Currently Playing: Gears of War (X360)

Epic Games has made its name with their Unreal Tournament series. It was good to see that Epic tried to make a new game not based on its popular icon. “Gears of War” is about defending from an invasion by the Locust Horde and your character Marcus Fenix is just another soldier in the middle of the battle.

The setting shows a city in ruins, in full detail. The environment looks more believable than the introduction of the post apocalyptic ruin of Terminator. The barren cities show so much damage that people have abandoned the once wonderful civilization. You do get an idea that the locations used to be beautiful because there are levels with lush gardens and beautiful architecture. With all the amount of graphics put into this game, it gives a sense of history. It should, in a way; it looks amazing any way you put it. The character designs show that it does come from its Unreal roots, but with damaged armor. Even the facial detail is in full force. At this moment, the Xbox360 can show how powerful it can be with only on its second year.

The game controls are also refreshing and it takes advantage of taking cover on anything that you can find. The game still plays like most first person shooters. If you are familiar with Halo, playing this game would not be too hard to adjust to. Although this is a third person game, the point of view works better since you can see how you are positioned to avoid the continuous gunfire. The Left Trigger helps out in targeting since firing blindly can waste so much ammo. The A button does the cover move, which actually does a bit too much. Logically, it works, but sometimes it just makes bad moves when you make a slight mistake, which can eventually put you in front of the battle rather than protecting you. The good thing is that pressing A while being in cover, shows you a clue on what your move may be once you press a direction before pressing A again. The controls work great at most; the slight problems can be forgivable once you get the hang of it all.

The game seems to learn from Halo 2 since the player does not have to bother himself with a life meter, although getting too much hits can show you a red Gears of War logo in the middle of the screen. The more hits you take, the more prominent the logo will show. Take cover, and the logo will fade after waiting a few seconds. This works since you easily get aware that you need to protect yourself without too much on screen clutter.

The music would not be memorable, but it just gives enough excitement to keep me playing for hours on end. What is good about it is that it gives you cues when a battle is going to start or end. You will know when things are safe, but at times it can still aurally give you a scare. The sound effects and voice acting are nicely done that it works seamlessly in the game.

Playing cooperative mode is my favorite part and it works better than most games since having a partner is already part of the story. One thing, it would not feel weird as Halo where there is only 1 main character but 2 of you get into the action. Here, there are always 2 heroes, but Marcus Fenix is always locked with player 1 and it is important that he leads the game since the story usually only triggers with the main character.

Multiplayer works offline and online which is great and it seems that Epic used what they know about multiplayer matches with Unreal. Although it is not as robust as UT’s options, the choices here are still makes a lot of interesting playing. You can have a match although offline mode can only support 2 players. If you want more players, you will need a system-link or going into Xbox Live with an internet connection.

The game is a step above most similar titles. I really have to say that this game has raised the bar for this genre, even Bungie’s famous first person shooter Halo needs to catch up in a big way. The controls work great with a few imperfections. The visuals are outstanding and the audio blends very well. It does make me wonder what improvements they can work out on the upcoming PC version, but with this version, I’m pretty satisfied and I’m still hooked on playing for more hours.

Originally published on GamEX Magazine.

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