Review by Rasnarok

"Epic Delivers One of the Best Games to Date"

Gears of War is the latest video game from the famed development studio Epic Games. It is quite a departure from their previous titles in the Unreal Tournament franchise as it focuses more on story progression than arcade-style fragging. While both types of game are of course very entertaining, Gears of War really sets itself apart from the Unreal series with its cover-and-shoot game mechanics, something which has not been done all too successfully in the recent past.

When Gears was shown at E3 2005, I knew that it would be a great game. The trailer made many promises concerning the in-game graphics and, a rare phenomenon in the industry, Gears most certainly lived up to visual style and quality shown in the trailer. When you first load up Gears, the graphics are amazing, they are simply unlike anything you have ever seen in a console game before. A lot have people have been doubting the graphical potential of the XBOX 360 and Gears has proven that it certainly has a lot of power under the hood. Everything from the broken pillars to the chainsaw animations are beautiful and certainly won't leave you disappointed. However, I think that the best graphical feature in Gears is the rain effects.

Graphics: 10/10 – Except for a few low-resolution textures here and there, the graphics in Gears are fantastic.

Sound always plays a big part in any game and can make an average game good, a good game great, and a great game near-perfect. The voice acting, for the most part, is a treat. Fans of Futurama may recognize the voice of Bender (John DiMaggio) doing the voice of Marcus Fenix, Gears' main character. While the sound quality is all there in the campaign, as I played multi player (both split screen and on XBOX Live) I did notice that many sound effects suffered from stuttering or simply didn't play. For example, whenever I used the chainsaw bayonet, there would always be a chance that the sound effect did not play at all, or that it would only start to play towards the end of the animation. Still, It's good to see such nice sound design to compliment the graphical quality of the game

Sound: 8/10 – This could have been a 10/10 if not for the poor voice acting on some characters (Carmine, for example) and the sound glitches in the multi player game.

Gears heavily focuses on a gameplay mechanic that forces you to constantly take cover, shoot off a few rounds, go back into cover, reload, and repeat. While it may sound repetitive, it can prove immensely fun and rarely fails to entertain. The weapons are well designed, each one serving their own specific purpose. There are in total 10 weapons, all of which game be used throughout the campaign and the various multi player modes. These include the Lancer - an assault rifle with a unique chainsaw bayonet that never gets old; the Hammerburst - The burst rifle many Locust grubs use, it fires three rounds per burst; the Brukmar pistol - a very powerful pistol some Locust grubs use, very good in multiplayer; COG Pistol - the standard issue pistol for all COG soldiers, not all too powerful; Gnasher - the shotgun of Gears, a very powerful tool in close range fights; the Longshot - the Gears sniper rifle, very powerful but not too powerful, only one-hit-kills with headshots; Bolo grenade - a frag grenade with a chain attatched so that it may be thrown further than regular grenades, one-hit-kill when you 'tag' somebody with one of these; Smoke grenade - a standard smoke grenade; Boomshot - similar to the rocket launcher found in most shooters, very useful in the campaign to bring down the Boomer type Locusts; Torgue Bow - a hydraulic-powered crossbow-type weapon which is a one-hit-kill if it hits an opponent; the Hammer of Dawn - a powerful weapon in which you target an area outdoors and three satellites align to create a very painful beam of death to unleash upon your enemies, commonly used in the campaign ti bring down Corpsers. There are also Troikas (mounted turrets) scattered throughout the campaign and found on some multi player maps as well. The gameplay in Gears will keep you coming back for more multi player goodness long after you have finished the campaign.

Gameplay: 9/10 – Gameplay is great in both the campaign and the multi player game modes. However people exploiting the the game can use tactics such as grenade tagging (planting a frag grenade onto the body of an enemy) to spoil the fun.

The campaign is broken down into five, moderately-lengthed acts. It can be completed both as a single player experience or a co-op experience via split screen, system link, or XBOX Live. While the story is good and certainly has the potential to be great, I don't think it was truly executed well. Throughout the game you are continuously pushed forward through the world of Sera to find an object to help humanity fight against the Locusts, even though some things may not be fully explained to you. An example of this from my experience is when you fight the final boss. I felt who he was and why he was there was never really explained by the story and the boss fight wasn't really set up by the game, you are kind of just thrown into the fight. While the campaign is fun alone, playing through the game in the co-op mode is just so much more entertaining. There are three difficulty modes available. Casual which is the easy mode, hardcore which is the hard mode and insane which is the very hard mode. You unlock the insane difficulty option after you complete the campaign in either casual or hardcore. I really do think that there should have been another difficulty in between casual and hardcore, just to have an option for the gamers who enjoy playing on a medium difficulty level like myself.

Campaign: 7/10 – Great while it lasts but excluding the collection of COG tags, there is no reason to replay the campaign.

The multiplayer in Gears is what will keep you playing this terrific game for months. There are only a few gameplay modes, all of which are quite similar to each other, but you probably won't get bored of them for a very long time. There is a healthy selection of maps to choose from with Rooftops being a favorite of many. As of writing, Gears online multi player features numerous bugs. The most notourious of which is the poor microphone support. Occasionally, certain players will be unable to hear other players, while the rest of the players in the match can. This can get annoying very quickly and we all hope it gets patched very quickly. Another bug I have noticed is that sometimes when I use the chainsaw bayonet on the Lancer gun, my character freezes in place after the animation is complete. I can look around but I cannot move or shoot. While these bugs are certainly annoying, the game is still very fun, both on line and offline.

Multiplayer: 8/10 – This would easily be a 10/10 if not for the various bugs I and many others have suffered from throughout our experiences.

Overall, Gears of War is great game and definitely some of Epic's best work. If you own an XBOX 360 and a gold Live account or some friends interested in playing, go buy this game, you certainly won't regret it. If you don't have Live or any local friends to play with, you may want to give this a rent merely because the campaign will not take you long to complete and there is little replayability to it after the first completion.

Overall: 9/10 – Except for the various bugs in the game, Gears of War is a well polished, beautiful game. It doesn't just set the bar a little higher for third-person shooters, it completely removes it and replaces it with a new one, far beyond the scope of any third-person shooter before it. I really enjoyed Gears of War and I hope everybody else does too.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 12/05/06, Updated 12/06/06

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