Review by horror_spooky

"And the Gears Begin Turning..."

For my first review of an Xbox 360 title, I thought it would be appropriate to review one of the most anticipated games for the system. When I popped in the game, I was immediately engulfed by the battle for Sera against the Locusts.

A large part of Gears of War's gameplay involves cover. You'll have to get cover in order to survive, which is obvious. When you're behind cover, which can include a broken wall, a jeep, almost anything, you have a few options in order to take down the enemy. You can pop up periodically to fire while aiming to get more precise shots or you can just stick your gun over the barrier and fire randomly. Also, if you have a grenade handy, you can blindly throw a grenade over your cover. To get behind cover you simply walk over to something that looks like it can be used to block the shots of your enemies (almost everything in the environment can be used as cover) and tap the A button. You can go in three different directions while behind cover: up, left and right to get good shots. Also, for some cover, you can hop over it and, for all types of cover (unless there's a wall in the way) you can roll to more cover. Sometimes, when the game allows, you can press a certain button to send you rolling to more cover automatically. The cover system is miraculous and the best cover system in any video game ever. However, sometimes when you're trying to do something else, you'll accidentally go to cover which can end up being your downfall at points.

Of course, what would a third-person shooter be without…well, shooters? I was kind of disappointed with the lack of weapon variety, especially compared to other shooters on the market. Basically, there are two types of every weapon. There is a type of weapon for the humans and there is a type of weapon for the Locusts. For example, a machine gun on the human side might have more or less ammo capacity than a machine gun on the Locust side. Another difference may be the lack or addition of the infamous chainsaw bayonet. There are shotguns, sniper rifles and handguns, but Gears of War's originality comes with two new weapons: the Hammer of Dawn and explosive arrows. The Hammer of Dawn is a device that, unfortunately, is rarely useful but you can use it to kill the bigger Locusts. The Hammer of Dawn calls energy from a satellite to create a big beam that damages Locusts for a ton of damage. However, this weapon isn't used often enough to make it really memorable. The explosive bow and arrows that I referred to earlier are obtained toward the end of the game and aim with a laser sight. This weapon fires an arrow into an enemy and moments later the arrow explodes inside of the enemy. This can take down Locusts easily. Also, the grenades are basically grenades except for their appearance. The grenades kind of look like maces, but with a long chain connected on the bottom of it so you can you swing it around and throw it. However, this is the only type of grenade available in the main campaign. Four the weapons I described can be held at a single time by the player.

Without its co-op capabilities, Gears of War probably would have been mediocre at best. It's amazing how fun you can have blasting away Locusts with a buddy. Unlike other co-op games, the gameplay doesn't focus merely on the main character. The second player takes the role of Dominic Santiago, who is actually referred to, seen, and talks in the campaign. Also, the two players aren't forced to stick with each other all the time. In some instances, the players get split up and must work with another member of the Delta squad or are sometimes on their own. A disappointment I had, however, was when one player made it to a checkpoint, the other player zoomed there, which can be a pain in the ass when you're trying to get ammo and you suddenly zoom to the next part of the level.

The versus mode, however, was lackluster at best. There are only three game types available to play. Most of them are basically the same thing, also. All the characters in versus all start with the same weapons which is annoying because you would think the Locusts would have cooler weapons. The Locusts do, however, have one original weapon readily available: smoke grenades. However, these grenades are practically useless because the maps (which are smaller versions of levels in the main campaign) are pretty small and it's mostly close-quarters combat. Also, the matches don't last much time, so it's not very enjoyable. I was expecting more out of Gears, but there really wasn't much to enjoy with the versus multiplayer.

Epic Games tried to make Gears of War as exciting as Resident Evil 4 and they did a decent-enough job, but it just wasn't as amazing as RE 4. Sure, there are some moments that your jaw will hit the floor, but not as many as the second outing of Leon S. Kennedy (not counting Gaiden). I'm not going to ruin any of these moments for you because I want you as a player to get the full experience out of Gears.

If you are a gamer, you've probably seen screenshots of the strange creatures in Gears of War. These monsters are, of course, separated into different types. One type of Locusts is the machine gun-toting kind while bigger Locusts carry around rocket launchers. There are flying Locusts that are actually ridden by some of the smaller Locusts and there are smaller Locusts known as the Kryll that come out at night to devour humans (and sometimes other Locusts). Some huge Locusts somewhat resemble spiders, but these aren't even the coolest creatures in Gears of War. The best monsters, in my opinion, are the Berserkers. I loved running away from the Berserkers, as flawed as the rushing system was (sometimes you would automatically get on cover). You will find yourself holding your breath as a Berserker charges at you, but you roll away at the last minute. However, I was disappointed that only one of the Berserker battles was actually entertaining and there was a great lack of battles with these massive creatures.

Gears of War kind of forces you into the story without really giving you much background information readily available. I was very disappointed with the story, but the characters are really easy to get into and you'll find it hard to quit the game because you'll be anxious to see who survives. The battle for the Locusts is probably the most amazing fictionalized war ever created for a video game.

Every once-in-a-while during a cut-scene, the lip syncing was off. These moments were few, but it was annoying. Thankfully, most of the dialogue (the very humorous dialogue at times) was done in-game. All of the textures looked beautiful and Gears of War is the most amazing game graphically that I have ever seen.

This amazing game wasn't without its glitches, however. At one point in the game during a Berserker fight, my buddy ran out onto a train car to lure the Berserker into that area so I could press a button to separate the train cars and send the Berserker to its death. However, my friend didn't roll back in time and the train cars got separated, but for some reason it didn't count my friend as dead. This wasn't really annoying but it was nonetheless a glitch in the game.

Like I said before, the dialogue is hilarious and the track is top-notch. The music is always exciting, except for one point of the game when the music sounded dorky and didn't fit with the situation at all. At some points during the game, the sound of bullets would like mute itself which is kind of irritating (it reminded me of old Zelda games where the sound would lower if you swung the sword too many times).

Gears of War spans about five to six hours depending on if you watch the cut-scenes (however, they aren't very lengthy to begin with, anyway). Some people might be disappointed by the length, but I was pleased with it. It wasn't too long or too short. However, since the multiplayer sucks, the replayability is really low, save for achievements. You can search for COG tags of fallen soldiers (there are fifty total), but that isn't really entertaining at all. Sure, there are more difficulty levels but they are just annoying because sitting behind cover and popping up every once in a while to shoot becomes tiresome, especially when the Locusts take about two clips to take out.

This is a perfect game to rent, unless you have Xbox Live and want to try out the versus and co-op mode with someone over the Internet. The last boss fight, I'd like to point out as a final note, is way too easy for my taste. Rent or buy, Gears of War is an amazing 360 title with a few problems that can easily be fixed in a sequel.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 01/02/07

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