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Gears of War (Xbox 360)

94
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100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
3.5
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  Sam LaSelva (10)
Written on  :  Dec 20, 2006

6 out of 8 people found this review helpful

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Summary

Gears of War is one of those games that no matter what your genre prefrence is, you have to pick it up.

The Good

Aweomsly delicous graphics

Stellar Gameplay

Online Co-op

Great Multiplayer

The Bad

Multiplayer can get reptative

Lack of multiplayer gametypes

The Bottom Line

So it’s happened, Gears of War has finally been released. Ever since Epic Games announced it back at E3 ’05 gamers across the globe have had their jaws open to its Unreal 3 powered graphics and intense gameplay. Everyone anticipated ‘Emergence Day’, as GoW’s release date was dubbed, and now that it has arrived, does it live up to the hype?

Gears of War takes place somewhere in the far future on a fictional planet known as Sera. Humans have been at war with each other for decades over an energy source known as Imulsion. Their civil war is put to a halt though, as an army of creatures known as the Locust Horde emerge from the ground and attack unsuspecting human colonies for a reason that is not known. The new alien threat has forced the humans to put their differences aside and join together to form the army known as the Coalition of Ordered Governments, otherwise known as the COG. This act of banning together didn’t help much though, as the entire planet has been desecrated by the Locust Horde. So it looks like you need to be the one to save the day.

You play the role of Marcus Fenix, and you’re stuck in prison under the charge of treason. The story goes that Marcus left his military post to rescue his father who was under siege by the Locusts. Marcus ultimately failed though, for his father died, and he was thrown in military prison. This is a part of the game that could’ve been touched up on a little more. The only place to find this background information is in the instruction manual, and really, who reads that? Anyway, Marcus was in prison for 14 years, until his best friend Dom busts him out of jail and enlists him as a member of Delta Squad, which is where the game begins.

Upon the arrival to the battlefield, you’re told your orders are to meet up with Alpha Squad who are in possession of a device that can supposedly change the tide of war. The device is known as the resonator, and once it’s planted underground, it will then map out all of the Locust tunnels. With the knowledge of where the Locust Horde’s colony is, all that’s left to do is send a few friendly warheads their way, although it’s always easier said than done. Luckily you have Delta Squad to help out. Delta’s a 4 man group of bad-ass soldiers who wear ridiculously bulky armor and feel no need to wear a helmet. Think Chaos Space Marines from Warhammer 40,000. Gears of War’s gameplay is strictly stop-and-pop, if you run-and-gun, you’re just going to get yourself killed, and fast. Because of this, there are multiple objects to plant yourself behind. Taking cover is as easy as tapping the A button when near a wall or barrier. While taking cover, you have multiple options on how to proceed, each having its own advantages and disadvantages. You can pop-up and fire leaving your head exposed to the enemy, hold your gun out and blind fire sacrificing accuracy for protection, or maybe you don’t want to fight head-on into the Locust, in which case you can flank your enemy and slaughter them that way. It all comes down to the situation and how you want to handle it. Moving from cover to cover is easy as well. Holding down the A button will make your character drop into painful looking position and sprint. While sprinting you won’t be able to use your weapon, but in times of retreat, the roadie-run can be your best friend.

If your opponent’s gunfire won’t scare you into taking cover, maybe his appearance will. The Locust Horde is filled with about 6 or 7 different types of enemies. The most often encountered being the Grunt, who is built like a human with the skin of a lizard. You’ll run into different types of Grunts, mainly recognized by their choice of weapons. Some carry the standard Lancer rifle every COG soldier uses, others will carry the equivalent to the shotgun, and the most menacing wielding the Torque Bow. One Locust in particular will have you on edge every time, though it’s only encountered a few times. The Berserker is a monstrous beast towering about 14 feet high. It may be blind, but it has the hearing of 1000 humans. If you make the slightest noise, it’ll charge like a bull in your direction, trample your body, and then pound you with its fists. Some Locusts, such as the Berserker, will only be killed by a specific weapon. This weapon, known as the “Hammer of Dawn”, paints an object with a laser and sends a message to a satellite in space. The satellite then shoots a beam of energy down to Sera and into the target. The Hammer can’t be used all the time though, the player has to be in open sky, and even then, the satellites have to be on the same side of the planet.

Battles in GoW can get pretty heated. You’ll find yourself thinking less and less and actually doing more and more. For example, GoW has an ingenious and simple feature called active reload. Whenever you reload and little bar will appear on the top right corner of your screen indicating how long until your reload is finished. But inside this bar are two meters. After hitting the reload button again inside the first meter you get a fast reload. The second meter is located inside the larger one, which makes this a pretty small target to look for. When you hit the reload button in this meter you get a fast reload along with a power boost that will give your bullets more damage. If you miss both meters your gun will jam, hindering it useless for about three or four seconds. Active reload won’t take you long to master, but it’s a very well-implemented feature that gets a thumbs up.

With all the insane action going on you’re lucky to have Delta Squad along for the ride. Unfortunately they’re not the sharpest tools in the shed. Stupid? Defiantly not. Smart? Meh. You’ll mainly use them as a distraction to cover-up your flanking maneuvers. They’ll drop a lot, but Gears of War has a feature that will incapacitate your teammates instead of killing them……that is, if they weren’t chainsawed or blown apart by a grenade. Squadmates can be revived by hitting the X button when next to them. Although if you don’t want to risk your own skin to save them, you can simply clean out the remaining Locust and your teammate will get back up.

Like all Xbox 360 games, Gears of War has unlockable achievements spread throughout its gameplay. Some are easy to get, others will take you while. Beating areas on singleplayer, making progress through your multiplayer game, and playing cooperatively are all ways you can get those precious points.

Overall Gears of War’s single-player is pretty well done. The gameplay is solid, but the story is something to be desired. Two difficulty modes are supported, with a third unlocked after beating the game. GoW will take you somewhere between 9 and 10 hours to complete and is split up into 5 chapters. You’ll start the singleplayer to learn how to play the game, but you’ll finish it wanting more.

With the singleplayer aside, I can start to talk about the area where Gears of War really shines, multiplayer. You have two types of multiplayer you can get into, both Xbox Live aware. There’s cooperative mode and your competitive versus mode. Cooperative puts you and your buddy, who will be playing as Dom, into the singeplayer game. All chapters are available as well as the difficulties you or your buddy has unlocked. This allows for a dynamic duo experience.

In the versus aspect of the multiplayer you have three gametypes to choose from, Assassination, Execution, and Warzone. This is another area where you really think a little more thought could have been put into. At first you’ll be satisfied with the three gametypes, but then you’ll only really play Warzone. After you pour your time into that you’ll get bored, which really takes away from game’s lasting appeal. All gametypes support a max of 8 players. To some this seems a little small, but once you start to play the game, you’ll understand that Gears of War is all about squad based tactics, from the singleplayer to the multiplayer.

Assassination places one member from each team as the leader. In order for one team to win, they have to kill the opposing team’s leader. Execution takes GoW’s incapacitation feature and implements it into the multiplayer. When someone is incapacitated, they can pound the A button to revive themselves. In order to kill someone in Execution you have to literally execute them, whether with your pistol or with a satisfying curb stomp. Warzone, which is where you’ll spend most of your hours, is the standard Team Deathmatch gameplay, putting two teams against each other with every player only having one life.

The hype machine called Gears of War is one of those games, that no matter what your genre preference is, you have to play it, from its gorgeous graphics and textures, to its awesome and intense action. The story seemed like it could have been put into overdrive a little more, but where it lacks in singleplayer it makes up in multiplayer. There’s nothing more satisfying than playing along side a friend against the Locust Horde, or curb stomping a downed opponent in Warzone. There haven’t been too many killer apps for the 360, so go do yourself a favor and pick up this game up.