the release of the Xbox 360 in November, 2005, one game has been referred
to as the system's Halo. That is, the game that will get people
to buy the system just to play it and, in some cases, only it -- like Halo did
for the original Xbox in 2001. That game is Gears
of War. But, unlike Halo, Gears of War was not a
system launch game. It would be a full year between the Xbox 360's release
and the day Gears
of War was available. Believe me, it was worth the wait.
of War takes place on the planet Sera.
Once, Sera was a beautiful planet, full of fantastic architecture and
amazing natural beauty. Now, Sera is a war-torn shell of its former self.
The buildings are bombed-out and dilapidated. The land is scarred and
burned. The reason for the destruction is that a race of alien beings
called the Locust Horde have emerged from the depths of the planet to wreak havoc
upon the human inhabitants of the surface. The Coalition of Ordered Governments
(C.O.G.) have sent in their best forces, known as Gears, to fight the
Locust Horde, but the battle isn't going very well.
Marcus Fenix, a disgraced Gear, who is released from prison to re-enter
the fray and again tackle the Locust Horde. Fenix is the character
you, as the player, will control as the Gears attempt to free the planet
from the grips of the Horde.
of War is not a first-person game, but a third-person shooter. This
allows the game to be more tactics-oriented than, say, Halo.
Instead of running and gunning to get through each of the single-player
game's five acts, you're going
to have to think in a much more strategic manner. See a Locust solider
manning a machine gun? You can try to sprint through the fire he's laying
to get to him, but you probably won't make it. Instead, you're more
likely going to have to find a way to flank him.
the "A" button will cause you crouch behind walls, furniture, rubble,
and other assorted objects to use them as cover. Using cover effectively
is the only way you will survive most of the game's levels. Although
the game provides a plethora of unique weapons -- and you're probably
going to want to try them out first before mastering the cover technique
-- you will need to figure out how to use cover effectively. You need
to know how to blindfire, that is, shoot from behind cover to hit your
targets without exposing yourself as much to enemy fire.
aforementioned weapons include the Torque Bow, a bow and arrow with an
explosive charge; the Longshot, a sniper rifle for inflicting headshots
the Hammer of Dawn, a light-charged laser weapon useful for killing boss-sized
enemies; and the Lancer Rifle, with its chainsaw bayonet, which is probably
going to be the most-used weapon in the game. (The chainsaw bayonet
is as fun-to-use as you may have heard elsewhere. It's certainly not
the most practical way to eliminate an enemy, but it's certainly one
of the most satisfying.)
unique aspect of Gears of War is the reloading system. Using
what's called an "active reload," players have the opportunity
to load their weapons faster and, if done correctly, deal out more damage
for a limited
period of time. This is done through the use of a bar located under the
ammo counter on each weapon. As a line moves from left to right on the
bar, the player can press the right bumper button when the line crosses
a solid white portion of the bar to initiate the active reload. Done
correctly and the weapon reloads quicker than normal and deals out increased
damage. Done incorrectly, the weapon "jams", taking longer to reload
providing the Locust Horde more time to kill you.
the Locust Horde is incredibly challenging due to their fantastic AI.
They will employ the same tactics you'll try to use against them, including
flanking you, locating you when you're hiding, and responding to sounds
you make interacting with the level's environment. Their tactics do
not seem to be scripted either. If you're having trouble getting
through a level, you're not going to be able to anticipate what the enemies
do the next time you attempt it. They'll do something different each
time, which makes using the cover available to you more important than
it would be in any other shooter up to this point. Other games have had
the player use cover before, but no other game has seamless introduced
it into a game as a tactic.
has been made about the graphics in Gears of War and rightfully
so. They are, quite simply, the best of any game on the Xbox 360. Using
Engine 3, the game features amazing environmental interactivity, water
effects, particle effects, and dynamic physics. If you don't know what
any of that means, just take it from me that the game looks and feels
just right. Thanks to the graphics and the control, the game makes it
feel like you're in the middle of a warzone, fighting for your life
inspires fear through their appearance as well as their cunning intelligence.
You will die a lot as you learn the game's controls, which at first feel
a little strange, but once you've got the game's first level under your
belt, you'll be dealing death like a pro.
single-player game takes about 8 hours to finish but Gears of War also
includes co-op and multiplayer modes as well. The co-op mode allows you
and a friend (playing on your system or through Xbox Live) to complete
the game together, fighting as a team. The multiplayer modes are the
usual deathmatch-type skirmishes that feature 4-on-4 battles between
the C.O.G. and the Locust Horde. Similar to CounterStrike, once
you die in a multiplayer match, you do not respawn until a victor is
game is not perfect, but it's damn close. There are a few nitpicks I
have with it. First, the game's checkpoints tend to be placed before
cinematic moments, so if you're forced to replay a particular area after
to see said moment again. (Although most can be skipped, some dialogue-intensive
sequences cannot.) Second, it appears that a lot of effort was put into
making the world seem like a real place, but the story doesn't provide
many clues to why significant events you're playing through are significant.
One area features a lab that's being kept secret but, even after finishing
the game, I would be hard-pressed to explain why the lab even mattered
in the context of
game. Third, the final boss battle seems a bit clunky and frustrating
after the precise and exciting gameplay that leads up to it. These are,
however, just nitpicks that do not detract from the game in any major
way at all.
of War recently passed the one million sales mark and deposed Halo
2 as the most-played multiplayer game on Xbox Live. These accolades
are much-deserved because it is one of the best games on the Xbox 360,
not the best
game of the year on any system.