Review by Mechsaurian

Reviewed: 11/14/06

The Only Difference Between GoW and Cocaine...

.. is the runny nose.

I bought Gears of War on a tip off from a friend, and had no idea about the hype surrounding it until I hopped on the internet a day later. By then I had played it and gotten hooked, and it, I must admit, has tag teamed with Age of Empires 3 (another good one) to eat up any hours of my life not spent at school or sleeping. Gears of War is good on many levels, and although it has its weaknesses, this is a must have for anyone who likes shooting games.

Graphics: 9/0

The 360 can push better, but not by much. The game has two major graphical strengths: environments and gore. The characters are super exaggerated (almost deformed) and though they look pretty detailed, the main character is so ugly you would find it hard to look at him if he wasn't such a badass. The aliens are your standard fare; hideous, humanoid-shaped villains who you have to shoot into bloody chunks.

Speaking of bloody chunks, you'll be amazed at how... extreme this game can be. The game allows you to blow enemies heads and limbs off, vaporize them into meaty bits, "curb stomp" their heads when on the ground, and even saw them down the middle with a gun-mounted chainsaw. Do not let your 8-year old brother watch you play this. Blood splatters the screen, the environment, everything, and corpses have physics to the point that you can kick them around as you walk. It's odd that the game did gore so well when there's so much other substance to the game, but it's nice icing to an already tasty cake.

As for the environments... they are the best I have seen on the Xbox 360 so far. It's tough to immerse a player so far into a game that, frankly, has no storyline whatsoever. But Epic gets 'er done with the excellent graphics and pseudo-realistic, cover-oriented shooting gameplay.

Sound: 10/10

Yikes. Your family and neighbors will hate you for buying this game. Constant gunfire, yelling, chainsaws, and other paraphernalia of greatness will assault your ears, and probably theirs as well, since you'll have it hooked up to your surround-sound and cranked up. The roar of battle in this game will leave you trembling after the first thirty minutes or so, but simply remains an excellent background din to kill to afterwards. The music is cool but unobtrusive, and is probably a little forgettable since the same 20 or so tracks are used throughout the game, but you'll probably appreciate the fact that it isn't trashy rock music like you'd expect in this sort of game (not that trashy rock doesn't have its own set of merits, but its a nice change).

Gameplay: 10/10

Alright. Let's take it from the top. The game relies on a fairly common TPS control formula; R is shoot, L is aim, D-pad is switch weapons. In fact, in the first few minutes of gameplay it won't seem any different from the mountain of similar titles. However, GoW distinguishes itself from the pack with excellent AI, interesting weapons, and several gameplay mechanics that force you to be careful and precise (but oh so brutal) while you traverse the game's ruined world.

The first new dynamic of note is the Active Reload; it's an incredibly original feature that gives you partial control over reloading a weapon. While you can just hit RB and let Marcus do his thing, you can hit it a second time during the reload to change the effect. There is a grey range, a light-grey range, and a white spot. Hit in the grey, and the gun jams, forcing you to waste precious extra seconds trying to reload properly. Hit in the light grey, and Marcus focuses on reloading and gets the job done significantly quicker than normal. Hit inside the sliver of white, and Marcus reloads almost instantly, and also gets a damage boost for the remainder of that ammo clip. It's an ingenious little system that takes only minutes to perfect, but adds a bit of risk and intrigue to the simple act of reloading.

Second is the cover system. Using cover in a Third Person Shooter is hardly a new idea, but few games have done it as smoothly or as intricately as GoW. Almost anything can be used for cover; once you're in cover, you can fire blindsights, aim with a barrier protecting you, move quickly to a new spot, and even roll out of cover with your gun blazing. Using cover is one of the center points of the game, as you will unquestionably die if you don't. Surprisingly, it ends up being lot more interesting than the unrealistic strafing, jumping, and aiming-while-sprinting found in other games.

In short, GoW is an absolute pleasure to play, and addictive as hell. Multiplayer adds a whole new dimension; GoW has the best Co-op gameplay I have ever tried (their are several segments where the two of you must split up, and others where the two of you fight without a squad to back you up), and Xbox Live is awesome, if you don't mind the terrible game lobbies.

Replay: 8/10

You will be playing through campaign several times for sure (hopefully at least once on each difficulty) and multiplayer is fantastic. System link at a party with access to several TVs will ensure hours of fun. Xbox Live is a bit of a letdown this time, as fun as it is, but still gives you a reason to play a non-campaign setting. You can even have a split screen one on one, or a system link team battle if you don't have Live access.

Overall: 9/10

One of the best reasons to own a 360, and definitely something to hold you over till Fable 2 and Halo 3. Buy this one for sure, if you have any interest in shooting games.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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