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Gears of War (Xbox 360) artwork

Gears of War (Xbox 360) review

"If you take a look at the ol' recipe for success in the video game cookbook, you'll be sure to find excessive violence, chaotic action, and incredible graphics. Gears of War of manages to include all of these ingredients, from blood splatting across the screen to intense battle sequences against a horde of foes. And the graphics...well, they speak for themselves; anyone who doesn't think the game looks impressive needs to get their eyes checked. Along with these key elements, Epic Games throws i..."

If you take a look at the ol' recipe for success in the video game cookbook, you'll be sure to find excessive violence, chaotic action, and incredible graphics. Gears of War of manages to include all of these ingredients, from blood splatting across the screen to intense battle sequences against a horde of foes. And the graphics...well, they speak for themselves; anyone who doesn't think the game looks impressive needs to get their eyes checked. Along with these key elements, Epic Games throws in their own perks here and there to provide an adrenaline-pumping adventure all the way through.

Gears of War revolves around Marcus Fenix, a soldier in the Coalition of Organized Governments, or COG. He's been thrown into jail for his treachery, but soon finds himself busted out of prison by this same group. Together with a small group of COG soldiers, he must take on the Locusts, who have infested everywhere in plain sight. Only barren streets and deserted towns remain as you tread on to retrieve data that can destroy the Locusts' base. Unfortunately, the plot is distant, not playing an important part in the game. All we know about Marcus and his comrades are that they're big...very big, and have lots of armor. Rarely do their personalities shine, which really seems like a missed opportunity. With more developed characters and just a few twists and turns in the plot, a whole other aspect could have been added to the game. Luckily, Gears of War more than makes up for this in the long run.

In a game where a gun is your best friend, firepower becomes an essential factor. Gears of War boasts a serviceable amount of guns, from the basics to some intriguing additions. Most have heard of machine guns before, but do you recall seeing a chainsaw bayonet attached to one? When things become a bit too crowded, just rev it up to clear some room. Although there aren't many instances where you'll want to get in your enemies' faces, that one special moment can bring a tear to one's eye. In addition, the standard shotgun, rocket launcher, and such are introduced, but weapons like the Hammer of Dawn mix things up. With this deadly device, and a satellite aligned to your enemy's position outside, a beam will emerge from the sky, frying that pesky foe to a bloody pulp. There are specific moments where this is used, so most of the time you'll be equipped with grenades, some kind of pistol, and two main weapons of choice. This provides a simplistic strategic component to the gameplay, but if you think you're ready for combat yet, think again. There's another important factor to take into account.

Running around like a mad man in the open is practically yelling out, “Here's my head, please shoot me!” That's why taking cover is integral to surviving in Gears of War. At various times in your adventure, slabs of concrete , deserted cars and the like are there, just waiting for you to keep them company. Along with the cover and your arsenal of guns, the basic gameplay strategy of popping your head out to shoot enemies comes into effect. There are grenades that provide a nice little explosion here and there, but most of the time it'll be the same thing. But unlike many shooters, this doesn't get repetitive, due to the sense of partaking in frantic battles that have their own surprises in store for you. If you find yourself in too much trouble, there's always your friends to help bail you out...supposedly.

During the course of the campaign, you will be accompanied by three squad mates. Essentially one of them, Dom, stays with you most of the time, while the other two may take a different route occasionally. A few added guns seems reasonably helpful, right? Well, you'll still have your work cut out for you, as your friends are a bit inconsistent. There are instances where Dom and company will take cover and provide some relief, but this is accompanied with bonehead moments. All of a sudden you'll see them charging in like heroes, shooting everything they see. Before you know it, they'll be on the ground waiting for you to heal them. So you'll have take a moment to go over and press the X button, which will get them back on their feet.

When you find you're the one being shot at, a bloody skull will pop up. Minor injuries warrant a faded skull, but with more severe circumstances, it will gradually brighten to a crimson red. To avoid death, all you have to do is take a few moments to rest, and the screen will be skull free. The traditional health packs and such are nowhere to be found, which makes things easier. But don't let this fool you, Gears of War is no walk in the park.

Gears of War features three different difficulties: casual, hardcore, and insane. The third has to be unlocked by beating the game once, which has its challenges on the easiest difficulty, casual. Gamers who are somewhat familiar with shooters won't find it too crazy, but they may die a few times here and there. After that, hardcore bumps up things quite a bit, essentially adding on a few hours of gameplay depending on your skill level. Then there's insane...let's just say it deserves its name. Those daring enough to try it will find out early and often. Despite all this, Gears of War ends too soon. You'll find yourself deeply immersed in the game when you beat it all of a sudden. It does save itself with the online play though. Up to eight players can play in Warzone (your basic team deathmatch), Assasination (one player is the leader with three protectors for each team), or Execution (you must kill other players yourself). The 10 maps provide a nice variety, and don't become too familiar. Also, there's a fun co-op mode that can be played via split-screen or online. But if no one wants to play with you, there's always the option of letting friends look at the game as their jaws drop in awe.

Gears of War is a marvel in the visual department, creating an incredible war-torn world. An ominous gray hue looms over decayed towns, full of rubble and complete wreckage. This is accompanied by some standout moments, such as a trek through an underground mine with glowing lava, which is quite a sight to behold. Also, little details like faint lights reflecting off the ghostly walls, or the unsteady shake of the camera as you run really makes you see how the game pushes the boundaries for video game graphics. In addition, the character design is spot-on, with you and your comrades' imposing figures facing off against ghastly enemies, sure to stop anyone dead in their tracks. Add some excessive blood and gore, and what you have is a real treat for the eyes.

Also adding to Gears of War's apocalyptic feel is the audio. A quaint silence may fill the air until the screeching of the locusts shatters it. Moments like this are constant, and can send chills down one's spine. In addition the sound effects are spot on. The machine guns sound like...what do you know, machine guns. The roar of your chainsaw bayonet and boom of the rocket launchers are highlights, but there really isn't a weak point in your entire stock of weapons. And then there's that dialogue, straight out of an action movie. The voice acting definitely captures your characters' lack of intellect, always ready to run in guns a' blazing. Many of the lines resemble the “Yeah, let's do this!” approach, but hey, with freaky monsters roaming loose, I'm sure any largely built man would have the testosterone pumping. Overall, one couldn't ask for much more in the sound department.

When it's all said and done, Gears of War provides a harrowing action experience. When one thinks of next-generation gaming, this game is it. It lays out what the future may hold, while taking aspects of already successful games. It has awesome guns, inventive enemies, and an atmospheric world. Tack on mind-blowing graphics, audio that oozes creepy ambiance, and some incredible rewarding online play, and what you have is one of the best games to come out this year. Any Xbox 360 owner would be crazy to not give this game a chance. They may be surprised when they neglect their friends and family for a while just to play it.

amlabella's avatar
Community review by amlabella (December 02, 2006)

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