Review by elsquanto
Reviewed: 06/05/07 | Updated: 08/30/07
In the Alphabet of Manliness, G stands for Gears of War
Ethnic cleansing, with no defending
These acts of genocide
A fatal ending, with no surrendering
To cover up the crimes... and lie
Smart bombs, precision guided armament
A more sophisticated way to end up dead
Still we search and invent such intelligent weapons
That kill each other like the Gears of War...
~ Dave Mustaine, Megadeth
Gears of War continues the reign of a long line of outstanding shooters that began with Wolfenstein and Doom, continued through Goldeneye, and only now has Gears of War seized the title from Halo. These games each added their own aspect to the genre, whether it was the fact that it was Three-Dimensional or the concept of objectives, or making the console shooter superior to the PC shooter. Gears of War adds something that not a lot of games have been able to achieve over the years, complete and utter immersion. One can appreciate the irony of the situation, that a third person shooter can wrap you up in the action more than any first person shooter ever has been able to.
But it's true, and we can see the effort put into placing you in the game not only from the gore and the camera angles, but even the character development. While you may be told that Gears of War is lacking a spectacular story, it's there for those who dare delve deep enough. The game takes place on the planet of Sera, where a world war has just ended. However, soon after the Pendulum Wars as they were called ended, with the fascist organization COG (Coalition of Ordered Governments) now a global power, a new threat literally emerged.
That threat, is the Locust. These mutated, deformed, reptilian humans literally burrowed their way up from under the humanity's feet reminiscent of War of the Worlds. The humans are over matched, surrounded, and desperate for help. Enter COG once again, which uses the invasion to seize control of world power. Desperate for supplies and soldiers, COG must release former war prisoners in order to rebuild its shattered ranks. They turn to Marcus Fenix, a traitorous muscle bound soldier who earned himself an excellent reputation in the Pendulum Wars.
Marcus is reunited with one of his best friends Dom Santiago, and they are charged with the mission of hunting down a lost squad, which may hold the key for a long shot victory for humanity. The squad contains a pair of very eccentric characters, Baird and Cole. Baird is the rival of Marcus, and the stereotypical ass of the group. Nevertheless, he delivers with some of the best lines in the game - Oh, you can come down here if you want, there's room for one more, it's a ****ing party down here. Cole on the other hand, is just there to party really. The former professional athlete is cocky and fearless at the same time.
The story will bring you to a prison escape, through the remains of ruined government buildings, back into a ruined city under the cover of a viscous nightfall, underground right into the belly of the beast, back into the remains of the city, and finally, on a high speed race across a train in order to battle what is one of the most difficult bosses of all time.
These levels both look and play fantastic. The beginning of the third act, which takes place during a ferocious rainstorm, actually shows the full brunt of the best graphics to ever grace a video game. The rain patters down from the sky, forming puddles on the ground which reflect every single bolt of lightning. You almost feel like you need a raincoat just to play the game, and you may even find yourself shivering in the fake cold. In an interview, Cliffy B stated that Gears was originally designed to be a first person shooter, but they decided that it would be a shame not to show your character with that kind of graphics.
Gears of War displays its graphical power through its gore, also. When you kill something in Gears of War, it doesn't just crumple up to the floor and lay still like in other games like Call of Duty, things die hard. Headshots don't just hit your opponent, they take the head clean off, and you can even watch the skull shatter, the brain matter leak out, and the headless corpse crumple to the floor. You can even curb stomp a downed enemy with a simple push of a button.
The legendary chainsaw is just as awesome. On the rare occasion that you do find a chance to use the chainsaw, you'll see one of the coolest action sequences in history. The camera will pan so that you can see both the grinding of your character's teeth and the shock and anguish of your enemy's face. Then, you will see blood fill the screen as dozens of razor sharp blades dig into the chainsawee's torso at one hundred rotations per minute.
On the subject of camera angles, this is one of the things that Gears of War does even more effectively. When you sprint, the camera goes really low to the ground so that it seems like you're going a lot faster than you really are. While aiming, the camera will switch to an over-the-shoulder view, giving you an advantage and looking extremely cool at the same time.
One thing you may notice however, is that you will rarely have the opportunity to aim down the sights, mainly because whenever you stick your head out of cover, it's likely to be shot off. While a lot of shooters, notably Tom Clancy games, have experimented with cover, this game is the first to simplify it to a point where you're more comfortable glued to a slab of concrete than sprinting and circle strafing.
While you're literally mowing down the ranks of oncoming Locust, you'll find pieces of cover to be your best friend. This cover comes in a variety of forms, whether it be a a roadblock, a destroyed car, the classic wall next to a doorway, or in one case, a cargo crate on a train rocketing at 200 miles per hour towards the extinction of the enemy. I remember one time I was pinned down by a heavy machine gun, and made the stupid mistake of jumping over cover. As I watched the remains of my leg roll by, I had one thought. That. Was. Awesome.
The enemies do lack variety, and this is one of the few downsides to the game. The majority of them are humanoid aliens with slight variations to display what weapons they are holding. Some Locust are larger, such as the huge, hulking Boomers, and their deep cry can inspire the same fear that the Demons from the original Doom showed. Berserkers are twenty foot tall monsters of death that can shrug off most weapons and break every bone in your body with one swift swing of its arm. Both of these enemies are equally terrifying, but there are still more waiting for you to fight. The small, monkey-like wretches jump from wall to wall, faster than you can get away, and when they finally get close, they'll dive for your throat.
But the most terrifying enemy of all appears only in one part of the game, and you can barely even kill them. Venture too far into the darkness in Act II, and these swarming, batlike death machines known simply as kryll will rip you into pieces too small to ever fit back together again. Your first encounter with these may cause you to think back to your first encounter with the flood in Halo: Combat Evolved. Most of your encounters with the kryll wind up something like this;
Oh, that was a huge battle, I'm lucky I got out of that one alive... now to find some more enemies, maybe they're down that street over there. Tra-la-la... Wait, why am I taking damage... ****! ****! SON OF A *****!!. Now I have to redo that battle all over again... While this may sound tedious, it's actually one of the things that keep you in touch with the game. Why would you be out of it when there's a risk of being turned into shredded cheese if you take more than two steps into the dark.
While most of the enemies can be harmed by normal weapons, special action must be taken against enemies like the berserkers and other bosses. The Hammer of Dawn is a satellite beam very similar to the Ion Cannon from the Command and Conquer series. This fiery beam of death can defeat even the toughest of enemies. Sadly, there aren't many unique weapons in the game other than the Hammer. Don't expect to be going into a Ratchet and Clank style game.
All of the weapons in the game are available in multiplayer, scattered around up to sixteen different maps. The multiplayer is based on a series of rounds, where you engage and attempt to eradicate the enemy's presence. If you die, you'll sit there waiting until the next round. The teams are only up to four, which forces team based combat. The game quickly turns into a race to see who can pick up the best weapons the fastest, and the team that can control more of them normally wins. This isn't to say that the weapons aren't balanced, because just the scare of somebody on the other team having a power weapons is enough to change the entire pace of the game.
Gears of War has hit, and it rocks. Whether or not it will reinvent the genre has yet to be seen, but it could kick a jump-start into the third person shooter trend.
Final Score - Gears of War is scarier than F.E.A.R., more fun than Call of Duty, and has the best graphics of any game yet. This is a must-buy
Graphics - 10/10 - Phenomenal
Gameplay - 9.5/10 Just plain badass
Multiplayer - 9.5/10 Still retains much awesomeness
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: Gears of War (US, 11/07/06)
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