cannot beat certain weapons 1v1. The sniper rifle and Hammer of Dawn especially.

Two: Matchmaking? I know the inherent problems with matchmaking, but invariably in ranked matches people are going to face off against people who are ten times better than them, and they'll get owned and frustrated.

Three: I would have preferred support for more players, but 4v4 is ok, considering how small the maps are. Hopefully with the future Gears, there will be more players supported.

Four: Story needs to be fleshed out more, and it could have used some more tweaking to make it more emotionally engaging. While I felt like I was in a warzone, I could not fully connect with the characters on any level. But, there are VERY few games that do this.

Overall

This is the game to own on the 360, period. You're going to have a lot of fun with it, and while the story leaves something to be desired, and the multi-player won't be as accessible as Halo 2's, there is a lot to love here. You cannot go wrong with this game.

Gameplay-->Beautiful stop and pop cover system. Active reloading is a great addition, and the chainsaw is a lot of fun. For it's genre, Gears is the best.
10/10

Sound-->Top notch sound, both effects and score. Makes you get very engrossed into the atmosphere of the game.
10/10

Graphics-->The console game by which all others from now on will be judged. If you're not wowed by the visuals with this game, I have no clue what to tell you.
10/10

Online-->Some flaws as noted earlier, but very fun and intense. Possibly the best multiplayer experience on the 360.
9.5/10

Replay Value-->Campaign will take some time, depending on if you want to get all of the achievements. Multiplayer should keep everyone going until Halo 3. It is yet to be seen if this can have longevity.
9.8/10

Overall-->9.7/10

(Sorry I rounded down, but I figured it would be better to go down then just give it a 10. Will GFaqs ever give us a fraction option?)


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 11/09/06


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