Review by pandaramaster
Gears Of War is one the most satisfying experiences for any console.
Gears Of War deserves every single one of its awards. It deserves the exposure it's having. It deserves to have sold over 3 million copies worldwide and it deserves full marks.
Everyone's after blood when a game is released after all the hype it's received. Everyone wants to criticise it. Everyone wants to hate the game before they've even played it. Unfortunately, Gears Of War is one of those games that will be hated by the few who haven't played it, hate it because it's so good and hate it because they know a good game when they see one. They don't want to lose face and their dignity and will never succumb to admitting that this game is a crowning achievement in videogame history. It annoys me when everyone criticises the story but to do that is to miss the point of what gaming is all about. It's about the experience that can't be achieved in books or films. This is a game from start to finish. If you're after philosophical nonsense and lengthy cut scenes you need to look elsewhere. The game's story is irrelevant to what makes this game. The only downside people care to point out in this game is its story. All you need to know is a species of human/alien hybrids attack the citizens of Sera and it's your job as Marc Fenix, to lead a squad of three of the most bad ass soldiers you'll ever meet to their underground network and blown them all to hell. Sweet. Now lets get what to makes this game outstanding.
Gears Of War plays like any other third person shooter. For a similarity, think along the lines of Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter but ten times better. One of the reasons why Gears Of War is better is because of the dynamic cover system. Okay, so other games may have implemented a cover system i.e. kill. Switch or Rogue Trooper but never this well. Press the A button and the guy just slams himself into cover. Press it again and he comes out of it. Simple. It's also context sensitive on where you're positioned. Say if you're at the corner of a wall and you want to run to the next available cover spot that's in front of you. All you have to do is push forward while holding A and you run straight to it and slam yourself into cover. This is the Roadie Run manoeuvre, and believes me; you will love running from cover to cover. The camera gets down low and shakes like a handheld camera following your guy. It's impressive and makes the battle much more intense and exciting. The fighting is awesome in Gears Of War. It's kept simple and never gets complicated. You see a bad guy; you aim your weapon and pull the trigger. He dies and you move on. Surprisingly, this game offers a lot of tactical situations and if you don't keep your head down you WILL die. A lot. You need to learn how to flank, make sound decisions and decide on whether to leave cover or not, to get ammo or to get a better shot. It definitely keeps you on your toes and the battles never let up. The AI is engaging and intelligent. There may be some AI problems you'll encounter but they're quite rare and never spoil your enjoyment. Your squad are quite intelligent and will find cover, shoot at the enemies. Basically, these guys act like they don't want to die and will do anything to keep it that way. But there will be times when you don't want to use tactics. You just want to run in there and melee a guy and that's where the Lancer comes in.
The Lancer is one of the greatest weapons ever devised for a videogame. Why? It's because of the freaking chainsaw bayonet underneath it. Like Cliffy B says, "It's a peanut butter and chocolate situation right? It shouldn't work, but it does!" It does, it does! When you first hack a guy up with it, it's extremely satisfying and it never gets old. And the gore is extreme! The screen gets splattered with blood; you see intestines, flesh and sinew - amazing!!! Mwhahahahahahahaha. Another great thing about this game is its Active Reload for weapons. Basically what this means is you can control how long it takes to reload your weapon. When you reload your weapon you'll notice a black bar with a little white square and a grey rectangle in it. This is the bar you watch to get perfect reloads. Land it in the white and you get an 8% increase of power in your ammo for a short duration and it gets your gun reloaded quicker. Land it in the grey and you get the quick reload. Land it in the black and your weapon jams. So it's a bit of gamble but you'll quickly master it, though you do get occasions when you mess up. All these elements combine to make an excellent single player experience. So imagine how great it'll be when you invite a friend? The co-op in this game is outrageously brilliant. It's amazing how this feature gives the single player campaign a much-needed boost and freshness. During the single player campaign you'll come to quite a few cross roads that asks you what route to take next, so obviously you can't explore both at the same time. That's where the co-op comes in. You and your buddy split up giving each other support if you can and finding those elusive COG tags that will contribute towards your gamer achievement points. The game also gives out achievement points to the player as Dom (the character the second player controls), so really it's beneficial that you get another guy to play with you. You can play either on Xbox Live, system link up or split screen and each of these modes feature drop in and drop out. And each one is brilliant and really adds to the already impressive experience.
Once you're done with the Co-Op mode, there's the deathmatch mode to look forward too. It consists of three match modes: Warzone, Execution and Assassination. Each mode has two teams of four (COGS and Locusts) battling it out for supremacy. Warzone is the basic deathmatch mode that follows the old navy way: first one to die loses. Execution is similar to Warzone except this time, the dying man now has a chance to get back in the fight by rapidly pressing the A button to keep his heart going. Of course, if you get caught in a grenade explosion, head blown off, hacked to death by the chainsaw bayonet or curb stomped (which is this really cool move that lets you stomp on the guys head that has to be seen to be believed, you hear the brain squelch and everything. Hehehehehe) then you're out the game. Assassination is a bit more complex. Each team has a designated leader and the objective is to wipe out the opposing team's leader. Except, to make things harder all the weapons on the map are locked at first. The only way to access them is to get the leader to come out of hiding and pick the weapons up for him for everyone to have access too. Each of these modes is fantastic and the 16 maps (with more to come) are brilliant and you'll quickly find favourites that you'll always play on. The Xbox Live community is astounding and is really strong and you'll find games almost instantly. Though there are instances of lag and a bit of unfairness from skilled players, you're more or less going to spend the most of your time on here and with the co-op.
Let's face it; Gears Of War is a phenomenal looking game. The amount of attention to detail is jaw dropping. This truly is a next gen looking game. There's virtually no slow down during the heated battles and everything looks gorgeous when standing still or moving. Nothing is compromised and surprisingly, the game offers plenty of variety when it comes to the environments. The characters all have a thick feel to them; the weapons are all gloriously realised; the over the top gore is disturbingly beautiful; the detail on the Locusts are frightfully pretty; albeit the only small complaint I do have with this game is during some cut scenes the visuals do get cut up or freeze and spoils the cut scene a little. But other than that, this game looks amazing and really gives the game a movie like atmosphere.
The sound presentation also complements the movie atmosphere really well. The music is orchestral powerful; the voice acting for the main guys and the Locusts suit their persona perfectly; the sound effects are meaty and realistic. Awesome.
As a single player campaign, this game has it all. The tight cover, active reloads and fighting mechanics are solid. There are three difficulty levels that give each run-through a whole new experience and freshness. But when you consider the aspects of multiplayer and the co-op adding to the lifespan, this is one seriously good value for money package. *
Gears Of War is one of the definitive reasons why people invested in the Xbox 360. Truth be told, it's the reason why I bought the console and I have not be disappointed. This is a game that has been made with such care and confidence that it's only right to praise the effort that has gone into it. The single player, the co-op and the deathmatch all go hand in hand in making Gears Of War one of the greatest games on the Xbox 360. Buy it.
*= The collector's edition replaces the standard green DVD case with a cool metal case and comes with a making-of DVD that is actually quite good and it's amazing how close the chainsaw bayonet got to be taken out of the game!!! It also comes with a little hard book called "Destroy Beauty" that shows a little insight into developing the environments and Marc Fenix. These are nice additions to the package however; the game's content is exactly the same as the standard edition.
Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
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