Review by KasketDarkfyre

"Just a couple of rounds shy of being a full clip..."

When I think of games that should have been and I think of games that are, it's hard to find a happy medium in which a game simply stands out amongst all others. Gears of War, with the dark story and the advanced complex game play, does a nearly perfect job of hitting the medium, but falls just shy of perfection. Although there are tons of merits to be said about this title, there are a handful of minor problems that become evident the more that you play through. If you're a fan of the Kill Switch genre, then you'll fall in love with this, though if you're more of a full first-person-shooter fan, you might find this to be a tad bland.

Gears of War starts out as a story of Marcus Fenix, who was imprisoned for disobeying orders and attempting to save his father from the invasion of the Locust Horde. Failing, he quietly went into confinement, ready to serve his forty years for dereliction of duty and now, the Locust have invaded the prison. The story revs from there and continues to run for several acts, though personally, I'm somewhat lost in portions of the story, such as where the Locust Horde came from and even until I read the instruction manual, I had no idea why Marcus was in prison. The story doesn't get much clearer than that, though you'll be able to gain bits of insight as it continues to unfold.

Emergence Day…

Your main goal in Gears of War is to kill everything in your path without you or your team getting killed in the process. While this does sound pretty simple, the game play is far from that in which you must use your environment to your advantage and you must know where your enemy is at all times before you're overrun. One of the first things that you'll notice is that you do not have much of a heads up display, but rather an indicator in the upper right hand corner of the screen that tells you the ammo count currently in your weapon. Another thing that you'll notice is the bar that is right underneath the ammo display and you'll need to learn how to get the scrolling bar dead center for a perfect reload.

As you progress through the battles before you, you'll find that the more often you reload perfectly {he'll call out positively when you do it correctly} the more damage you'll do with your weapon for a few short seconds. It's important that you learn how to do this consistently because a small mistake with the meter and you'll end up jamming your weapon, leaving yourself open for attacks. Weapons will come in all shapes and sizes, though some of them require a certain amount of finesse to use and you'll find that when you have them down to a science, the enemies will fall before you like a knife through butter.

The environment is something that you have to use to keep yourself alive, especially during the more intense gun battles. As you move along the walls, you'll be given options at some points to dive, proceed forward or duck down to stay out of the path of incoming bullets. It is very important that you learn what you can do and what is the most effective as the later levels don't require much to get you killed and when there are a half-dozen Locust coming at you, it's better to duck and fire than run headlong into it. One last thing is that you should always pay attention to where an enemy is located because there are usually ways around a gun emplacement and it's easier to neutralize the situation instead of needlessly taking bullets.

Taking damage is also a little different than it is with most first person shooters. You'll see that when you get hit, a red gear appears on the screen and starts to take splotches of blood. If you take too much damage, then you'll bleed out and fail the level unless you're playing with a secondary person who can help you get up. The co-op portion of the game is where Gears really shines, but the downfall to this is that it cuts the length of the game almost in half and even at a later difficulty, it's relatively easy to finish out Gears in just under a couple of hours.

Covering fire…

The control scheme is both simple and yet very complex in many different ways. You'll see that the control scheme is easy enough to use when you're firing on your enemies but that moving around is a little more difficult. Moving from place to place, either at a run or using your surroundings as cover can sometimes be a little tricky especially when you've got enemies firing at you from all directions. Up close and personal combat takes a little bit of finger twisting but with enough practice you can mow down close range enemies with your chainsaw in short order. Reloading is one of the bigger parts of the game with an incorrect timed press leading you to jamming your gun and leaving yourself open for attack. It's best to practice in the first few minutes of the game just to get the feel.

I had a couple of problems with the way that you had to use the cover in order to get anywhere in some of the later levels. Some of the movements that you had to perform such as diving out of the way and moving forward from place to place took a little getting used to because you would occasionally move too far. I can't begin to count the times that I got hit because I went just a little too far and didn't realize it. Also in the later levels, when moving is extremely important to your health, you have to be careful with the stick or you'll move too far and end up dead.

Over there…behind the buildings…

Gears of War implements some of the best looking visuals I've seen in a hybrid first person shooter. The environments have so much of the real world in them with the marble and architecture that it's really hard not to be able to immerse yourself within them. The enemy textures are impressive, and even some of the boss battles deserve a bit of applause simply because of the way that your world around you moves when they move. Weapon firing looks excellent and the movement of the camera when you go from a short run to an all out sprint makes you feel as though you're in Saving Private Ryan as they're moving up the beach. Other areas give you plenty to look at and there is nothing like pulling your chainsaw down on your victim and watching the blood splatter the screen in a red wash.

The atmosphere of most of the stages has the look of despair and of condemnation which is very visible no matter where you turn. Progressing from place to place, you start to see the way that the world was and what it has turned into during the course of this horrid war. Feelings like these in a visual medium tend to stir some sort of wonder and desire to know more about what happened to make everything turn out the way that it did. However, visuals can only tell you so much and the story is a bit muddled to get a total grasp on what happened.

I heard something…

To be honest, I didn't hear much of the music throughout the game because I was too busy firing off round after round from around a corner. You'll see that the game gives you so much action effects that you really won't hear much in the way of music unless you're simply standing in one spot. The hisses of the Locust and the thuds of the bosses ring true with enough volume behind them, plus the voice acting isn't as bad as most would make it out to be. After about an hour worth of play, I had to turn the effects down because the constant machine gun thudding was making my ears ring.

Tweak it and it is perfect…

Gears of War is not a bad game by any means and really brings to life the different aspects of any good action game giving a good {abet confusing} story along with plenty of machine guns and explosions. The few things that I found wrong with the game can't be overlooked though in terms of the very short game play and the way that Marcus ducks and moves around undercover. I found myself at times getting hit when I thought I was far enough behind a column, only to find out that I had moved at some point and put myself in the line of fire. The shortness of the game is what bothers me the most and it'll give most 360 owners a bit of a frown.

The replay on Gears of War is fairly high with the amount of Achievements that can be unlocked in solo, co-op and online play. I haven't had the opportunity to play the online portion of it yet, but from what I've heard, I am definitely missing out. If you're into the 360 games and you want to have one of the finer titles available for the system, then I would suggest picking this up just to showcase that the 360 is capable of. If you just care about a ton of replay and could care less for the way it looks and handles, pick it up from the rental store for the weekend to say that you had the experience.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 12/12/06

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