Review by JW ACE

Reviewed: 03/18/08 | Updated: 03/19/08

Outstading...until your saved games disappear

Gears of War is, by definition, a port of an Xbox 360 3rd person shooter. PC ports haven’t been all that great lately; however, that doesn’t make Gears an automatic flop. It is, after all, considered one of the Xbox’s best games, for both single and multi player. So all that has to be done is to re-program the back-end to work with general PC hardware…read input from the keyboard and mouse…and you are done, right? Well, it is actually not that simple, but more on that later. Gears for the PC is a classic case of a great game that is hampered by technical issues.

Graphics are stupendous! If you think they look good on the Xbox…you haven’t seen anything yet. Although, this is really only true if you have Direct X10 and AA turned on, and you will need some beefy hardware to do that. Now…here is my first gripe…why can’t I turn on DX10 and leave AA off? Or vice versa if you are still on XP? Strange that you have to have either both or none, but this is minor. I only notice cause I tend to only turn AA on if I clearly need it…as it drops the FPS way too much. Still, the graphics are simply incredible.

Voices and music are all great. The battle sounds all sound as real as I would like them to be. Some of the more intense battles sounded similar to some Call of Duty levels because they got so intense. Just be careful when the big guys say “BOOM”.

Probably one of the most tedious parts of porting a game built on a specific system is to re-map and re-program all the controls. This is most difficult for games going to the PC as there are many different configurations that can happen. There are mice, joysticks, gamepads, and others. Personally, I stick with the good old keyboard and mouse. This works out perfectly. Picture Max Payne, only no bullet time, and instead of jumping when you hit the spacebar, you duck behind cover. The whole game is based on you ducking and peaking out to get good shots. The mouse controls are good for this too as left button is fire, and right button is aim. Perfect.

Game play
First let me mention that while Gears is 3rd person, it is made by Epic who are famous for there 1st person games. This makes Gears really a 1st person in 3rd persons clothing. (if that makes any sense) Now having said that, that combo works out really well. Most of the time you will be required to Aim down the sight of your gun, and the camera zooms in closer…giving you the feeling of FPS while you duck and aim your gun. The whole game is basically an old-school arcade style “duck and shoot” type game…only MUCH more original than it sounds. There are sections where you need to “move” your cover to get a better shot; you have grenades that you can “estimate” where they will go if you aim, and there are some fights that can be much easier if you know how to use the environment to your advantage.

There are 5 “ACTS”, each with multiple chapters. Each act takes place in a different area and they change with the story. There aren’t really any “bosses” in the game…just mini-bosses. There are some enemies, most notably the Berserker, which keep appearing throughout the game but can’t be killed through conventional means. There are some scary points in the game, but not many. Best example is again, the Berserker. When you first meet one…you have no idea how they move or act…and none of your guns put a dent in her. However, later in the game…they aren’t as much of a problem.

The game is actually rather easy to the veteran gamer if you play on Normal mode. That is, until you get to the final boss. The final boss is very hard, rather strange after all these mini-bosses that are cake walks for the most part. Still, some basic strategy will keep you alive. Something that should be mentioned is that the final boss is easier with 2 people. That’s right, there is co-op in this game and it works nicely. Whether you play single or with a friend, the “single player” is a great experience.

The story is pretty simple. Aliens/Creatures called Locus, that have lived underground have risen to the surface and proceeded to kick our ass. You are a former soldier who is now in jail because you disobeyed orders. However, since the army has taken so many casualties…you have been pardoned, and restored to the service. The character development isn’t all that detailed…but its enough to keep you interested. Your first mission is to backup a squad that has a tool that can map the Locus tunnels. It then just continues on from there. The story could be better, but its also good as is.

So, the game play, story, and graphics are all good. So what is wrong? The problem is that this game has some major issues at launch. By the time you read this review…most of the “show stopper” bugs will be fixed, I hope, but this is the experience I must go on. I played till the start of Act 4…almost 75% of the game…and then…my save files disappeared. Ok…no problem…I wanted to replay anyway…played till middle of Act 2…took a break…came back…save files are deleted again. Now first time could have been a fluke…the second, third, and forth times…I don’t think so. The problem appears to be on Microsoft’s end and not Epics because it seems to be related to “Games for Windows”. Ok fine…I can just use the level skip cheat…but that’s not all. The game installs and doesn’t put an icon to your desktop…nor does it give you the option to during the install. Ah, why is that? Is this some new “Games for Windows” protocol? Regardless…if you just run the game from the CD auto run…it won’t work for more than 30 seconds.

Ok, no big deal so far. Next problem, in an effort to fix some of the hardware issues that most people are having, (I did NOT have any of these FYI) they release a small patch…this patch actually made me have some choppiness in my game play…and I didn’t before. Gee, we are really batting 1000 here. In the end…this wasn’t a big deal either FOR ME, because you can manually modify one or two of the Unreal Engine files. While this is simple enough, as anyone can do it with instructions, why didn’t Epic, the creatures of the Unreal engine do this tweak themselves?

I really enjoyed this game, I can’t stress that enough, and it’s a beautiful looking game as well. However, I have to open debug mode and cheat unless I play through the whole game without exiting if I ever want to solve the game. Then if I want to see Direct X 10, I have to also have AA enabled…which drastically reduces the frames. If that isn’t enough, if you don’t want to game to crash before you can begin to play, you must manually create a shortcut to the hard drive exe, something most people younger than 18 probably don’t know how to do. Finally, if you don’t want the game to lag for 30 seconds every time the game has some action, you need to manually modify a variable in the source code. On the bright side…once you figure all this out, it’s a great game……no really.

In conclusion, just check online to make sure there is a patch that fixes most of the games issues before buying this game for the PC. While this game deserves a 9 or even a 10, I can’t give a game that gave me so many problems that high a score. The fact that my save files were deleted ALONE is inexcusable. Since I am in the QA field, maybe I should apply for a job at Epic, as they clearly need some help over there. If you can forgive the bugs…then you can’t go wrong with this game.

Rating:   3.5 - Good

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

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