Gears of War Xbox 360 review

Gears Of War for Xbox 360Gears of War thrusts gamers into humankind’s epic battle for survival against the Locust Horde, a nightmarish race of creatures that surface from the depths of the Earth. This M-rated game blends the best of tactical action games with the best of survival horror titles. Gears of War features cinematic, beautifully rendered interactive environments with high-definition visuals.

System: Xbox 360, PC
Genre: Third-Person Tactical Shooter, Action
Release dates: November 7th 2006 (USA), November 17th 2006 (EURO), November 23rd 2006 (AUS)
Players: single player, 2-player (online) co-op, and 2-8 (online) multiplayer
Developer: Epic Games
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Origin: America

Gears of War screenshot

Gears of War blends the best of tactical action games with the best of survival horror titles, Gears of War is the first game developed by Epic Games exclusively for Microsoft Game Studios and the Xbox 360 video game and entertainment system. Gears of War thrusts gamers into a deep and harrowing story of humankind’s epic battle for survival against the Locust Horde, a nightmarish race of creatures that surface from the bowels of the planet.

In this third-person tactical shooter, gamers live and breathe the role of Marcus Fenix. A disgraced former war hero, Marcus seeks personal redemption as he leads his fire team against an onslaught of merciless warrior fiends. Gamers immerse themselves in an experience so intensely emotional and gut-wrenching that playing will be like controlling a blockbuster action movie.

Gears of War utilizes the breathtaking new Unreal Engine 3 to create cinematic, high-definition visuals for a gaming experience that truly ushers in the next generation. The high-definition visuals from the Unreal Engine 3 immerse you in a horrifying story of war and survival. Gamers will experience beautifully rendered interactive environments and characters so lifelike they appear to be made of flesh and bone. The next-generation visuals create a world in which the tiniest detail is vivid in the largest battle.

Gears of War is built with both the hardcore and casual gamer in mind. But, instead of selecting a difficulty level (Casual, Hardcore, and Insane) at the start of the game, Gears of War offers a choice at the beginning of each level across the five-act single-player maps. In the vein of choose your own adventure, you can select between a difficult or easy path. And it’s not just a simple choice of battling tougher enemies; each path (explained by a comrade) represents additional content that is crucial to the storyline. After easing your way into the experience of the gameplay with the simpler paths, you can go back and test your skills on the more difficult routes and never feel like you’ve played through the areas before.

Gears of War features a relatively small variety of weapons compared to other shooters, but all weapons make up for it by being very powerful and satisfying to use. The game follows typical third-person shooter weapons sets with assault rifles, shotguns, pistols and sniper rifles with additional melee capabilities. Notably, the Lancer assault rifle is equipped with a chainsaw bayonet that instantly kills a foe, while each of the other weapons can be used to bash an opponent at close range, with a heavier weapon doing more damage. There is also a more tactical, immensely powerful weapon named the Hammer of Dawn which targets areas for an orbital satellite-mounted laser to destroy. The weapon, while very powerful, can easily kill the player as well as the teammates and opponents if used carelessly and can only be used in large, open outside spaces. Both smoke and fragmentation grenades are available to be thrown or used in melee.

Gears Of War Collector's EditionStanding around in the open is likely to get you killed in Gears of War. You must use cover to survive. With a context sensitive A button function, you won’t have to sweat memorizing cumbersome button combos. The A button will: Slam you into cover. As you approach cover in Gears of War simply tap the A button to slide and make immediate use of cover. Vault you over the cover. Once you’re in cover, pressing up and A will vault you over your cover to engage the opponent or next cover opportunity. Evade enemy fire. When you’re forced to be out in the open, tapping the A button will engage a roll maneuver to evade enemy fire. Activate a “Swat Turn.” When taking cover on the side of a doorway, pressing the A button will spin your character from one side of the doorway to the other, helping avoid fire. Ripping a magazine free and replacing it in the midst of bloody combat is no easy task. Gears of War simulates this difficult action by forcing you to perfect your reloading skills. To be effective in combat you’ll need to allot for time to successfully reload your weapon. Do it well and the battle is yours; do it poorly and you may actually jam your gun. Time it perfectly and you’ll earn a bonus with a temporary damage boost.

Instead of the health bar found in many third and first-person shooters, Gears of War uses the Crimson Omen, a cog shaped icon that grows brighter to indicate increased damage. If there is a faint appearance of the Omen on the screen, it indicates that the player has sustained minor wounds. When the Omen becomes more defined, it shows that the player has sustained severe wounds and should seek cover. When there is a skull inside of the symbol, the character is incapacitated; in the single-player mode, this represents player death and the player must restart from the last checkpoint, while in multiplayer (both co-op and competition modes), another team member may attempt to revive the player. A downed player in the competition mode Execution may also try to restore himself from incapacitation by rapidly pressing the A button for several seconds, though during this time the enemy can brutally end the player’s life by using the chainsaw bayonet, smashing the player’s head with the butt of a weapon, performing a curb stomp, or taking a headshot. If the player has taken damage but is not incapacitated the damage can be healed by staying out of the line of fire for a short time, which causes the Omen to slowly fade away.

Though Gears of War clearly showcases a sci-fi experience, its roots are in tactical, realistic combat scenarios. Therefore, running and gunning makes for seriously erratic shooting. Think about what you’re doing. Unless wasting ammo is your goal, you better stop, aim, shoot, and then move on. Otherwise, the Locust Horde might swarm you and take your life. Gears of War presents a focused and well-paced cinematic experience, and nothing ruins that faster than a time-consuming exploration of every switch or button to find the elusive trigger to open a door. This game introduces a “point of interest” button that comes up on the screen so you can immediately interact with the necessary item to move forward in your gameplay. Gears of War certainly offers drool-worthy graphics, but the mechanics have also received equal attention, as you’ll find out when you tackle this great-looking and great-playing title.

Watch the Gears of War launch trailer.

Gears of War unites next-generation technology with classic storytelling and a revolutionary tactical combat system, engrossing you in a horrifying epic story of war and survival.

The main features of Gears of War are:

* Engaging and disturbing cinematic story: Massively scoped worlds, memorable characters and an epic story line play out like an intense and unsettling Hollywood blockbuster action film. Movielike cut scenes, cinematic camera moves and in-game storytelling bring the brutal, emotionally charged narrative to life. Gamers control Marcus Fenix and his fire team as they pit advanced human technology against the overwhelming and horrific Locust Horde.

* Fire team co-op action: All game modes, levels and scenarios are designed for cooperative fire team play (A.I. or human). For the first time, A.I. teammates are indiscernible from human players. They move intelligently, take orders effectively, and seek cover and defend themselves when necessary. Gamers will experience richer cooperative gameplay than ever, through unique characters that require cooperation to survive. Voice recognition and real-time lip-syncing heighten the immersive experience.

* Unprecedented visuals in next-generation gaming: Gears of War ushers in the next generation with unprecedented visuals. The Unreal Engine 3 technology pushes high-definition visual designs and brings out the smallest details in the largest battle. Gamers will experience a rich dynamic world with an unprecedented level of detail. Characters come to life with unbelievable model quality and a physics-integrated animation system that has them truly reacting intelligently to events as they unfold around them.

* Hyper-realistic and intense combat: In Gears of War the battlefield is a lethal place — to foolishly stand out in the open is to die. To survive, gamers can create and take cover using interactive and dynamic environments, suppress the enemy with blindfire, and use their weapons and teammates to outwit and outfight their terrifying enemies.

* Xbox Live action: Gears of War embodies the next-generation Microsoft Xbox Live experience and extends it even further. Gamers will be able to experience individualized matchmaking, view player statistics, earn player achievements, customize their games, and build and personalize their gamer profiles.

Watch some Gears of War gameplay footage.

In conclusion let’s see how much fun Gears of War is on a scale from 1 to 10?

Sure, Gears of War’s story won’t win any Oscars, the path you travel is linear, and there are a few bugs, but once you’re used to the new tactical control scheme, the gameplay becomes completely intuitive and you won’t even notice any of the pet peeves or could care less. Why? Because the entire game is so incredibly entertaining! The well designed levels offer new intense action at every corner. The best feature is the local (split-screen) and online co-op mode that lets you and a friend play through the main campaign. This is the most pure fun I had playing a game with my buddy the past year (we finished it on New Years Eve 2006) and that’s where the fun factor is based on. It’s a ton of fun to team up and it makes this shooter one of the best, if not THE BEST game of 2006. Looks amazing, sounds amazing, plays amazing! It’s a must-have for every Xbox 360 owner!

Graphics – 10
The graphics in Gears of War raise the benchmark for Xbox 360 games and gaming in general with lush detailed environments, beautiful art direction, and smooth character animations. It all runs with a steady framerate to boot. Let’s hope you don’t mind a little blood, because especially the chainsaw finish lets gory blood spray all over the place including the TV screen, very over-the-top fun. The lighting is gorgeous. Special effects really draw you in, like when you’re sprinting the camera starts shaking, which adds urgency to the moment and makes the various wartorn environments look even more daunting. Whether you’ve got an SD or HD TV, you’ll be left impressed.

Audio – 9.5
The soundtrack composed by Kevin Riepl is amazing, you’ll be drawn in by the atmospheric music and fitting sound effects. The game tells a Hollywood action movie tale with buff male protagonists that share their suitably macho remarks throughout the story. If you enjoy Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Vin Diesel movies, you’ll feel right at home with this simplistic, smartass but undeniably cool dialog. I’m also going to destroy the gruff voice of main character Marcus Fenix for the fans, his voice actor John Di Maggio is the same person who voices Futurama’s Bender!

Ingenuity – 9.5
Once you get used to the third-person strategic view, active reload, and the cover system, you’ll find the under-an-hour learning curve transforms the game into a smooth running machine that has you move from action-packed scene to adrenaline pumping thrill ride. The Locust A.I. is really aggressive and quite the challenge too, enemies will try and flank you or face you head on, so you better be prepared and don’t freak out or you’ll be dead. The A.I. of your own team mates do ok, but are mostly there to distract the enemies as you (and a friend) take most of them out, but that’s why you’re the hero(es). The weapons fire makes the guns feel powerful and it’s very satisfying to take out hordes of enemies and bosses with them. You may have seen it all before, but never so well put together like this. It all adds up to an almost perfectly honed and completely accessible gameplay experience for both casual and hardcore gamers.

Replay Value – 9.0
Depending on the difficulty mode you choose, you can expect to spend anywhere from 6 to 12 hours playing through the single player campaign, and it’s so much fun that you’ll want to revisit the action-filled levels multiple times as the highest difficulty opens up after one playthrough. This game shines in co-op mode. Multiplayer mode also adds some fun team-based online play (Warzone, Assassination, and Execution) for up to eight players in 10 varied maps that can keep you busy for months to come.

In the year after Emergence Day, Epic Games have released a few patches that improved online play and fixed some issues. In January 2007 2 free Gears of War maps were released on Xbox Live Marketplace. In April 2007 a new multiplayer game type called Annex was added to the game for free. In September 2007 a new Hidden Fronts map pack with four new maps has been made available for free.

Update: It’s no surprise Gears of War has managed to sell over 4.5 million copies worldwide. Luckily you won’t have to wait long for Gears of War 2, which had its release date confirmed for November 2008.