Controlling Marcus is a fairly straight forward affair and what you would expect from a shooter. The left thumbstick moves while the right thumbstick aims. Firing and zooming the scope on your weapon are done with the right and left triggers respectively. Reloading your weapon is done by pressing the right bumper. There is a nice reloading mini-game where you can get a quick reload by pushing the bumper again during the re-loading. Of course if you miss the sweet spot your gun jams and it takes longer to reload so there’s a nice risk-reward element to the mini-game. The A button is responsible for running, diving behind cover, and mantling over cover. Yes that’s a lot for one button and it does take some getting used to. Even after you get used to it this overloading does present some problems as you will occasionally take cover on a wall that you are running next to. The X button is used to interact with the environment as well as reviving teammates with the B button controlling melee attacks and the Y button being used to focus your attention on special objects. Wrapping things up the D-pad allows you to switch between the four weapons you carry in your inventory.
The weapon selection in Gears of War is solid but not overwhelming. You have the standard weapon collection of pistols, rifles, shotgun, and a few items. The Torque bow which shoots explosive shells Rambo II style takes some getting used to as the bow has to be pulled back before you can get a straight shot off. Another fun weapon is the Hammer of Dawn, a weapon that allows you to bring down a satellite strike down on enemies. It’s a great weapon but can only hit enemies that are out in the open. The weapon is also mobile so you can actually hunt people down as they move across the map.
The weapons are near perfectly balanced for both single and multiplayer action. The Sniper rifle is once again the king of the hill but the lone camper will not last long with all the other great weapons on the map.
Multiplayer is great when it works. It’s is very difficult to get into a ranked match, and the few times I tried to get online it took me over 10 minutes just to get into one match. This is a bit of a downer as a lot of the achievements require you to log some serious time in ranked match play. Hopefully Epic will fix this soon as it is a bit of a bummer to have to wait so long to get into a game. Playing with friends though is a lot of fun as there are enough multiplayer options to keep everyone entertained.
What’s great about the multiplayer is that you can feel the Epic touch in the game and you can tell this was developed by a game that gets multiplayer gaming. From the mostly symmetrical design of the maps to the juicy head shots and curb stomping fun there are a lot of fun touches in the game. There is a bit of pure gaming joy when you’re able to get close to a buddy and cut him in half with the chainsaw bayonet.
Level design is solid and the art folks at epic have done a great job of crafting a believable world. The atmosphere created by the game is amazing and the art designers have done a good job of delivering on Cliffy's vision of "destroyed beauty". The environments are certainly breathtaking and do force you to wonder what they would have looked liked before the war and emergence day. For example, there's a nice sequence outside a factory about half-way through the game. It's raining and the realism was so overwhelming that I almost felt wet and I certainly felt the need to get Marcus indoors as quickly as possible as the game gave you that great feeling of being cold and wet outside.
Gears of War is hands down the best looking game out on any platform as of December 2006. I was showing the game off to to someone and the first words out of his mouth were "Holy S**t" when I loaded up a level. The attention to detail is amazing and the game really shows off the power of the Unreal 3 engine and what next generation graphics are capable of. Sure the game is painted in primary grey but the level of detail that’s available and all of the little graphical touches like the heat coming off the guns when you reload, just make the game unique.
Gears of War is the game of 2006. There are a few flaws in some of the story telling and a few bugs here and there but the game is very entertaining experience from start to finish. The game has raised the bar for what we should expect from games in terms of graphics and game play. I just hope we don’t have to wait too long for Gears of War 2.
More On:Gears of War
Easily one of the best game of the year. Gears of War has raised the bar of what gamers should expect in future next generation games.
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