Review by TanikazeGyoukou

Reviewed: 11/10/06

A great game marred by a poor lobby system.

Gears of War is the newest third person shooter from Epic Games, esteemed developer of the Unreal Tournament series. It has been the subject of much hype and media attention, and luckily for the fans, it (mostly) does not disappointment.

Graphics: 10/10
The visuals in this game are simply stunning. The textures are sharp and clear, and each and every model is beautifully crafted. It’s sometimes hard to notice during the action, but whenever there’s a pause in the bloodshed you will find yourself marveling at the painstaking attention to detail by the developers. You can find each scale on each and every Locust enemy and see the wrinkles in the faces of the Cog soldiers. When cut, enemies will bleed, and they will do so a lot. The graphics certainly do justice to the incredible amount of gore in the game. The lighting in the game is far and away some of the best usage of HDR that I have ever seen in a game; lighting reflects off of water and metal realistically, without producing the eerie glow that games all too often suffer from.

Sounds: 8/10
I have to admit that most of the “music” I noticed in the game came in the form of the satisfying sound of a short guitar riff played after finishing off all of the enemies in the area. As far as non-music sounds go, they are plentiful and for the most part very satisfying. The chainsaw will give a satisfying revving sound when the R trigger is pulled while it is running, the shotgun gives off an appropriately intimidating boom when fired. The voice acting is good, in both cut scenes and when your character swears from botching a reload or when throwing a grenade. In some cases, the yells or hisses of “Smoke!” from enemy players can be used to locate their position. Unfortunately, there were times in single player when the high-pitched screeches of certain enemies became irritating, but it did not bother me very much.

Gameplay: 10/10
As stated previously, the game is a third person shooter. Sometimes people will hear that and ask, “Like G.R.A.W?” The answer is no, not like G.R.A.W. Gears of War necessitates that the player use cover every time they can find it in both single and multiplayer, but it does little to change the pace of the game. I found myself rushing from cover to cover at high speeds, firing around corners and over obstacles as I went. In fact, because cover can be so easily be jumped over or around and run between, even melee combat is not lost on Gears. In fact, this game harbors some of the best hand to hand combat I personally have ever experienced in a shooter. There is little more satisfying than running into melee range of an enemy, activating the chainsaw, and letting it rip. Literally. You will be hard pressed to find a chainsaw more satisfying than the one in Gears of War. It’s actually the melee mode of a machine gun weapon, and when you use it, the camera takes on a cinematic angle, and shows your character grinding it skillfully through the enemy’s body. Blood splatters everywhere, including onto the camera. For most of the people I have talked to, it is absolutely the most fun thing to do in the game to dig into an enemy they have just snuck up on with the chainsaw. Even the ranged combat is very well done, however. The bullets do not greatly decrease in accuracy in continuous fire, allowing for the long streams of fire that will be required of you to take down enemy players. When you fire at an enemy, it is possible to incapacitate rather than kill them. When an enemy is on the ground, depending on the game mode and situation, you may either simply shoot them to finish them off, or walk up and bring your boot down on their skull, an action widely known as “curb stomping”.

Single player/Cooperative: 9/10
The single player campaign is extremely fun, even more-so with a friend on the same Xbox, on a system link, or over Xbox Live. The player takes control of Marcus, a member of a futuristic military who was jailed for several decades for defying the orders of a superior officer. The co-operative player, who can join seamlessly – Time Crisis style – plays the role of Dominic, a friend and squad-mate of Marcus. The two players will most of the time be working closely together to fight their way through hordes of Locust of all shapes and sizes, but will sometimes be separated for short stints. Usually in these times, the players will be able to see each other through fences and windows and may even be able to assist one another, but will not be able to actually follow the same path. This makes it much harder for one person to be extremely good and the other to be absolutely horrid unless playing on a low difficulty level, since if either player dies while they cannot reach each other, revival will be impossible and you will need to restart at the last checkpoint. Unfortunately, not much can be said for the story; it gets the job done and justifies the field of battle, but it failed to engage me and encourage me to learn more.

Multiplayer (Versus): 8/10
Now, the score may be misleading, but I found the actual gameplay of the multiplayer mode quite a bit more enjoyable than single player or cooperative. Like single player, it’s a cover-based game with a fast pace, but this time with an extreme focus on teamwork. I have played matches where the other team had far greater individual skill than ours, but managed to win by setting traps and ambushes. Strategy is absolutely essential to victory against a good team. The maps are well crafted and fun to play on, and the three game modes, Execution, Assassination, and Warzone, while disappointingly similar to each other, are all satisfactory. Warzone is basically “regular mode”. Players on the two teams must kill each other with no catches. Execution is very similar, except players can only be killed by special close-range attacks like chainsaws and curb stomping. In Assassination, a player on each team is a special character. This character can only pick up large weapons, but is also capable of dropping them for their teammates. The goal of Assassination is to kill the enemy special character. While virtually any game type on any map with two somewhat evenly matched teams will produce an experience far and away more entertaining than single player, the problem is that the lobby system is far below par for how good the rest of the game is. After ranked matches, players are kicked back out of the game and must find or host a new one. In player matches, it is impossible to change the game’s settings between matches. To change the map, game type, adjust friendly fire, change round durations, or any other settings usually given to the host of the game in multiplayer games, you must close the match and host a new one. This seriously hurts and otherwise incredible and deeply satisfying multiplayer experience.

Overall: 9/10
If you have Xbox Live or at least a couple of friends who like to play games, buy this game immediately. It is one of the best games currently on the market, and from the looks of it, will remain so for quite some time. With amazing graphics, good sound, top notch gameplay, it may be hindered by a disappointing multiplayer interface and a forgettable story, but if Gears of War is not the best action game ever produced, it is certainly up there.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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