Gears of War was a huge hit on the Xbox 360 and it was THE title that showed what the console was capable of. Given that Epic started out as a PC developer, I figured that there would be a PC port sooner or later. The game uses the Unreal 3 engine so that's naturally an easy starting point to get the game running on the PC. Coupled with the fact that it's an Xbox 360 game and there are tools to easily develop for both the console and the PC, Gears of War had all the signs of coming to the PC. Well, the game's finally here and for those that don't have an Xbox 360, Gears of War is one game you should definitely pick up.
I'll spend a little time on the specifics of the game since it's been a year since it came out on the Xbox 360. You take the role of Marcus Fenix as you and your members of Delta Squad battle the enemies known as the Locust Horde who have emerged from underground to wage war on the surface dwellers of the planet Sera. The battles will take you through a few war torn towns of Sera , underground where the Locust reside, the home of your dad, and aboard a runaway train to name a few. The tactical shooter takes place in third person mode allowing you to see Marcus and a little bit of his surroundings. Cover is vital in Gears of War as you'll want to use the environment as much as possible to stay out of the line of fire. Marcus has the ability to dive around and take cover against obstacles and use them to shoot at enemies without exposing yourself too much to return fire. When you do a sprint, the camera angle will come down a little bit and the screen will shake making you feel like you're right in the action.
Marcus can carry two heavy guns, a pistol, and grenades. Weapons range from a chainsaw equipped machine gun, sniper rile, torque bow, shotgun, and Locust gun. The chainsaw on the machine gun can be used for an instant kill whereby blood splatters on the screen as you rip into your enemy. At certain times of the game, you'll be able to call upon an energy beam brought down from a satellite above called the Hammer of Dawn. The Hammer of Dawn is used to take out extremely tough enemies as well as instantly kill Locust soldiers. The caveat is that the Hammer of Dawn can only be used when there's no obstacles above you such as a ceiling and when the satellite is online. With weapons that contain ammo, there's a reload mini game that can be played. Pressing the reload button too soon or too late will cause you to jam your gun and lengthen your reload time. If you press the button when in the reload range, you'll reload faster. If you are able to perform a reload in a small area on the reload bar that's pure white, the damage done by the bullets that get reloaded are increased a little for a short amount of time.
As with a lot of games these days there aren't any health packs in Gears of War. When you are taking damage, a red gear and skull starts to fade in and the more pronounced the image is, the more damage you have taken. You'll gradually regenerate over time so it's imperative that you hide behind an obstacle once your health deteriorates.
The game isn't all run and gun as you'll experience a vehicle level whereby you drive to a destination and fend of deadly flying creatures called Kryll with your UV spotlight. Kryll only come out at light and like vampires they burn up when exposed to UV light. The vehicle level is a nice little diversion from running around and ducking behind obstacles.
One of the big components of Gears of War is that you can team up with a buddy and play the entire game cooperatively. Your friend will take on the role of Dominic Santiago as he follows Marcus around. Playing Gears of War cooperatively is a great deal of fun and the only way I've finished the story mode. Your friends can join in anytime so you don't have to wait on them if you don't want to. The problem is though once they drop out your game ends as well so it's like Epic got the dynamic joining in working fine but couldn't deal with a player leaving in the middle of the game. At least you can join in a game in progress if you want to help out your friend.
So the game finally hits the PC and it takes advantage of DirectX10 on Vista if you have a supported video card and OS installed. While the Xbox 360 version lets you jump into the game relatively quickly, you have to have 12GB free on your hard drive and endure a 30+min install before you can play. That's one thing that's nice about the console in that you don't have to sit around and wait for files to install. I couldn't believe it took that long to install Gears but the 30+ min time was on a few machines so it's not unexpected.
Games for Windows Live is supported by Gears of War so you can see your friends and invite them just like on the Xbox 360. What I found annoying though was the updater. A few times I booted up Gears I was greeted with a message that there's an update for Live. After agreeing on updating the software, you are presented with the start screen for Gears. There's no message that the update has been applied so naturally I thought I was good to go. Unfortunately, you have to exit out the game for the update to install. At no point was I told I had to restart the game for the update to install which seems like something that should happen. At it's current state, it's a little kludgey for Games for Windows Live to get updated and I hope there's a way Microsoft can fix that with an update.
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