Gears of War

Gears of War is the Xbox 360’s killer app and it deserves every bit of hype it’s received.

The Good: Jaw dropping visuals that show what the Xbox 360 is truly capable of. Beautiful, intense orchestral score. Sound effects on the whole are extremely well done. Intuitive yet simple combat and maneuvering system lets you go from cover to cover seamlessly. Active reload system is genius. Constant and consistent moments that blow you away your first time through. Drop-in/drop out co-op over Xbox Live. Multiplayer is tons of fun. Chainsaw bayonet, need I saw more?

The Bad: There’s not much in the way of story.

It should come as no surprise that I’ve given Gears of War a perfect 10. That’s not to say that it’s not without its faults. It definitely has room for improvement. But the good out-weighs the bad by such a huge margin, it’s not even showing up on my radar.

It’s actually hard to find things to say about Gears of War because you simply need to experience it for yourself. There are so many moments in the game that knock you back in your seat and make you want to instantly re-play them that it was hard finding a chunk of the game that I could capture without giving any of the awesomeness away. I decided to go with Act 1 Chapter 2 in its entirety as it’s basically just straight combat from start to finish. I demonstrated a lot of the combat maneuvering you can pull off and tried to illustrate how things pan out depending on how you use cover and progress through the game. So if you’re worried that the gameplay video will spoil it for you, worry not! It’s spoiler free.

Gears of War has raised the bar a few notches above every other Xbox 360 title in terms of visuals. It looks absolutely unreal (no pun intended). From the war torn, post apocalyptic environments to the beat up faces of the Gears themselves. Everything is just so detailed that you can’t help but be totally wowed every time you play the game. In most cases, high graphic details means lower performance. This is where GOW shines through as there isn’t so much as a dropped frame (that you can notice) outside of cut scenes through the entire campaign. There are definitely noticeable slow downs during the cut scenes where there’s tight shots of a few of the dudes at once, but that’s about it. It runs smooth as butter otherwise.

From the moment the menu screen loaded up for the first time, I knew I was going to love the soundtrack. It’s moody, eerie, intense and beautiful. A gorgeous orchestral score that fits so well with what’s going on in the game. The sound effects are also amazing. Weapons and explosions are big, loud and raw which contrasts quite nicely to the squishing of bullets piercing flesh or a chainsaw cutting through a torso.

Putting a chainsaw bayonet on an automatic assault weapon was the best idea for a weapon mod ever. I still get stoked every time I cut through a dude. His arms flailing as the screen is splattered with blood. Fuck, it’s just awesome!

I found the controls so easy to pick up and master. There’s basically only one action button – A. Depending on the direction you’re indicating with the left thumbstick a different action will be performed. You can slap your body up to just about anything by pressing the A button when you’re close by. Once you’re behind cover, left and right will make you do a roll out or take cover behind another close by item if there is one. While up allows you to jump over shorted objects and back simply gets you out of cover. If you’re at the edge of an object, you can press up and left/right to leave cover and continue moving forward in one smooth motion. To top it off, holding A gets your character sprinting. He hunkers down and bolts in this awesome animation that really adds to the intensity of the battles. Once you’ve got all the controls down, you can easily strings these motions together and move from cover to cover seamlessly and it looks and feels amazing.

While there is a little to be desired when it comes to the story, I really like how it’s presented. There is no back story at all. You start the campaign as Marcus Fenix and one of your squad mates has come to break you out of prison. Why you’re there, you don’t know. What’s going on, you have no idea. All you know is that it’s 14 years post E Day (Emergence Day) and you’re needed to help fuck shit up. You can learn a bit about how things got to the point they’re at by watching some of the early trailers or the movie that kicks in if you sit at the menu screen for a few minutes. But progressing through the campaign, you have one objective at a time. Beyond that, you really have no idea what’s going to happen. The campaign is broken down into 5 Acts, each with a series of chapters. Each Act has one main objective which usually leads to a couple of secondary objectives along the way.

You play the campaign through with at least one squad mate by your side and up to four at the most. Though, they’re not overly helpful. Dom (your sidekick) tends to run out of cover at precisely the wrong moments and gets mowed down more than he contributes. Reviving him is a simple matter of pressing the X button when you’re close by. Typically, you’ll want to let him lie there and think about what he’s done before you make your way over. This is where the game’s drop-in/drop-out co-op system truly shines. At any moment, you can pause the game and invite a friend to join you, assuming the role of Dom. This can be super handy if you’re playing solo but find yourself really stuck. But honestly, co-op is the way to play Gears of War. I finished it on Casual (the lowest of the 3 difficulty levels) on my own the first time around. Mostly because I wanted to take my time and really enjoy it. And I’m now playing it through again on Insane (the hardest difficulty) with a buddy over Xbox Live. I have to say, it’s a lot more fun when you’re pinned down and have someone to help you flank dudes. The real time communication just betters the experience on the whole.

The multiplayer end of GOW is an absolute blast! While I haven’t spent a great deal of time online just yet, I immensely enjoyed the games I have played. And if you think cutting a dude in two is fun in the campaign, wait until you do in online!

I really can’t say enough good things about Gears of War. It’s outstanding on every level. If you have been waiting for a good reason to pick up an Xbox 360, it’s here!

Rating: 5/5

Gears of War

20 Responses to “Gears of War”

  1. I pretty much agree with everything you say, Matt. I'm a fairly casual gamer and I loved the way that Gears let you get the feel of being under fire quickly and easily. I worked through the "Casual" level of the campaign in a couple of nights and am going through the "Hardcore" level now. In Casual, the teammate bots were pretty helpful on occasion, but on the more difficult level I end up getting myself killed reviving them more often than they help! Still, I've found that giving them some cover fire by blind-firing can be useful for getting them in flanking positions when you're pinned down. Keep that chainsaw-bayonet revved! Maybe I'll catch you on-line!

  2. I just bought this yesterday and loving it! Blood spraying on the screen is awesome and shooting a Locust up close with a shotgun is very satisfying!!

    I see you've done pretty well with the achievements!!

  3. A straight ten is not even close to enough to describe how awesome this game is.

    It just looks great and the lack of a real good story (well it is good, but not close to enough) does not make the game less attractive.

    Multiplayer is great too and hope to spend some more great hours LIVE with some friends.

  4. GOW looks amazing. Had I known more about it, I'd have bought it instead of NFS Carbon, but it's a little late now. It's definatly at the top of my list of games I want to buy though.

  5. I’ve got to agree with everything you said, Matt. The game is totally stunning. While I haven’t had quite enough time to finish the game yet, I’ve had a total blast with it so far. Anybody who plays video games should experience Gears of War.

  6. I picked up a 360 just for this game. Its the first game I’ve ever beaten and immediately picked up and played again.

    co-op is definitely the best way to go!

  7. The game play is absolutely amazing. Multiplayer mode is a complete blast. I really hope they can improve upon the multiplayer community however. Statistical tracking is extremely poor and it seems I get the “Connection to host lost” alert box on a regular basis when attempting to join a game. Your review is spot on.

  8. Agree with everything you say, it is plain awesome.

    As for the story, it does mention in the manual that Marcus is in prison for mutiny. Apparently in some major emergence battle he deserted his troops to save his dad from getting killed.

    I am playing on Hardcore and just finished Act 2 – his dad was mentioned at the end of that.

    I need to play some more multiplayer though.

  9. Bought it yesterday at about 5pm. Didn't get to sleep until 1am.

    The game is awesome. I find the gameplay to be a brilliant fusion of Halo and Ghost Recon – it's just a shame the plot kind of got left behind.

    Still, who needs plot when a game is this much fun!

  10. Oh good god! I've never been much of a fan of FPS/TPS, apart from the Half Life franchise and a few other games, but I have to say, this is breathtaking! The graphics looks really awesome, and the gameplay intense. It's a pity, of course, the story is almost non-existent, but this is a great game, and probably will become the game that gives 360 the edge over PS3.

    Alas, we in India are totally out of luck when it comes to anything technical, and there's no way I can get a 360 for at least the next 6 months 🙁

  11. I feel so alone! I actually bought Gears of War today, and I thought it really, really sucked. The single player was really good, but I am big on having a good underlying plot. And the multiplayer… Was just cheap! And actually pretty buggy… Anyone else who thought it sucked?

  12. @Matthew: Well, the LIVE part is quite buggy in Matchmaking. So I just play it with friends in custom matches and IT is really a lot of fun.

    Having 2 Teams of 4 Players and rotating Maps is by far one of the best LIVE experiences I have had since Halo2.

  13. Georges: Well, recently my friend basically forced me to play until I liked it… One of the motion bugs I hated (the one thing that pissed me off the most) actually had to do with my TV!

  14. damn straight this got a 10. HAHAHA

    beat it on hardcore and insane, kinda wish there was another difficulty after insane. Co-op is AWESOME. Online is a blast. Just can't wait for new maps.

  15. I have GOW and love it, infact I had a 360 upon release and sold it due to crap performance and annoyingly poor games (in my opinion).

    I watched the GOW publicity rumble on untill the HD footage began to emerge and thought "I need this shit baby wooo!" (Cole anyone?) so I bought the Xbox and a copy of Gears and have lost a few days of my life to it….

    The best was yet to come as when I looked at the trees at the powerplant bit when its raining… I ended up standing there next to my best mate in co-op mode marvling as the rain flowed though the wrinkles in the bark, the a load of wretches attacked us and we shit our pants!

    Benjamizzle

  16. I really do love the fact that it has no HUD, and makes me feel like im in a movie. But for some reason, I feel like theres something wierd about this whole plot, it seems it's all repeated, I love the game yes. But I think they could have done a better job of making me or us feel like we were in a different place, I felt we were in the same place almost the whole game, all the textures are really dark.

    I would give the game a high 9, I love it, but I think there's a few things they could do better on.

  17. I totally agree with this review. GoW has been keeping CoD3, H2, and many other games on the shelf for me.

    My and my pals have been gaming GoW MP just as much as we gamed HALO 2 together. I'm finding the gameplay is totally different than H2, yet it is just as addicting.

    GoW SP is impressive…especially online Co-op. The online Co-op and the game's graphics are raised the bar and I hope many other games including H3 get there.

  18. Totaly love it! played it with ma pal the other day ( pc over lan) bc we're pretty much playin every co-op game. well tbh. Who needs a rock solid story in a game like that, don't get me wrong, i love good stories (nothing better then an rpg with an awesome story) but this game just doesn't need one, you just need a basic cause to slaughter those ugly looking locusts, and the fact that they're crawling out of their holes and kill everything is pretty much enough, so what a story for, it would just destract you from the shooting 😉

    we were actually so amazed by it, we started playing on hc and finished when the game was beaten, with a couple of refreshing breaks in between. but gosh, long time ago since I had such a satisfying experience in a (co-op) game!!