Easily the most anticipated game on the Xbox 360 this year, Gears of War, finally hits the system and actually manages to live up to all the hype surrounding it. This third-person shooter is one of the most grizzly games ever on a console and that’s part of what makes the game so fun. Normally, all the gore and blood don’t impress me, but in this case you could say it’s part of the â€œcharmâ€. It’s not as if you really even need one more review to tell you to go out and purchase this game, but here you are reading one and here I am writing one, so go figure.
The story is simple, the â€œLocustâ€ have gained power over the planet and with few humans remaining it’s up to a specialized force of â€œCOG’sâ€ to help take it back. You play as Marcus Fenix, a traitor to the COG’s who’s now been paroled out of prison because of his prowess as a soldier. In exchange for your freedom, your help is needed to lead your team into the depths of the underground Locust nest to attempt to destroy it once and for all. Along the way the story unfolds masterfully as you learn more about the mysterious Locust and more about your character’s past.
You could argue, without little contest, that this is the best looking game on the Xbox 360, or for that matter on any â€œnext generationâ€ hardware. Gears of War is that impressive. The level of detail invested into each character is amazing. Of course the aforementioned gore only adds to the â€œrealismâ€. Pick up a sniper rifle and pull off a head shot from a distance and you’ll see the head literally explode while the body remains perfectly intact. How’s that for cool? Rev up your chainsaw bayonet and cut up those dirty Locusts into tiny pieces that look like they’d be tasty in a stew. But, it goes beyond that, the levels are awesome too. They’re fairly small making levels even more intense, especially on the higher difficulty levels where the enemies are not only smarter, but faster, too. The levels all give this appearance of a burned out wasteland. Some are gray, some are brown and some are explored in the dark, but with the threat of an enemy around every corner it all just ends up adding to the intensity of the game, one that can’t be matched by many on this or any other system.
And if you think that Gears of War won’t go beyond some sweet looking graphics to try and impress you then you’re wrong. Oh man, you’re wrong. The voice acting is great and for once the writing all fits the mood. You’ve got your serious conversations and briefings interspersed with moments of levity to relieve some of the tension only to rebuild it a minute later. The dialog isn’t for children, but in the heat of battle the last thing you’d expect is for someone to censor themselves, so it’s perfectly fitting. What makes that even better is that it’s not just thrown in the game for the sake of having it. In fact you may have similar reactions to your on screen counterpart when faced with the incoming scenario. Top that with the stellar soundtrack that pumps up when the action intensifies and some great sound effects and you’ve got two key pieces of the puzzle that makes a great game legendary.
The third piece of that puzzle is game play, and while you certainly have a great game without the first two components, you cannot have a great game that does not feature less than stellar game play Make no mistake though, Gears of War is a great game. The game play perfectly complements the sound and the visuals. Controls are spot on and the weapons are both accurate and lethal, every last one of them, the pistol included. The cover system is simple and yet deep at the same time. With tons of objects to use as cover and lots of weapons to choose from you can pick your playing style, so if you’re a sniper you can keep your distance or if you’re a gung-ho commando you can go in with machine gun blazing, chainsaw revved, or shotgun pumped. Either way, you can play your own style and at your own pace if you’re skilled enough to do so.
Okay, enough about the single player game since most people don’t even care about that and will want to skip directly into the multi-player mode. There are a few different options for those wanting to explore them using your Xbox Live account. You’ve got your standard team death match for up to eight players; this is probably the most popular game online. However, even more cool is the co-operative mode for you and a buddy, or stranger. Take control of two heroes and play through the same campaign as the single player would, but this time with (hopefully) a teammate smarter than what the computer would provide for you. You can also play over a local area network or on the same console, if you like.
All in all Gears of War is easily one of the best games on the Xbox 360 since its launch. It offers a good enough variety of maps for multi player and a good amount of weapons to choose from, but it needs some tweaking in the amount of damage some of the weapons cause, as well as fixing some issues with collision detection and clipping on occasion. At least these are problems easily fixable with a small patch and considering how much hype surrounded this game it could have been so much worse. The game doesn’t feel rushed in any way and with the inevitable inclusion of new maps and possibly weapons the game can only, hopefully, get better.
If you’re looking for a new game to buy and haven’t already picked up what is destined to be Game of the Year I highly suggest you do so now. If you’re mature enough to buy Gears of War then it’s a definite must have for your Xbox 360. This is what the next generation of gaming should be.
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