Review by AudioAutomica
Fantastic Multiplayer; Single Player, not so much
Gears of War is the latest title from the creators of the Unreal Tournament series, as a big fan of the UT games, I was excited, like everyone else, to hear about Gears of War. The game was a very different style from the Run and Gun Unreal Tournament games, but it was still a very fun, fulfilling experience.
One of the strongest points in the game, every gruesome detail is rendered with tender care. I found myself awed at some of the scenes in the game, and as you progress through the single player campaign, or explore the different multi player maps, the areas do not seem at all repetitive or stale. The ambiance the game achieves is spot on in each scene, and the character models are well designed. Some of the animation in the game can get a little repetitive, but that is really a forgivable error.
There isn't a whole lot more to say, if you aren't playing the game in High Definition, you are doing yourself a disservice, as I found that the subtitles could be hard to read on a standard resolution screen, as well as the graphics being noticeably less clear. Either platform is fantastic, and this is, to date, probably the most technically impressive graphical experience I have been exposed to.
The voice overs for all the main characters are well done, but some of the ancillary character's voice overs are suspect. During battle, you will hear the shouts of the enemy, as they yell tactical advice to each other, or lament their jammed gun. Of course, this becomes a problem in multi player. An aspect of the game is time based reloading, where your reload can either be perfect, and do more damage, average, and reload quickly, or jam, and reload slowly. There are sound bites for all of these, and your character will drop them constantly in multi player. If you are in a fire fight, and you reload, your enemy almost always knows exactly what kind of reload you pulled off, it is impossible for you to gain any advantage from a perfect reload, which is a self defeating game element. More on that in the game play section.
In addition, the song in the credits is VERY annoying. It is just a sound bite from one of the main characters played over and over again to a rap beat. Yikes. Still, the game manages its sound very well in single player.
Multi Player Game play: 9/10
I split up the Game play category because the difference between the quality of single player and multi player is so great, I thought they warranted their own sections. So, lets talk multi player. The Multi player in this game consists of 4 different game types, all of which are formatted as either 3v3 or 4v4. They are, Warzone, Execution, Assassination, and Annex. Warzone and Ezecution are essentially the same, in that, the object of the game type is to kill the other team. The difference is, in Warzone, once you have been sufficiently damaged to be downed, you will bleed to death, and only a teammate can revive you, in execution you revive automatically. Warzone is the more tactical of the two, relying more on team play and tactics. Assassination involves on of the players on each team being the leader, and the point of the game type is to kill them. Annex is pretty much king of the hill. Overall, the game types are robust enough to keep you satisfied, and different enough to offer some new challenges each match. Of course, after a while, you can feel somewhat limited by your choices.
Now, the actual online play is fantastic. Each player spawns with an assault rifle, shotgun, smoke grenade, and pistol. On the map are several power weapons, these are your sniper rifles, and rocket launchers. Most matches consist of a rush to the power weapons, and an intense battle to secure them for your team. The amount of strategy you can put in place here is staggering, you could stay back and cover the weapons, you can try to flank the enemy, you can try to ambush them, and more. Of course, securing the power weapon doesn't insure victory, a good player can take someone out using any of their starting weapons, and with teamwork, you could destroy any opponents in any situation. You never really feel out of the match so long as at least one of your teammates is alive, no matter what weapons the enemy has. This is a product of the excellent weapon balance. A lot of people who have played this game will say, "Weapon balance, are you high?" But the truth is, every weapon in this game has a use. The shotgun is second to none at close range, the lancer and hammerburst are fantastic at mid range, the sniper is good at long range, and all the weapons have good melee attacks. There is no one weapon you can use and always be set in this game.
The one facet of multi player game play that really hurts it, is the host system. Rather than having dedicated servers for this game, the game uses a host system, where on of the players acts as host. This causes lag for the other 7 players. the good news is, the lag is usually very slight, and easy to adapt to, the bad news is, the host is given a slight advantage. This does go a little way to unbalancing the game. This is not game breaking. I will say it again, this is not game breaking. You always have a chance, even against the host.
The last thing I want to touch upon is the community. I always here this community getting trashed on message boards, but to be honest, There are very few people playing the game who really annoyed me. Screaming children are rare, and elitists tend to stick to unranked matches. There are some unsavory types, but the vast majority of the players want to take part in the strategy part of the game, and win, not just complain. Compared to games like Halo 2 or Counter Strike, I found the community to be down right pleasant, and almost always willing to talk.
The multi player in this game gets slammed way more than it deserves, this is still a good time for all.
Single Player Game Play: 6/10
The main campaign in the game has some issues that really limit it. First of all, the basic premise of the game boils down to essentially a currier mission. You spend most of the game finding one piece of information, and the rest of the game trying to put it into action. The character's back stories are only hinted at, and this is really sad, because they seem to me like they have real potential to be engaging. They whole game play experience feels almost laughable because of the mission you are ultimately sent on.
Now, the actual nuts and bolts of game play are pretty much this. Walk forward, clear room, rinse and repeat. The enemy's are almost all identical, sure, some of them have different character models, but they are pretty much all the same thing, using the same weapons. there are three types of enemies, wretches, the little monkeys that charge at you and try to scratch you to death, drones, the guys with guns, and boomers, the guys with rocket launchers. There is fun to be had slaughtering them, but they pretty much always do the same thing, sit behind cover, then stick their head out to fire. Ad infinitum. It is a rare enemy which actually tries to confront you at close range. This is actually probably a good thing, because your teammates have such bad AI, there is no way you would be able to handle 4 charging drones on your own.
The biggest sin though, is how lame the boss battles are. Every boss in this game is cool, especially the corpser, a giant spider who plays mind games with you for the first four chapters. But every boss battle is ridiculously easy. Even the final boss battle is just long, not hard. It is so disappointing, they do such a good job of setting up the boss battles, and what do you get? Every time it is just another easy to kill enemy.
I could also mention that the game is short, and even on insane, very easy, but I don't think that would really add anything to the review. There is fun to be had, it just isn't fun for long enough. I could not justify $60, or even $40 for this game for just the single player.
When you get down to it, get this game for the multi player. If you don't have Xbox Live, rent it, the single player is lack luster, but has enough cheap thrills to keep you engaged for a week, just not any longer. The multi player really is something special, don't miss the chance to play it.
Rating: 4.0 - Great
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