Review by Prince_jeffery

"(Single Player Review) Killer graphics coupled with intense gameplay make Gears of War a game none should miss."

Gears of War. The game that made me buy Microsoft's nice, white box. The title had been hyped to extremes, with many websites absolutely drooling over its graphics, which even in previews appeared fantastic. Without a doubt, this is true, as I shall explain later on.

The story: -

You are Marcus Fenix, a former COG soldier court-marshalled and imprisoned for disobeying orders, instead attempting a rescue of his father during an assault by the Locust, a race residing deep under the earth's crust. The start of the game shows how Fenix is freed from jail by Dom, an old friend of his. Together, they team up with Delta and Alpha squad, in an epic attempt to save Humanity and prevent a complete Locust takeover. The plot isn't heavy in detail, though the progression is good enough that it'll compel you to go forward, even if its a little weak.

Graphics: - 10/10

Alright, this has to be said again. Gears of War has some of the best artwork and visual display I've ever seen in any game ever. Period. The textures are razor-sharp, and you'll see each and every detail on the character models with amazing clarity. Fenix, along with the rest of the crew, all sport excellent futuristic armour, and surprisingly huge boots. The guns
you carry will be visible on Fenix's back, and they are nice looking too.

The landscape is recreated artistically, and you'll see levels ranging from desolated cities, to underground mines, and even a speeding train. All the textures are bump-mapped, and have a great sheen to them. Reloading a gun makes hot gas fill the front of the gun, creating a hazy look that's just realistic. The mines look especially impressive due mostly to the yellow
Immulsion flowing in it.

The urban stages are equally good, with towering city halls, along with streets covered in concrete blocks and destroyed cars. The lighting shows its strength in those missions that take place during the darkness of the night, as the rays behave just the way they should. A special mention should also go to the rain-drenched levels, as they are
unlike anything I have seen before, and have to be witnessed to be believed.

However, not all is perfect (though this is really, really close to it). There are some very minor frame-rate problems, which usually happen due to Locusts filling up the screen, a certain boss fight, and sometimes for no reason at all (the compartment before the final boss fight). Texture pop-ins are noticible, when you turn to one side quickly, though its not a problem gameplay wise. Also, in some larger outdoor levels, if you spin around at full speed, the game will freeze for a quarter of a second, as if its failing to keep up.

Howver, considering the showcase this game is, its hard not to be blown away the first time you see this game in action. its further testament to the engine that even the cutscenes it renders look great, though they are brought lower by some unsightly frame rate problems, which, again, occurs when the action on screen gets too heavy.

Sound: - 9/10

Most of the voice acting is good, with great scripting and some funny lines. Its the bangs and blasts of the weaponry that really please the ears. Hooked up to a surround system, this sounds phenomenal, with bullets wheezing past you here and there, along with heavy grunting from the enemy units, and really immerses you into each and every firefight. Some of the screaming from the Locust will unsettle you badly. The music is appropriately placed, as it fits the mood of most of the scenes you'll go through.

Gameplay: - 9/10

This title doesn't get lost in its graphical powers. It delivers magnificently as a playable game. Most of the gameplay revolves around you taking cover behind some solid slab of concrete, a junked car, or any other obstacle that is able to stand up to a hail of hot lead, or in some cases, explosive arrows. Taking cover is essential, as this game is not a run-and-gun affair. You will get mowed down if you stay in the open for too long under fire.

The health system is like Halo's, only faster. As you get shot, a red Gears icon starts to appear in the middle of the screen. The faster you lose health, the quicker the icon gets completed, and when a skull's seen, your dead. If you stop taking fire for a few seconds, the icon disappears and you are back to full health. A system like this is great, as it keeps you in the action, instead of you having to find health packs scattered through out the levels.

It's intense as the A.I. is intelligent enough to shoot you the moment you pop out your head for a quick burst. In close combats, it'll crush you, except in one-on-one situations. However, it doesn't flank as aggressively as I'd have though, though that's probably to ease the difficulty a little, as your team-mates are horrible in covering you and returning fire.

They'll peak, shoot a few rounds, then return under cover. Sure, up close, they usually are able to melee a Locust or two, but under fire from multiple angles, and especially from a turret, they'll drop like bricks. On the hardest difficulty, Insane, they're even less useful, and will mostly spend their time in a bow, waiting for you to heal them while you take all the shots. A more robust and capable A.I. would've helped a great deal in making the gameplay even more enjoyable, as its mostly you who's shooting the whole time.

Your arsenal consists of a few different firearms, like the Lancer machinegun, which comes with a chainsaw bayonet attached underneath, the ordinary shotgun, a bow that uses explosive tipped arrows, your standard sniper rifle, and a nice Hammer of Dawn, which sends down particle beams at enemies you point it with. All are effective at what they do, and, though common in other games, are still alot of fun to play with. The chainsaw kills, which you may have seen in many Gears of War previews, are extremely satisfying at first, with all that blood gushing out and splashing on the screen, but starts to get old after a few playthroughs of the campaign.

The opposition has some variations, though you'll be fighting through the Locust grunt for most of the game. Later on, the elite troopers come in, and you'll also meet with blind ones. The Locust could've been more diverse, but the A.I. is good enough to keep things fresh till the end. They do have this problem of allowing you to shoot them to death while behind cover, as they don't occasionally don't respond to your bullets.

Boss fights are also present, though they don't offer much of a challenge, with the exception of the final boss fight. Its a disappointment, as the cutscenes show them ripping human flesh and grounding structures with ease.

One part where Gears of War strays from the norm is in its reloading mechanism. You can reload your weapon with just a press of a button, but its much more faster and rewarding to play the small minigame under your gun's icon, as it provides you with a much reduced loading time and a damage increase as well. A bar goes from left to right, and you have to stop the bar in the grey or white area for these. If instead, you halt it outside, your gun will jam, making Fenix utter a few grumbles, and it will take far longer to load a clip. This process feels nice, as every reload is satisfying, cause you get the feeling of deserving the extra damage and speed.

All in all, a wonderful gameplay experience, marred only by foolish team A.I. and the small enemy variations.

Value: - 9/10

Given the great enemy A.I. in the Hardcore and Insane difficulty levels, the battles will change somewhat everytime you fight it again, and then there's those achievements to unlock, which means this game will be something you will be playing for some time to come. The gun-play and cover system is great enough to warrant many playthroughs after the first one.

Overall: - 9/10

No gamer should miss such an amazing title. Some may say its overrated, due to the lack of innovation, but this game nails the usage of its weaponry so well that it doesn't matter all that much. Please, do yourself a favour and get it.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 12/18/06

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