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Gears of War Review

publisher: Microsoft
developer: Epic Games
genre: Action

ESRB rating: M

release date: Nov 07, 06
» All About Gears of War on ActionTrip

November 13, 2006
Josh Gibbons

Quick, what do you think about when someone mentions Epic Games' new Xbox 360 title, Gears of War? Me, I was worried about this game. Not because of the excessive violence or gore, I can live with that (and even enjoy it when the wife and kids aren't in the room). I was worried because of the hype. How many games have failed to live up to your expectations? This game had hype beyond all belief. There is no way any game can live up to those expectations. Right?


Because it's the nature of marketing weasels to throw around the phrase "Halo Killer" anytime a new shooter comes out, gamers tend to get a little jaded when they hear that phrase. The problem with the whole statement is the said marketing weasels usually compare two games that are often quite a bit different. They are implying that the new game supersedes or replaces the old one in every way. Let's face it, these comparisons take place because most FPS are either about fighting aliens or shooting Nazis. The good games stand out due to their execution and polish. Gears of War executes! And does so nearly flawlessly.

Basically, the story goes like this. Humans have colonized an Earth-like planet and been around for awhile when the flood/covenant/ start coming out of the ground. The game actually calls them Locust, just for the record. They range from human-like grunts to massive monstrosities that will make you feel small and insignificant with your puny little rocket launcher. When you are practically looking straight up to see the top of the beast, you will know what I mean. Like I said before, the background story line is going to be a very small part of this experience. I honestly believe it is perfect for this game. This story is about survival, pure and simple.

On the technical side, Gears of War wins graphics award hands down. Now this should be somewhat expected, considering this is a next-gen game that has come out nearly 5 years after the original Halo, so GoW should look better. That being said, this is the best looking next-gen game we have been treated to so far on the Xbox 360. The trees, the buildings and even the facial features, are all rendered at level that will have you shake your head in wonder (you can make out individual scars on the lead characters face).

Along with superior graphics, the sound effects are phenomenal. The sound of the weapons, the explosions, the dull thuds as you slam your back against the wall after a full sprint. You will both love and hate the echoes of screeching aliens. Whether you're in the middle of a house or out in the middle of the street surrounded by dark doorways and windows, the sounds will have you spinning in circles trying to get a bead on the enemy. This will all add to overall intensity of the experience.

Adding to all the detailed technical effects, the level designs are very interesting and diverse. I won't give anything away (other then saying, if you liked the movie Pitch Black, you will love one of the levels) but every level feels unique and does a superb job of mixing it up for you. You will get more immersed in this game then was ever possible in older games. This goes especially for the campaign play (both single and co-op) but it applies to multi-play as well.

Your squad's AI is decent and unlike some other FPS games, they are not there for show only. The squad members won't win the game for you, but they will take some of the bad guys out, given enough time. However, when you get swarmed and 9 out of the 10 enemies on the screen completely ignore the squad mate(s) and come straight at you, you will wish you could yell at them to quit hiding behind the pillar and get over and help.

By the way, unlike, say, Halo this game is tactical. Not to a Ghost Recon or Rainbow Six degree but you should know you simply cannot run and gun your way through the levels. You will die. Quickly. You must use the cover provided. You will need to support your squad members and you often need their support. Working together to take down an alien who is pinning you down or successfully flanking the enemy is a rush. This is especially true on the harder difficulties.

This is where co-op comes in. In a brilliant move, you can have any a friend join in at any time during your single player campaign and help out. If you logged into Xbox live while you are playing, your friends can hop in no matter where they are. And the co-op is fun, fun, fun. In Halo, the co-op was great but felt more like it was an afterthought. Here it is completely integrated into the game.

Then there is multi-play. This is where many people will have a few issues with the game. There is no capture the flag. There is not even a simple free-for-all Death Match. WTH you say? Well, what they do have is one of the best team based multi-player games out there. They decided to build the whole experience around two teams. Instead of doing a lot of different modes "pretty good", they built one mode really good. The game is so balanced and fun you will never have to insist that the teams switch sides, on a poorly balanced map, for the next match.

What makes this all the more intense is in most of your GoW matches, you are dealing with one life and that's it. Unlike Halo, you will respect the fact that they have the drop on you with the rocket launcher. You will give the guy with the shotgun a healthy distance if you do want to watch the rest of the match from the sidelines. You will be a lot less likely to gamble on chainsaw charge when you know you might be sitting out for a few minutes if you screw up. All in all, it is as intense as team gaming gets.

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9.4   Excellent

Excellently designed and polished game, squad multiplayer, co-op, incredible graphics and sound;

Sprinting can feel buggy at times, sprint and cover shouldn't be on the same button, lacks more game modes in multi-play, storyline is a bit sparse.


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