Review by sixgears
Ok, so here is an honest review of the game that so many of us have waited for for so long. Yes, it has been hyped almost beyond what I thought was possible. Yes, I have heard the terms "Halo killer" and "Best game ever made" so frequently I feel like my brain would explode. But all that aside, here's how the game actually breaks down:
Graphics (9.5/10): Simply put, this game is gorgeous. Forget all the naysayers and fanboys who tell you it is too dark or that the graphics are only so-so, the visuals in this game are phenomenal. From massive, towering buildings that look like they were modelled after ancient Greece or Rome, to dark alleyways filled with corpses and debris, to pouring rainstorms in the forest, Gears is absolutely beautiful. The developers must have had one hell of a time polishing the game to this level, and the time they took perfecting it definitely shows. The Multiplayer graphics hold on the same level, as well, which is downright technically impressive considering the lack of load times and the amount of detail in the environments.
Sound (7/10): I have read a lot of reviews that ramble on and on about how fantastic Gears' soundtrack is, and some of that is true. However, I find the music, while very good, to be just a little out of place. Several areas' music actually reminded me of classic monster films and the strong, heroic music seems a bit out of whack with the dark, hopeless environment and theme of the game. The sound effects are decent, with some strong points (grenade explosions will shake your bones with the volume up and a revving chainsaw is more than enough to make your blood run cold) and some fairly weak ones (the Lancer assault rifle sounds like a silenced weapon and the shotgun just sounds a little bit weaker than it should. I also noticed that while peaking left, my gunfire was severely muted, although this could just be a fault in my game.
Story (8/10): I am tempted to gove this a lower score becasue the actual storyline of the game feels watered down (although based ona good premise). The end feels a little anti-climactic and the story itself seems like an afterthought to the gameplay and graphics. Still, the story deserves an eight just because the atmosphere is amazing. The planet Sera is a haunting, dark place, yet it still pulls you in somehow. It is one of the most immersive and creative atmospheres I have seen in a game, and it really pulls you in. It's easy to feel hopeless and depressed as you wander through the shattered infrastructure of the once beautiful Sera, and that's a great accomplishment in and of itself. The characters are fantastic as well.
Gameplay (7.5/10): Let me start by saying that this is only for the single player portion of the game. I will get to multiplayer next. The gameplay in Gears will wow you off your couch for the first hour or so with its explosive fire fights, screaming locusts, and blood-soaked (oh yes, there is a LOT of blood in this game) combat. However, the basic aspects of the gameplay are to duck and shoot, moving from cover to cover, and this grows a bit stale after a while. Granted, it is much, much better to have to use cover rather than simply run out guns blazing as in most shooters, but it just seems like the same situation is repeated in different areas for the entire game. There are very few original moments that are not repeated by the end of the game, although the two Boss battles are very good. The AI for the enemy is great, they will charge you when you reload or flank you while you are pinned. The AI for your squad, however, is horrible. I cannot express how frustrating it is to have to reload and watch a drone or a wretch charge you while your teammate stands there staring at a wall. I died many, many times because I was simply on my own against several enemies at once while my AI buddy stood there and missed every shot. With games like Rainbow Six Vegas, it has been shown that AI can be very good in a 360 game, but Gears of War doesn't quite get it. That said, though, you may not notice the AI is lacking until you start the later stages of hardcore or insane. The weapons are good, but the only real innovations here are the torque bow and the chainsaw bayonet (which I must admit is terrifyingly satisfying to use). Other than that, the weapons are comprised of your standard shooter fare; sniper rifles, assault rifles, and shotguns, with the occasional grenade launcher or revolver. Overall, the gameplay is better than most shooters, but it could have used some variety.
Multiplayer (9/10): Ok, here is the real meat of the game. Gears is one of those games in which the single player campaign takes a backseat to multiplayer, and that is how the developers intended it. The multiplayer in Gears is outstanding. Yes, the maps are small. Yes, only four players can play on each time (for a total of eight). But dear sweet Lord if they aren't pretty. Most games take some of the graphical oompf out of the multiplayer to accomodate the extra information and processing it takes for multiple people to play the game, but Gears' multiplayer looks just as good, if not better in some areas, as the single player campaign. Add to that the fact that there are literally no load times (games start instantly after the countdown timer) add you have a techinical winner. But how does it play? FANTASTICALLY. The maps are just the right size for this number of players. Small enough to discourage camping and to allow players to move from one end to another in no time, but complex enough to offer multiple ambush points and intense firefights. There is nothing quite as exciting in my experience as when two teams go head to head in a courtyard or building, fighting for every inch they take as a one member flanks around and charges into their side or their rear, laying waste with the chainsaw or shotgun. And every kill makes you feel like you earned it. The kills here are visceral and incredibly violent, from curb stomps to chainsaws to headshots that literally explode your head. However, you will work for every kill. This is not GRAW or any other shooter where you can camp out and rack up ridiculous numbers of kills. If you camp in this game, you WILL be flanked and you WILL die and very gory death. You must constantly move with your team, because if you split up, you are most likely dead. And if you die, you die. There is no respawning and running back into the fight. Movements must be planned and executed knowing that if you bite it, you're out and your team is down a man. Gears of War is one of the most competitive and fun multiplayer games on the market for the 360, regardless of its "limited" game modes. Who wants to play a ridiculous game like escort or capture the flag in a game like this? It just wouldn' t fit.
Overall (8.5/10): Gears of War is undoubtedly one of the best games on the Xbox 360. It looks great and the multiplayer is outstanding. You will not find better visuals or multiplayer anywhere else on this console. However, a short, uncreative campaign doesn't take advantage of the great premise of the game and there is very little real innovation here. Still, this is a game you must own if you are a fan of shooters, or at least play even if you are not. Enjoy!
Rating: 4.0 - Great
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