Gears of War Xbox 360
Published by Microsoft Game Studiios
Developed by Epic Games
Release Date: Out Now
It’s been a quiet year for Xbox 360 first party titles. In some ways this is a big disappointment but I would personally rather have games delayed and be released as the finished article rather than an obvious rush job that had features sacrificed simply to arrive on a specific date. Gears of War is a good example of what I mean. Originally it was thought the game would be a launch title for the Xbox 360 and many were disappointed when its release was delayed. That delay was to last almost year (going by the European launch date of the Xbox 360) but it definitely has been worth it.
In Gears of War you’ll play as Marcus Fenix, a prisoner who should have been left to die. However, with the whole planet seemingly in ruins thanks to an enemy known as the Locust Horde, there is a need for soldiers of the highest order to help prevent the human race from impending doom and Marcus Fenix is as good as it gets when it comes to top quality soldiers. Gears of War offers a single-player campaign which can also be played co-operatively using split-screen or Xbox Live. There are also a variety of online modes, Warzone, Assassination and Execution, for up to eight players.
Gears of War is a third-person shooter that is all about making the best use of cover to keep yourself alive. It’s not a run and gun shooter by any means so if you don’t make effective use of cover you’ll be dead within seconds. The use of cover in the game is excellent and best of all you only have to press the A button as it’s used for a variety of context sensitive actions. As well as finding cover with the A button you can roll to evade, perform SWAT turns and do roadie runs (essentially a crouched run). You’ll be using anything you can to find cover in the game and believe me it’s the only way to succeed. Of course there are times when a little close quarters combat is in order and for those intimate moments you have the Lancer Assault Rifle with its Chainsaw Bayonet to literally get to the heart of the enemy as fast as you can. On the subject of weapons (which make very good use of force feedback to add that nice tactile quality to the game), it’s worth mentioning that the weapons in the game are absolutely first class. There are no powder puff efforts here and they all pack a wallop adding to the game’s already superb atmosphere that would put most action movies to shame.
Is Gears of War perfect then? Whilst it’s an excellent game it’s not perfect. For a start some are going to be disappointed that the game will last no more than eight hours (unless you’re playing on the Insane difficulty level). I would argue that while it may not be that lengthy there’s no filler or repetitious levels here to pad out the experience but some would still find this a problem, even though the option to play through the game co-operatively over Xbox Live really adds to the replay value. I would agree that the story isn’t fleshed out enough and although this is a shooter and not an adventure or RPG, it still needs a quality story to put the icing on the cake as it were. On the whole though there’s very little to pick fault with here.
I’m pretty sure anyone who kept an eye on all the material that was released in the months prior to the release of the Xbox 360 will have seen the screenshots of Gears of War and been amazed. Some cynics even remarked they weren’t in-game graphics. Well the cynics were completely wrong because the game looks superb and surpasses anything we’ve seen on the PC to date, let alone on any other console. The environments, the character models, the animations and the visual effects are just showpiece stuff. To make it even better the frame rate is rock solid for pretty much the whole game. Visually at least, the game is the benchmark for next –generation console gaming for the time being.
Gears of War is subtitled and you’ll have no problems enjoying the game. All of the cutscene dialogue is subtitled and all of the important in-game dialogue is subtitled. Some peripheral speech isn’t subtitled but that doesn’t spoil anything as it’s only the odd word here and there. The subtitles are displayed simply using white text. There are no character names or portraits placed alongside the text so at times you might not know who is saying what. There are no captions in the game. Sometimes you can hear the enemy before you can see them. There’s also a particular sound that chimes when the immediate area has been cleared of enemies. These aren’t major problems though, because with nature of the game you’re always on your guard and it’s usually quite obvious when areas have been cleared. All objectives are shown in text and they can be recalled by pressing the LB button.
Gears of War may have disappointed many when its original release date (the Xbox 360’s launch date) was delayed but few could be disappointed with how the game has turned out. It’s already sold over a million copies and is many people’s choice for game of the year. There’s already talk of the game becoming a trilogy and why not? It’s obviously a winning formula that Epic Games have here and it truly deserves to be expanded upon. If any Xbox 360 game can be called a ‘console seller’ then it’s Gears of War and it’s no surprise that the game is already being offered as part of a customised bundle by certain retailers.
Gears of War is certainly the best third-person shooter we've ever played and it's certainly a game that's going to sell a lot of Xbox 360 consoles this Christmas.