Review By: Nick Arvites
|# Of Players:||1-2 (2-8 online)|
|Accessories:||System Link, Xbox Live (online play, content DL, leaderboard), HDTV (480p, 720p, 1080i)|
For being the hype-machine that it was, Gears of War really didn’t make a blip on my radar until the Mad World video started making the rounds. I heard about the game, sure, and I knew it was the latest lovechild from longtime Epic Games face Cliffy B. That’s the extent of it. I just assumed this would be another action shooter based on the Unreal Engine, and really just slotted it in the “I’ll look at it eventually” file in my brain.
Well, what I saw of Gears of War in the weeks leading up to launch convinced me that this game could be something great. The problem with hype is it often leaves you burned when you get the actual product. In the face of the Playstation 3 and Nintendo Wii, the Xbox 360 needed a top tier title to pick up the slack left by the absence of another Halo in order to make waves in the face of the competition’s product launches. Gears of War exceeds the hype, and delivers one of the most refreshing experiences that the action/shooter genre has seen in years.
Gears of War takes place on the planet Sera, where the human inhabitants are being overrun by the underground based Locust Horde. Marcus Fenix, the focal character, starts the game in jail as the Locusts are overrunning the prison. He’s busted out by Dominic Santiago (Dom) and is informed that they’re emptying the prisons to find soliders. The rest of the game follows Marcus and Dom as they try to wipe out the Locust Horde and survive. Yeah, I know, the plot sounds like a sci-fi movie on par with something out of the Riddick series, so don’t expect Gears of War to bring an Oscar-caliber story with Oscar-caliber voice acting.
Here’s the thing, if someone’s going to harp and complain on the lack of a deep and substance-filled story in a game where the main goal is survival by blasting everything in your way, it’s a phantom complaint that really shouldn’t hurt the game in anyone’s eyes. I’m not going to critique a standard cookie-cutter Japanese-styled RPG for lacking action, having a slow pace, or for having too many androgynous characters, and I see no reason to apply unrealistic standards like that to any other genre. Action games are what they are: fast-paced guilty-pleasure titles. Even some of the best games in this genre have absolutely mediocre or average-at-best plots (examples: Half-Life, Halo). Gears of War excels at what it does. It creates a genuinely immersive futuristic war-torn world with a good mix between a standard military theme and a horror theme.
Gears of War excels at showcasing the interaction between your squad as you try to survive the horror filled world that seamlessly blends the action and pace of a shooter with the sense-shocking images and sounds of a horror title. You hear your squad-mates call out during combat, and you interact with disposable characters throughout the game that react to the combat situations. While you are essentially stuck with the same squad after the first mission, Gears of War builds up the interaction between them so you can actually get a sense of immersion and camaraderie with your squad-mates.
One of the true surprises in Gears of War is that the A.I. controlled squad members aren’t brain-dead. In so many other titles, friendly NPCs simply stand there and visually shoot, but advancing any action is ultimately up to the player. Squads in Gears of War flank opponents and provide covering fire while actually impacting the tide of battle. This is a stark contrast to other games (specifically the Call of Duty series, Halo series, and Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter) where the player is practically the only character in the game that can score a kill and any NPCs present are so incredibly dumb that they’ll either ignore enemies or walk into a massive firefight and get killed. NPCs in Gears of War can hold their own, and you’ll even see them save you with a crucial shot or melee attack.
Posted: 2006-11-28 19:31:25 PST