Review by TheLastAvatar05

"Blood. Guts. And A Lot of Bullets. Add the three up and Gears of War is born."

Epic Games and Microsoft Studios weren't actually kidding when they presented Gears of War as the next new generation game for the Xbox 360. It's jaw dropping cinematic scenes, fluid gameplay, and the sheer concept of squad based gameplay apparently wowed the crowds into thinking that this is the new franchise for 360 gamers. However, the real question is, does it live up to what it delivers?

*Please note, due to the lack of online services of the 360 Live, I cannot review multi-player of Gears of War 1 or 2. I will update this and the score might change depending on my experience of multiplayer mode when I set up Live. For now, this review is basically on the other features excluding online multi player*

Gameplay (7/10): Apparently copying from an older game called Killswitch and borrowing some elements of Resident Evil 4, Epic Games have created a somewhat new squad based gameplay that forms the backbone of Gears. As a Squad based game, the primary focus is simply blasting away enemies from a distance and move from one distance to another while completing mission objectives. Marcus can wield any type of convenient weapon that is available and carry a max of 4 weapons in total. The drawback is that he can carry only two primary weapons, grenades, and a side arm, which, forces you to choose what items to carry within certain situations. Certain situations are almost weapon forced based to actually complete a level, which screams linearity and makes completing it on replay value somewhat lacklustered. Controlling weapons in cover is nicely done and is critical in order to survive on the battlefield. Epic Games have designed Gears to force the player into taking cover during intense firefights in squad based combat instead of simply allowing players to become a one man army with guns blazing. It requires strategy on every single level that you encounter with the ever present question of, "How do I want to attack them?" type of situation, which, works well and offers new challenges and non linearity. Marcus can fire from behind basically anything, (burnt cars, walls, broken desks, fridges, ect), and return fire at enemies during a firefight. The only problem is that by simply pressing the A button for cover, he will automatically latch onto every object near him to get into cover. This is extremely frustrating when trying to simply get him out of cover and move quickly during a firefight only to have him latch onto random objects while pressing A.

The Road Runner feature allows you to basically sprint across distances quickly for a short amount of time before tiring out, which, is a nice feature if you need to cover ground quickly because for some odd reason, Marcus moves extremely slow even at walking and jogging distance. Enemy AI and team AI is one of the biggest problems within Gears that I feel I need to actually address. For some reason, enemies are extremely stupid while attacking you in combat. Depending on difficulty level, they will try and flank you but most of the time, that's basically it. There's no squad based management for the enemy AI that allows them to attack you intelligently, which, is ironic considering how it's the basis of this game. On lower difficulty levels, they will simply charge with guns blazing while allowing you to mow them down with a trusty machine gun lancer. Not really difficult to say the least. Team AI is extremely poor within Gears that it's extremely laughable. Your trusty Gear mates will ALWAYS get in your line of sight while firing a weapon during a firefight. They will need constant watching as they cannot survive long on the battlefield and need to be revived by you, which, is annoying. Other times, they might act intelligently and attack from cover with efficiency while other times, they simply run up at point blank range and fire like an idiot. You can have a friend join you online and play as another squad mate in campaign though it would have been awesome if the number was increased so that all four of the members can be controlled online in campaign mode. Squad Commands is extremely basic within this game to the point that it reverts back a game favorite of mine, Freedom Fighters (Another Squad Based Game). You only have three commands. Defend, Attack, and Regroup. That's it. Most of the time, it's ineffective to even use because the team AI refuses to even obey. Lastly to discuss is the active reload feature. Each weapon allows you to timely press the reload button a second time, in order to gain a quicker reload or damage bonus for that weapon. Failure to accurately press the correct button in the meter bar will result in weapon jams, which, take longer to fix and reload. It's a nice feature though you will have more times messing up due to intense fire fights that will lead to frustration.

Overall, gameplay within Gears is extremely solid, (Much better than Gears of War 2, in my opinion), with a slight few issues. Team AI and enemy AI is extremely questionable, basic squad commands are ineffective and poorly designed, some of the controls are too content sensitivity and overused for one button on the 360 controller, and the fact that the game can give you a few cheap shot moments within this game might turn beginner gamers away.

Storyline (7/10): As a recently incarcerated prisoner and former Gear solider accused of being a traitor, you play as Marcus Fenix, who, is reinstated into the army due to certain circumstances. 15 years before the games setting, an event occurs that is simply known as, "Emergence Day", where genocidal alien creatures known as simply, "The Locust", emerge beneath the planet's surface and launch an overwhelming attack on the human population. In a desperate attempt to actually turn the tide of the war, the Coalition of Governments issues a scorch earth policy, which, kills nearly the remaining 90 percent of the population that hasn't been killed by the Locust attacks. Fast forward to Marcus as he's recently instated into the army's Delta Squad and issued orders to find and carry a weapon that will hopefully end the war in humanity's favor. Basically, you're a grunt battling genocidal aliens in a post apocalyptic battlefield. Sounds familiar in so many other type of games before, doesn't it? Gears of War's campaign isn't long or memorable to say the least, (the entire storyline consisting of simply five chapter arcs with 6-10 missions each), but it gets the job done and is easy to actually understand. Some of the characters are not really developed but creating Marcus Fenix as a stone cold emotionless solider was nicely done. It makes you wonder what drove him to the point to avoid showing emotion as a human being and how he responds with other characters around him. The Locust in general are pretty simple to even understand. They are an somewhat alien ant based species with a hierarchy of a Queen to actually lead them. General RAAM is a great villain to introduce though I wished he had more cut scenes and minor boss skirmishes before facing him at the game's climax.

In terms of actual storyline, it's short, sweet, and easy to even follow for gamers that really aren't into the genre. I only wished that it was a bit longer, larger and a lot more boss battles, and a further developed cast of characters. The game's length should take you no more than 6-12 hours within one actual sitting and allows replay chapters after completion of said chapter within the campaign.

Graphics (9/10): For a next generation game on the 360, Gears is extremely impressive to behold at a first glance. Everything from the post apocalyptic setting of burnt cities, gritty environment, and dead bodies that the Locust feasted upon, is extremely detailed and textured. Marcus and his teammates looked never more detailed, especially with the facial expressions during cut scenes and in real time gameplay. (I believe Metal Gear Solid 4 and Killzone 2 are possibly contenders within that category). The Locust are also extremely well animated and detailed. They are evidently given a "alien"
that makes them frightening and fearful to face during battle. There are variety of different enemy types and each one of them is beautifully created that suits it's in game personality and role within Gears. The only drawback is that there isn't time to actually marvel of the Locust while you're trying to kill them on the battlefield and vise versa. Weapon detail is extremely well detailed and fluid when firing and reloading them in battles. In terms of intense battles, everything apparently works together into bringing the gamer into the actual experience. The intense gun fights, facing overwhelming odds, and holding up in gritty locations with limited ammo and weaponry really bring Gears into mind of what the game's about: Survival. There are a few clipping issues while controlling Marcus when he takes cover on smaller objects, (Namely, desks, fridges, anything smaller than him).

Graphically, Gears is perhaps an example of the 360's graphic capability. I honestly was impressed of how much detail is put within Gears that you really need to actually experience it rather than read it within a review or watch from videos online. It's that beautiful to look at.

Sound (8/10): Incidentally, Gears has a crisp voice acting cast of voice actors (One of which, voices Bender from Futurama), and they each match their in game character perfectly. There's a lot of profanity within Gears, (more than Killzone 2, which, is extremely surprising), so younger gamers should stay away from this game. A lot of the voice acting is well done within cut scenes though you only wished that there was more of them to actually listen to each character's voice since it's extremely enjoyable. Marcus is perhaps the one that fans enjoy the most with his emotionless voice acting is done perfectly during certain scenes and during actual gameplay moments.

The only glaring issue with Sound is that some of it can be repetitive and overdone at times. A minor annoyance with a lot of profanity laced within it.

Closing Comments: Gears of War does not offer anything new in terms of the genre. I'm assuming that it originally wanted to due to the hype it received when footage was first shown to the gaming public and critics. Instead Gears is a memorable dark intense sci-fi style of gameplay that thrusts you into the boots of a solider against impossible odds. Fans will probably enjoy this and the sequel while we all wait for the invertible Gears of War 3.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 03/22/10

Game Release: Gears of War (US, 11/07/06)

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