Review by HCxPerfection
"Gears of War: what it is, and what it isn't"
Gears of War launched with -- by a considerable margin -- the largest marketing campaign of any game released for the Xbox 360. It's generally expected to be "the killer app" for the next-gen console until Halo 3 launches and inexorably surpasses it. Does it do the hype justice? Let's find out.
The graphics in Gears of War are stellar. The environments, objects and characters are highly detailed. However, it would be an injustice to call them perfect; two things, in particular, fell short. The first was polish. Gears of War doesn't attempt photorealism with their character models, but they do with their environments and the two styles clash, despite the fact that they both look amazing by themselves. My second gripe is the animation. While some things stood out as particularly impressive, like crouch-running, others stood out in a bad way. The facial animations during character dialog, for instance, is very rough. The details in the faces (wrinkles, scars, etc.) twist and contort in all the wrong ways. In a screen shot contest, Gears of War would put to shame just about any game on the market, but in terms of animation they could've raised the bar. Impressive, but there's room for improvement.
Ah, this I really enjoyed. The sound effects were great. The clank of of metal weapons, the screeches of horrible enemies, the staccato crackle of machine-gun fire. The score accented the game appropriately, reaching for a more cinematic feel than simply inserting generic hard rock samples. And to top it off, the voice acting rocked. They got voice acting veteran John DiMaggio (Futurama's Bender and about a hundred other voice acting credits) to play lead Marcus Fenix and they hired a talented supporting cast as well.
Very good. The story gives you a character you can connect to, a chainsaw bayonet for your weapon of choice, a best friend, and the motivation to team up with him to blow the ...crap... out of a massive conglomerate of aliens bent on destroying Earth (not that you needed any motivation, wink). While the story isn't going to be as deep and interwoven as, say, a Final Fantasy game, it's going to give you everything you need for a shooter (and a whole lot more, if you're inclined to look for it). No complaints here.
While not really a section most reviews thoroughly cover, I've got to give Gears of War props here for doing just about everything right... or, at least, trying to. The load times are not only acceptable, they're fast (we're looking at you, Splinter Cell Double Agent), the checkpoint save system allows you to steadily progress through the game without the frustration of continually repeating long segments of repetitive play, and the drop-in/drop-out co-op is a Godsend. With props deserved given, I have to admit that Gears of War is not a technical marvel. It suffers from texture pop-up (rare), FPS stutter (less rare), and audio glitches, with the latter two pretty unacceptable for a console title. Furthermore, this is quite possibly the loudest disc I've put in my 360... it sounds like it's just spinning way too fast in there. I appreciate being given a gamer-in-mind driven game play experience, but blatant glitches of this frequency are just unacceptable, especially for a game with this kind of budget.
So, let's get down to business. The best graphics and voice acting in the world couldn't save a game that simply isn't any fun. Is Gears of War fun? Oh yes. The pacing is perfect, the weapons are fun, the cover system is a breath of fresh air, and everything about the game is designed to keep you from getting bored. Battles are short but frequent, enemy types and weapons vary, but not too drastically, the level design and control scheme are very intuitive and the game's atmosphere is immersive. The overall feel of combat falls somewhere in between Call of Duty 2 and Halo, with obvious inspiration from both. And it feels good.
One area where Gears of War doesn't outshine the competition, although I'm not sure anyone expected it to. It's fun, but it doesn't stay fun for long. There's at least a dozen other games of various genres that offer more depth and excitement in this department.
Gears of War is a fun game. It might be what you originally expected from Perfect Dark Zero, or any other range of Xbox 360 titles that have fallen sadly short of their potential. It's what you'd expect from next-generation title, with or without its budget and monumental advertising campaign. It truly feels like it belongs in the next generation of gaming, and a year later, it's about time we got there. That said, it's not the second coming. It's not Halo, and it's definitely not a Halo-killer. It's one of the best titles this year, but it's not one of the best games of all time.
Buy it. Enjoy it. It's a great game. Just don't expect it to change your life - it won't. But it will be fun.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 11/09/06
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