Review by Sparksman

Reviewed: 11/27/06

Gears of War: The Xbox 360's First Killer App

Gears of War... hyped since the 360's launch. We've been seeing trailers, screenshots and previews for this game for over a year. So the big question; was the wait really worth it? In my opinion, yes!
Gears of War blends typical run 'n' gun action with thought-out tactics. If you're any kind of shooter fan, you will like this.

Your character is Marcus Phoenix, a disgraced ex-soldier who has been called upon to fight the rise of the Locust, a hostile race of underground monsters. Through varying environments of intense action you guide your team of men to the boss of the Locust, and must defeat it.

This game has all the ingredients a shooter of this genre should have. From the moment you pick up the pad it ticks the right boxes. Cheesy story, busted guitar soundtrack, an array of incredibly violent weaponry and most of all, horrific monsters. Let's take a look at where the game excels...

Gameplay - 9.5
As said above, the game mixes intense action with an element of tactical play. The movements are simple. The "A" button controls most of your fancy moves, it can be used to hide behind cover, roll and jump over objects. This can become confusing at times and when you first start playing you can quite often do the wrong thing and end up leaping over a wall straight into the enemy. Once you get used to it however, it is incredibly fun.

Holding down the "A" button allows you to sprint fast but with a limited amount of control. This could be to scramble across an open area quickly or to dash to cover. This also looks very cool!

The weapons are awesome and span from your classic shotguns and snipers, to rifles with chainsaw attatchments that can be used to dice your enemies. Not forgetting the "Hammer of Dawn" which can to pinpoint an area on the ground and summon a powerful laser beam shot from a satellite that is fully under your control.

There is nothing new in the game play of Gears of War as such, just elements of many other shooters mixed together and this has been executed to perfection. You'll be addicted to the gameplay from the word go!

Graphics - 9.9
The developers at Epic Games deserve a Nobel Prize! The visuals are are absolutely breathtaking, and take the Xbox 360 to a totally new level. The graphics in Gears of War are what future games will be based on, it really is that good.

The character models are incredibly detailed, you can make out scars and blemishes on their faces. The landscapes are expansive and the buildings majestic. You really get a feel for the environment you are in thanks to the amazing textures, amazing lighting and the way the graphics are filtered. They truly rival the graphics of Oblivion.

If you want to see what your Xbox 360 is capable of, buy this game.

Sounds - 9
You really feel you are in the middle of a bloody gunfight when you are playing Gears of War. From the blast of your shotgun to the scream of your chainsaw, the sounds really add to the deepness of the experience.

Each characters voice is different and they truly sound like soldiers. The Locust on the other hand can easily be identified as evil, simply from their screeches and hisses!

The music adds an incredible amount of suspense and and sense of accomplishment after you complete that chapter you were stuck on!

Multiplayer - 8
While the multiplayer in Gears of War isn't anything out of this world, it is still very good nevertheless. Tactics play a large part, and the game is slightly unbalanced in the sense that the close-up melee attacks tend to dominate. However, you will certainly have hours of fun playing this online and it doesn't disappoint. Nothing is more satisfying than reducing your opponent to a gory mess with a chainsaw or grenade launcher! All the maps are designed for a maximum of 8 players, and I personally think this is good. You can tell they have tested for 8 players and this gives the impression that the maps are extremely polished. I have yet to find a multiplayer map I dislike.

It would be nice if they added an option to go into ranked mode as a party, as its sometimes annoying being forced to play as a team with mutes, and things can be hard to get done. However you are able to create your own custom games and invite any of your friends.

Cinematics - 9.5
99.9% of the cinematics are rendered real-time using the game's engine. When the graphics are this good, there's no need for special cut scenes! Not only this, but when you manage to sneak up on someone and chainsaw them to death you get an awesome mini-cutscene where you see your opponent getting cut in half and blood splatters the screen. For me, this is the icing on the cake. I love it.

Final Verdict
For me, this is the best game on the Xbox 360 to date. Thanks to being able to take different routes in the single player and the large amount of achievements, even though the campaign is short you'll find yourself replaying this a good couple of times. With the added thrill of online play Gears of War will definitely keep you entertained for a good few months.

If you own an Xbox 360, YOU CANNOT MISS THIS GAME!

Contender for game of the year? You bet...

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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