Review by Architeuthis2
A Gear by which the Machine shall be measured
Gears of War is a much anticipated game by Epic for the Xbox360, a shooter set in a futuristic (but still strangely classical) post-apocalyptic setting, pitting humans up against an underground race known as the Locusts.
I know it's a little disturbing, but the detail of the blood and gore is very impressive. No more generic red mass, but actual anatomical correctness. It really helps add immensely to the realism of it all. Water is nice, and rubble is strewn all over, meaning you'll never find a single bland area. The blood puddles are a little unrealistic and repetitive, but everything else is great. Characters are detailed and unique, and the locusts come off as extremely vile and alien, the stuff of children's nightmares.
Everything sounds realistic enough, and everything makes its own unique and believable noise. The music is fitting, but you're usually so involved in that battle that you'll hardly notice it anyway. This may be a good opportunity to take advantage of the 360's in-game mp3 abilities.
So Marcus Fenix is released from four years in prison to fight the Locust invaders, yet those four years without any practice apparently haven't diminished his ability as a soldier at all. Overlook occasional contradictions such as this, and you'll find that character depth is lacking, and each soldier's personality is pretty shallow, even though spending the entire game with them should mean you get to know them a bit better, and you never grow too attached to any of them. The overall plot is decent but nothing special, and there are a lot of basic questions that never get answered. I'm sure when the sequel comes out many will be answered, but I think much more could have been explained here.
The cover system has been done occasionally, but the way it is used in this game will (hopefully) revolutionize games, and if we're lucky we'll see future games incorporating such a feature more often. In fact, I could go so far as to say that I'll be a little disappointed when returning to games like Halo and Call of Duty where such a feature isn't available. Shooter game play is no longer just running and gunning and jump-crouching, and victory doesn't just depend on your ability to pull off headshots, but the ability to get yourself into a position where you have the advantage. You can blind fire and lob grenades from around corners without putting yourself in danger, but don't think you're safe, as the enemies are smart enough to move in on your position just as you should try to move in on theirs. The reload feature is also a very clever and well done addition to the game. You can reload at a standard pace, but pressing the reload button again at a certain time can speed up the process or - if you mistime it - result in a jam. It makes firefights much more intense, as reloading is now an actual interactive part of the game. The co-op feature is excellent and you can incorporate a whole lot more teamwork than in any other game I've played. Bring a friend along when you do the story, because that's probably the highlight of the game.
This is tough to review, since it can really be divided into two sections: Co-op and Versus. In versus the fact that you can both curb stomp enemies or help allies makes battles last much longer and revolve more around proper flanking, advancing, and retreating than just sitting and shooting from across the battlefield. Still, it is limited to 8 players tops, which is kind of disappointing. Given the large amount of strategy and cooperation that can be employed, I'm seeing 8 on 8 matches as being positively amazing. Also, since it involves so much more realistic military strategy it means games are no longer based on who is better with a joystick and can get more headshots, but who can outflank and outthink the other. But this is by no means a strategy game, and all this thinking only adds to the realism rather than detract from the action. Co-op is also nice, as you can really work together in many points. Occasionally the path will split and each player will take a different rout alongside an AI buddy, though even then there is frequently a window of balcony through which one player can assist the other.
Replay Value: 9
The story mode is relatively short, and is something you can easily power through in a day if you feel motivated to. No fight ever plays out exactly the same, and it's fun to see how many different strategies you can use, but that'll only keep you entertained for so long. Multiplayer would last a whole lot longer if it were 16 players maximum, but the versus mode should still keep you occupied for a while.It's something that you could pick up fresh every so often, but not something you'll be on too frequently in the long run like it is with Halo. Still going strong even after the 360 launch? I just don't see Gears lasting that long.
Of course its advertising has put us in a position where we feel obligated to compare it to Halo. Simply put, the story isn't nearly as impressive, but otherwise it is accomplished in similar ways: It took a shooter and pulled it off well. Very well. Well to the point of it being the point of reference by which all other comparable games are measured. It's something that should be a standard for every 360 owner, and whether or not it will be their favorite game ever, it's still something everyone should find worth owning.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
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