Gears of War
Developer: Epic Games
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Reviewed by Firedancer34
Facts and Stats:
Gears of War is a third person (over the shoulder) shooter that was released exclusively for the Xbox 360 system in November of 2006 and then a year later in November 2007, the PC version was released for both Windows and Mac. It can be played by a single player or a second player may join in co-op mode for the campaign. Much like other highly popular shooter games such as the Halo and Call of Duty franchises, there are also several online multi-player games in which up to 8 players can battle with and against each other. It was given a Mature rating in the US and was even banned in some countries due the graphic nature of the violence in the game.
Currently talks of a movie are in the works and Gears of War 2 was released in November of 2008.
The game takes place on a fictional planet known as Sera. Humanity has fallen under attack by a relentless enemy called the Locust Horde. The horde is made up of nightmarish creatures that live underground, burrowing thousands of miles of subterranean tunnels that they use to both move about in and emerge onto the surface for surprise attacks. The day the Horde made their appearance and started the war upon humanity is called Emergence Day, or E-Day for short. The game begins 14 years after E-Day as the player starts in a prison, assuming the role of a man named Marcus Fenix.
Fenix was once a decorated soldier and Gears of War hero. But during a critical stand, Fenix disobeyed his orders to try and save his father. He was too late, and Fenix was imprisoned. The story begins 4 years after this event, when Fenix’s best friend “Dom” Dominic Santiago (who can be played by a secondary player) retrieves Fenix from the Jacinto Maximum Security Penitentiary, telling him that he‘s been pardoned because he’s needed back on the battlefield. From there, you both join up with the Delta Squad, which is comprised of several other NPC’s (non-player characters). The squad of course changes up a bit as people are either added or killed during the story, but it is composed of Lieutenant Minh Young Kim, you (as Marcus Fenix) and Santiago, Augustus “Cole Train” Cole, Damon Baird, and Private Anthony Carmine.
Things have become critical for humanity, and your C.O. Colonel Victor Hoffman explains that a new bomb has been developed called a Lightmass Bomb. It is to be detonated underground in the heart of the Locust Horde, but in order to do that, first you need to locate where that is. A team was sent with a device called a resonator, to deploy it so that the Locust tunnel system could be mapped. Unfortunately contact was lost with that team and it is up to Delta Squad to find the missing Alpha Squad, get the resonator deployed and then assist with the placement and detonation of the Lightmass Bomb.
Fresh out of the box you can begin the game in either Casual or Hardcore, with the completion of the Hardcore difficulty unlocking the Insanity difficulty. The campaign mode starts you off in the prison and immediately allows you to start right into the action if you are familiar with the game, or it gives you the choice to go through a training mode to become familiar with the controls. The first chapter is essentially a warm-up, but if you are careful in looking around, you will also realize that you can immediately start one of the secondary side-missions: collecting Cog Tags. Cog Tags are basically the Dog Tags of fallen soldiers. There are a number of Cog tags throughout the game, and achievements are unlocked depending on how many of them you collect.
In training and then throughout gameplay, a player can utilize a variety of weapons and cover options. Weapons range from small arms such as handguns, to specialized weapons like sniper rifles. You can also pick up and use along the way an assortment of Horde weapons. Two weapons that are of particular interest in the game are the Dawn of Hammer and the Lancer assault rifle. The Lancer is the workhorse of the Gears in that is doubles as a rapid firing assault weapon and a deadly Melee weapon as well. The Lancer is equipped with a chainsaw bayonet that when used in close quarters for melee attacks, will saw your opponents in half. The Dawn of Hammer is a unique weapon that has limited use in the game, but yields deadly result on large Horde opponents that could otherwise not be brought down by conventional weapons. You can only use the Hammer out in the open with clear skies above your target, because the Hammer is basically a Laser Guidance system that you control. You aim and pull the trigger, keeping a lock on your target as a massive laser from orbit fires down on your enemy.
The game allows for its player to utilize a number of objects for cover, and has a simple yet effective system for allowing the player to dodge, duck and roll while under enemy fire. If a player is hit, a red gear cog with a skull inside of it (the Gears logo) will appear on the screen in the center. The worse damage you take, the redder and clearer the emblem will become until you are dead. In co-op mode, your entire screen will go red until your buddy can come heal you, but if he doesn’t get to you in time you both lose and will restart from the last checkpoint.
As with all games, you progress through the various levels, learning more to the story and each boss becomes a little harder than the last. New weapons are introduced along the way, with a few being saved until closer to the end giving you a chance to really get used to using the large variety that is available to you and trying to determine what works best for the level you are on. One of the other special features with the weapons is learning to time your reloads. There is a feature called Active Reload, in which once reloading has been initiated (either by the player or because your clip is dry) if you tap your reload button a second time within a certain time frame (as indicated by a display on the screen) your reload will be faster. If you really time it right, your next shots will have their damage increased as a reward. If you fail to time things right however, the reload will jam and take slightly longer than if you just allow the auto-reload sequence to play out.
As was mentioned before, Gears is very much like other shooter franchises in that you can also play a number of multi-player games. The multi-player matches can be played through a system link of two or more consoles or online. There are various maps and map packs that either came with the game or have become DLC’s (downloadable content) over the last couple of years. There are also a wide variety of games to chose from as well that will satisfy pretty much any type of player from casual to hardcore from the guns blazing, rushing-in, gung-ho assault rifle enthusiast, to the sniper aficionado. There are several types of matches that can be played from the standard two team death match to Objective matches. As is now common, many of the achievements to be had in the game, can be acquired through various accomplishments in these multi-player matches.
I will be the first to admit that I am a sucker for shooter games. But my preference is first person. Gears is one of the few third person shooters that I have come across that I didn’t feel like my camera angles were limited or difficult to control. In fact, I have to say that Gears is probably one of the best controller designed games I have played to date. You can do so much in this game to control your character, but it was so simplistic that I wasn’t getting myself killed trying to remember what button did what.
The story was catching and the game went on far longer than I thought, giving me my money’s worth in content. The graphics were exceptional, and the cut scenes were plenty, but not overly drawn out. I liked all of the characters and appreciated some of the voice talent they brought in such as John DiMaggio who was perfect for the gruff Marcus Fenix and Lester Speight who voiced the animated and excitable “Cole Train”. The soundtrack was filled with plenty of adrenaline pumping, drum-cadence heavy songs. But they did a great job of inserting a number of haunting and eerie pieces that balanced out the heavy militaristic feel of the music. Every piece was perfect for each level, adding to the gravity or intensity of the moment.
If there was one thing that was lacking in this, it is the back-story. I had to bust out the booklet that came with the game to read up on what I was walking into since the game starts off kind of abruptly. Once you get into the game, some of the back-story is explained, but without reading the booklet, you wouldn’t know everything and might feel a little confused with some of the cut scenes. If there any drawbacks to the game that I had to point out, it’s the graphic violence. This game is most definitely NOT for kids and I sincerely hope that despite it’s popularity, any parent reading this review will strongly reconsider allowing their kids to play this game. It has a Mature rating for a very good reason. As I mentioned before, the graphics in this game are outstanding. That includes when you take the chainsaw part of your Lancer to an enemy and saw the bugger in half, blood gushing everywhere or ‘curb stomp’ a downed enemy . I will admit that even I winced a bit at that.
However overall, I absolutely loved this game. This is one of the few games I have played where everything came together to create an amazing overall package. From the visual and audio feast, to the intense action and well designed controls, it was a fantastic game and worthy of recommendation to mature gamers who have even the slightest like for shooter games. Gear of War 2 was released November of 2008, which will beg an additional review. But suffice it to say that I was quick to pick up my own copy of that because I was so hooked on this first one.
Rating on a scale of 1-10
Overall Gameplay: 9.25