Review by crazed_killer24

Reviewed: 11/09/06

Solid and Beautiful, but lacks substance.

I must say I had never heard of Gears of War before I played it, and I guess that this allows me to make a rather objective review without any hype to give me bias. There are some spoilers in this review, mostly in the storyline section.

Graphics 10/10
I must say that the graphics in Gears of War are outstanding. They're pretty much the best. The fires look like real fires, the hair looks like real hair, the skin looks like real skin, and I'm sure if there were any snozzberries they'd look like real snozzberries. I think this game is the benchmark for how a game should look graphically. The Unreal 3 engine left me speechless and I'm very excited for the future of povps games if it's first real outing is this breathtaking. I was so amazed by the water at the factory and how it would splash off of your character in such a realistic manner, and how you could watch your character change clips of ammo and they'd fall to the ground. A glaring negative to me in the graphics department was the lack of dynamic details. There are no bullet holes, explosive marks, and blood splatter (there is only one actual puddle of blood in the game and it disappears fast). Also, ragdoll physics were not really worth putting in the game due to the fact that the bodies typically would just be blown apart and disappeared quickly. Overall, I'd say the graphics are fantastic, but some polishing up wouldn't hurt.

Sound 7/10
The sound in this game is nicely done. The voice overs for the characters are great (Cole Train is my favorite character easily) and make the game seem that much more real. The guns and explosions have a nice loud sound that puts you into the boots of a soldier fighting off an invasion of monsters. There are some problems with the sound in the game though. Sound cut off almost every time you'd use a mounted turret in the game. You'd just be sitting there spewing lead with no gunfire sounds. The voices of Locust are also a bit off. Hearing Locusts talk amongst themselves 50 feet away like I was right next to them in the heat of a battle pulled me out of the realism of the game. The music is also a tad bland, nothing to write home about.

Gameplay 8/10
This game is fun to play. It's not hard to just pick up and start killing some Locust. The controls are easy to understand and you can change them up if you so desire. The driving level is pretty neat, but the mine cart is quite uninspired and felt really like an afterthought. I really like the cover system, as it is ever so much fun to go darting from a cement median to a Davenport in the street for cover and then shooting around the corners. The enemies also use the cover system extensively, but there is a problem with it. The game grants anyone that is behind an object in a cover position quite a high degree of invulnerability. You can't shoot any enemies head on if they are behind cover. By this I mean you can't shoot a monster's arm if it's hanging out a bit from behind the cover. The game just won't register it as hitting him at all. Furthermore, explosives don't do anything to you if you put some cover between you and the big damage. You can gleefully sit behind some small shrub pot as boomers just launch rocket after rocket at you to no effect. One final annoyance in regards to the cover system is trying to get over obstacles to continue on the path in the game. You have to spend a second to get up against the object and get the option to hop over it, which could have been avoided with a jump button. Another peeve I have with a part of Gear of War's gameplay is the melee system. The chainsaw gun is perfect for those moods of ripping apart pixels in a fit of rage after a bad day at the office, but that's about the only redeeming part of doing any melee. When going on a chainsaw ripping spree, be sure to not do it with many enemies around, as you will end up standing there ripping an enemy apart, but all of his buddies will get to just pound away at you as you are defenseless. All of the blood splatter on the screen also kind of obscures the slice and dice action. Beyond the chainsaw, the rest of the melee is ho hum smash with your gun or fist. Even then it's risky at best, as the Locusts seem to make you forget how to do any form of melee when you two tango. You'll sit there smashing B in frustration as a Locust grub just punches you to death and your guy takes it. The explosives in this game are also not very powerful at all unless you score a direct hit. They need more splash damage added to them. Another big negative is that you cannot play online with friends on your Xbox 360 unless they log on to their payed Live account. A big mistake if you ask me, as I've had much more fun playing with my friends in the room and how can one convert their friends to the 360 if they aren't even allowed to play it online?

Story/value 3/10
Well this is where the game really starts to tank. There's just not much to this game beyond the pretty eye candy. There's multiplayer and the single player campaign. That's it. No little extra modes or anything to that effect unless you count playing the single player game again against harder monsters replayability. Now this would be ok if the story was truly amazing, but it really seems rushed and worthy of maybe a chapter or two in a good action novel. This chapter would have to be in the middle of the book though, because there is no explanation about what is going on or who's who. You start off in a prison as Marcus Fenix and you're let out and given a gun by a man named Dominic Santiago. Why a man just free you out of prison and throw a gun to you is beyond me. There's some babble about command pardoning prisoners, but there is no explanation of what this command is, why you're in prison, what this prison is for, where this prison is, what is going on, basically everything. This would be fine if it was intended to be part of your character having say a cliche amnesia or something, but that's no the case. You're thrown into the world of Gears of War blind, deaf, dumb, and clueless. Your progress throughout the levels meeting up with a few characters here and there. You meet some superior officer that has a grudge against you and then you never see him again as well as an intelligence officer that gets screen time for a whopping 2 seconds the entire game. You also get to play along with two other soldiers, Bairn and Cole, later on in the game. Somehow your character knows that Cole's first name is Gus and that he hates that name. You move through a stranded village of about 5 people (the stranded are people that somehow manage to not get slaughtered by the locust when they have no armor, little weapons, and no defenses out in the open streets), a factory, parts of the city, a cavern, and then a train level. There's about 3 "bosses" in the game, none of which are very hard to beat. The final boss, RAAM, is quite easy to beat and after you kill him, you're just left scratching your head as to what the big picture was. There's some nonsense about a queen and a voice over about an unending war and all that. None of this is explained in the game at all. The game is quite short (6-10 hours) and doesn't have anything that will make you feel like you're a part of the story.

In the end, the game is a very stunning example of how great video games can look, coming from 8 pixels in the 80's, to this shining example merely 20 years later. Too bad the story and background involved in the game is as thorough as it was for Pong. There's nothing there, but it you'll have a blast gibbing Locusts on the way to nothing. The game feels rushed to try and beat the releases of PS3 and the Wii, but I'll never know. I just hope the sequel puts much more thought into the story, then the Gears of War series will truly be the "Halo-Killer".

I give it a 7 out of 10. Very solid title worth owning to play from time to time, but not something that defines a system like Halo did.

Rating:   3.5 - Good

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