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Gears of War (Xbox 360) artwork

Gears of War (Xbox 360) review


"You'll be surprised how much you can do with so little buttons. Take control of Marcus Fenix, and marvel at how easy it is to throw him around the battlefield. Within minutes, you'll have him hurling himself behind cover, popping around the sides to take shots at any available targets and even reaching over his protective barrier to fire blindly at any foe foolish enough to charge him. You'll have him diving from one safe haven to the next, sniping around corners to bull-rush unprepared Locust and hurling spike-encrusted sling-shot-inspired grenades right down their scaly little throats."



It starts with a wall of noise.

A wave of oppressive sound that rolls over the battlefield. Defiant cries of charging Locust warriors as they jump concrete barricades and shelter behind the burnt out husks of cars, bullets pinging off the rusted metal shells. Osculating sonic screams issue from a swarm of Wretches, the tinkering of broken glass which rains from the window they scurry from, as they surge across ceilings and walls with unheard of speed to try and gut unwary COG soldiers with razor-sharp talons. The shouts and warnings of your comrades that fan out around you; hurried alerts of foes flanking your left or begs of medical aid as they're mercilessly torn open or gunned down.

Gears of War is like nothing you've ever played before.

In part, it's thanks to a sense of size that other games never manage to realise. There's an unceasing struggle for supremacy sweeping the world of Sera, a planet already reeling from the effects of a vicious civil war. From beneath the world's crust came the Locust, a humanoid race of militant creatures that crack open the earth itself and assault humanity from a honeycomb of hidden emergence points without warning. They're smart; smart enough to pinpoint your location and work with the rest of their squad to isolate and annihilate you with superior numbers. Smart enough to seize control of the best defensive structures or machine-gun emplacements and guard them jealously. They're also tough; tough enough to shrug off enough bullets to turn a normal human into a quivering mess of blood and shredded vital organs and tough enough to down even the most hardened marine with a neck-snapping melee attack. But above all, they're determined. Determined to wipe humanity from the face of the planet.

Not on my watch.

You'll be surprised how much you can do with so little buttons. Take control of Marcus Fenix, and marvel at how easy it is to throw him around the battlefield. Within minutes, you'll have him hurling himself behind cover, popping around the sides to take shots at any available targets and even reaching over his protective barrier to fire blindly at any foe foolish enough to charge him. You'll have him diving from one safe haven to the next, sniping around corners to bull-rush unprepared Locust and hurling spike-encrusted, sling-shot-inspired grenades right down their scaly little throats.

Wherever you travel, they'll not be far behind. Marcus will begin his journey holed up in a cell before being sprung and thrown headfirst into the new war. He'll take his first faltering steps into freedom, only to be peppered with a torrent of bullets a few minutes later. It's that ambitious scope, that undeniable sense of something big happening around the edges which keeps drawing wows from the gamer. As Marcus and his partner, Dom, battle to free themselves from the now overrun jail, attack choppers zoom overhead, spewing death from above merrily into forces well beyond your reach. Radio transmissions from other COG soldiers flutter across the airwaves fleetingly, calls for support or co-ordinates on locations. Brave the prison's courtyard and find an unfortunate solider sprawled up against the far wall, blood sprayed against cracking white paint and a hole in his helmet courtesy of a sniper's bullet. Hidden out there in the shadows lies the culprit of this crime, and odds are, he's sighting his gun on your very head. Learn to use the cover provided and keep out of his cross-hairs. Or die.

Not happy to serve up the same slice of combat every time, Gears will shake things up on a regular basis. The opening Prison stage gives you a wide-open territory to explore in between the rotting corridors of once-grand buildings that you'll have to navigate. Along the way, you'll have to pick up a targeting laser to paint Seeders, gargantuan beasts that spit forth airborne projectiles capable of downing attack choppers and wiping out your platoon in one hit. Paint them with the laser, allowing satellites to pinpoint them, and watch them die in a glorious burst of orbital death ray! Finish the stage by finding yourself hounded into a derelict structure alone with a Berserker. This giant creature can only sense you though sound or smell, and is invulnerable to conventional weapons. She'll need to be lured outside beneath a clear sky should you wish to turn your satellites upon her.

Other chapters will see you blowing up propane tanks to create pools of light so as to ward off hives of Krill, bat-like creatures that strip flesh from bone in a matter of seconds should you stray into the dark. These pockets of lights must be secured while progressing through enemy territory, starving off constant attacks from Locust drones and grenade-launcher wielding Boomers. Fight your way through to a human encampment and take the fight to an enclosed courtyard, swamped with enemy soldiers and littered with snipers you need to weed out and eliminate. Look around you as the battle rages and be awed by the numbers, the intelligent tactics, the constant nuzzle flashes emanating from hidey-holes, rooftops and high-storey windows.

Learn to fear.

Learn to be thankful for just how well constructed a game Gears of War is. Not wanting the action to get bogged down with an overreaching plot, the story is played out in short cut-scenes, visual hot-spots and snippets of dialogue that are played during the gameplay rather than taking you out of it. You are always in control, always moving forward, searching out survivors or defending against hypothetical ambushes. Events are not fully explained, and you are provided with a sense that you start in the middle of an epic tale without an encyclopaedic introduction. Who the Locust are, why they wage war, these are questions that are hinted at rather than outright asked. The only question continuously asked of them is how many bullets it takes to kill them. This minimalist approach not only keeps the focus on the slaughter of all things scaly, but exhibits a charm of its own that only adds another layer to the already stellar depth, as well as its own sense of personality. When your team delves into an abandoned mine that now lies within the heart of the enemy empire, they stumble across the remains of an old drilling station. Drawing near, it becomes clear that it's inhabited as a tapestry of warning whispers float around the structure eerily. One of the more panicked of your team cautiously queries this and ask what the noise is. Trying to keep the soldier's spirits high, an explanation of whistling wind is offered. The marine scoffs at the suggestion.

"Yeah, right. When's the last time the wind said 'Hostiles' to you?"

Then you leap into battle, weaving around giant stalagmites and long-broken down mining equipment to try and avoid shotgun blasts, chainsaw melee attacks and explosive-tipped bows that deal explosive dismemberment upon contact. Dance around these shots to unload your machine-gun clip into the un-armoured section of your targets or snipe away their protective helmets and deliver a gory head-shot, promising a quick death and a small shower of blood and brain fragment. No time to gloat; spin around and face the next threat. Always surging, never slowing, never letting up.

All around you, all the time, the Gears of War turn.

Rating: 10/10

EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (December 08, 2006)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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