Review by dimitry_clover

"Why is this a "masterpiece" again?"

Now before I begin, I must state this review is for the Windoze version of GoW only. Never played the 360 version, maybe it's better, although I doubt it.

As you may notice from my score, this will be, against the "majority", bashing of GoW. This game, above many things, shows us the great dark ugly side of the studio-publisher-reviewer collaboration.

Once upon a time, there was EPIC Megagames. They made a lot of low-budget, but greatly entertaining games, like Jack Jazzrabbit, One Must Fall 2097, and all is good. Then virtually overnightly, they transformed itself into an industry big name by a great FPS hit called Unreal. Throughout most of their history, they keep their touch with the more "grassroot" demographic of computings, namely geeks and hackers. Believe it or not, in the first 3 incarnations of Unreal Tournament, there were actually Linux ports.

Then enters Microsoft as the publisher. And all things went to the sinkhole. Now, we are facing an ugly port of a game from a princles-can-of-a-console called XBOX 360. It is lining with endless technical problems, poor performance, atrocious control, impossible multiplayer, and a 9 pointer from Gamespot. Yeah right. We all know where that score came from. We remember what Gamespot did to Jeff for refusing to be a sold-out.

So, now how many games that were ported from console to PC doesn't implement a fragging SAVEGAME function? I can't count that many. Even the poorly underrated Oni (from Bungie) had a quicksave. Of course that was before Bungie became a Microsoft lackey. Remember when the first Halo demo was on a MAC?

I know console games cannot "usually" handle ordinary savegames (and remind me why exactly X360 has a HARDDISK again?), they use checkpoints. Now I don't have problems with checkpoints, unless they are all like ONE HOUR APART from each other. I swear to God, I have never faced a more unforgiving checkpoint system ever in a game. Except the Japanese ones, but of course we all know Japanese gamers are honourable masochists. And I heard horror stories about how the game frequently deletes your progress. Amen to that too.

Speaking of the checkpoint system, I wonder who is the genius that thinks putting a 5 minute UNSKIPPABLE cutscene AFTER a checkpoint is a good idea. If I hear Baird say "look who decides to show up!" again, I'll flapping delete this game. Oh wait. I already did.

Now the technical problems. Before every fanboy jump up and yell at me to get a REAL computer instead of an abacus, let me clarify that my rig runs Crysis smoothly. Not at a monstrous resolution, but every details are cranked to very-high, and I can get a solid 20~30FPS. So my rig is NOT a pocket calculator, thank you. And in fact, most of the time my problem in GoW is not the framerate. I can get >60FPS CONSISTENTLY, when things are RIGHT. Sure, when you see MICROSOFT on the publisher name, expect the times when things a RIGHT would be quite limited.

First, the stuttering is unbelievable. I can NEVER get a smooth play for more than 5 minutes. The game always feels that it's time to spend 20 seconds to thrash your harddrive, while ingame you stand there helplessly, with no way to control. If I can have a dollar every time I died from the Krylls due to stuttering of the car level, I would have enough money to buy off reviewers to give my 386 text-mode Reversi clone a 9 pointer on major gaming sites. Since when is 2GB of RAM too little? Oh, never mind. Since Vista of course, who was I joking?

Speaking of Vista, whoever is in charge of the LIVE brand should be put into cement shoes. The in-game profile/multiplayer/whatnot dominator, the Windows LIVE service, has only one problem. To quote AVGN, "It doesn't work." I typed my account name (which I have been using in XBOX LIVE for 2 years) about 20 times, while it upgrades the Live client, the game, the washing machine and Uncle Bill's banking account, it still doesn't log in. What is that "Remember my Login" checkbox is for again? And when I decide to go fly a kite and use a "local" account instead, the games keeps threatening me how I'll receive no achievements, and basically "we'll delete your savegames and setting as we please, since you refuse to pay the Microsoft tax today", like, every time I start the game and endure the 40-seconds UNSKIPPABLE Epic and Microsoft logo. That's epic, yeah, I heard that the first time, thanks a bunch.

And now the controls. All right. I know what the soberer minds at EPIC is TRYING to sell us here. But the cover system is BROKEN. If I have a quarter everytime I got stuck in cover mode against a rock, a tree trunk, a box on the ground, with NO rescue other than loading the previous checkpoint (which was an hour away and you'll have to see 10 minutes of UNSKIPPABLE cutscene again), I would have enough money to publish my 9 pointer games with EPIC.

The sound effects. A mix of grunts, random animal noises, and paintball. I was more thrilled from the sound of a staple gun. Now that's epic.

Level design and graphics. I know a lot of reviewers alike yapping about how they creamed their pants by the visuals, I feel almost sorry to say that there is just nothing special. Quoting Robin from All-Star Batman and Robin, "I mean, I've seen better, but I guess this is OKAY." Only here I am sincere.

Now I am not going to compare it to Crysis, since that'll make EPIC, Uncle Bill and baby Moses weep in defeat. Instead I just put forth an example with something back from 2004. Three words. The Palace, Painkiller. Now that's what I call grand level architecture. (Trivia of the day: People Can Fly, developers of Painkiller, was bought by EPIC. Connect the dots here.)

And technological achievements - what technological achievements? While Crytek, even Halo 3 is sweeping the conference floor of GDC, how many technical whitepapers are there for GoW again? (Hint: zero).

Yeah, I know it is supposedly powered by Unreal 3 technology. But unfortunately while Unreal 3 is at least presentable, GoW can't even handle REFLECTIVE WATER since the bag-of-potato-chips-of-a-console called XBOX 360 cannot handle it. You are missing nothing here, PC users. Why should we at Microsoft cares about that Geforce 9900 GTX you have in your non-Microsoft-sanctioned computer? Oh while we're at it, we will butcher it even more if you don't use Vista. No DX10 and Antialiasing for you! Never mind that generally we do NOT require DX10 for AA since, like 1998.

And design. I can bang on all day about how emergence tunnels look exactly like antlion burrows, how kryll behave exactly like grue, how lancer rifles are thieved from Warhammer 40000, and how Gears soldiers look exactly like the cybernetic marines from... well, Unreal. Heh, my bad.

Back to level design. For the past few years I was tempted to use the "Matrix Lobby" factor to categorize every 3rd person shooter. We wet our pants seeing it in the movie, it is cool when Max Payne had it, and then Tomb Raider had it, eventually the Matrix games had it for sure, and so on and so forth. Of course, GoW had it. Like a dozen of them. It's officially OVERDONE.

And this is the first game in YEARS I have seen that resorted to the "scare you from behind" form of monster placement. Hasn't it been declared OBSOLETE since Doom 3? Of course, who can blame a game designer resorting to such incompetence with monster AI less capable than Serious Sam. Since EPIC showed time and again they can have capable AI players in Unreal Tournaments, I place the blame on Microsoft.

Conclusion. OK graphics with atrocious performance, buggy controls, unusable Windows LIVE, no quicksave, this is not a game. It's a half-cooked port. Now maybe the 360 version has less problem in the stuttering, controls, at least usable XBOX Live, still this is not that good a game. A lot of "been there, done that" feel in most aspects. Then again, these days you just cannot afford to give a review for a game with a "Games for Windows (tm)" sticker less than a 9 pointer, and still expect a paycheck next month. How can a PAID reviewer dare to give bad words about a company, which just yesterday decides to censor all reference to youtube on MSN Messenger in order to pave way for their MSN Soapbox launch?

Reviewer's Rating:   2.0 - Poor

Originally Posted: 05/12/08

Game Release: Gears of War (US, 11/06/07)

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