Game Review: Gears of War (XBOX360)
Platform: XBOX360 Published: Microsoft Game Studios Developed: Epic Games Genre: Third Person Shooter
Great Co-op Gameplay
Unreal Engine shines in this game
Online matches give great team experiences
Matchmaking is not as robust as it should be
Some bugs while playing online takes away from the experience
The emphasis on team work really shines in this game
Co-op feels like is was well though through and not just tacked on at the end or as a side feature
Gears of War is a great achievement in the shooting genre. While it can be played solo, it does a great job of encouraging team work. The only complaint revolves around the online slayer mode, which in general works, but bugs like "Host Power", which gives the host of a match a stronger shotgun, or other ones like "Crab Walking", hinder it from becoming a 10.
Published by Microsoft and developed by Epic Games, Gears of War is a tactical action game with elements of horror. The storyline revolves around a former soldier by the name of Marcus Fenix. He was incarcerated for war crimes, however when the COG army faces an overwhelming attack by the Locust Horde, an alien race that surfaces from the depths of the planet, he is given a pardon in exchange for his services. This third person shooter game introduces a new covering system that emphasizes co-op and tactical play. This game is enhanced with the Unreal Engine 3 to display impressive graphics that can only be appreciated on a high-definition TV. The player can assume the role of Marcus Fenix or, if playing in co-op mode, as Dominique Santiago. You begin the game with either choosing a path that takes you directly to the action or the path that shows you to see the basics of the game as a tutorial. The game's over the shoulder camera angle works very well, giving the player a good field of vision. If needed, the player can take a closer look with the left trigger. The covering system is a great way to let the player hide and duck from enemy fire. This gives the player a good sensation of what fire fights are about and allows for tactical play.
The storyline in the game does a good job of keeping the player interested. Gears of War makes great use of cut scenes and some in game dialogue that gives the player a better feel of your teammates.
The game has several unique weapons that make it stand out from other games. While it has your standard guns such as, machine gun types, pistols, and sniper rifles, it also has some other weapons that don't fall under any of these categories. For example the Torque Bow, which is a gun that looks like a cross bow, is used by holding the trigger button to charge, the more the player charges the better chances it has to attach to an enemy. The arrows sent have explosives so if it attaches to an enemy, they die. The most infamous weapon in Gears of War is the Lancer, which is a machine gun with a chainsaw attached to it. This gun makes it fun to charge at enemies for an instant kill.
Another feature of the game is its health system. Like some recent shooter games, Gears of War has a health system that instead of having some kind of health bar, the player is given a visual queue to indicate that they have taken damage. Instead of having to recover health through items, the player recovers health automatically if they avoid damage for some amount of time. If playing solo, the player will automatically die once the skull fully appears on the screen, however when playing with others, this simply means that the player is down. A downed player can be revived if a teammate goes to the rescue the player and is picked up. This emphasizes the importance of teamwork.
As mentioned before, the game has a co-op mode which can be played either with a friend online or offline in split screen. Unlike other games, which seem to tack on the co-op game to its single player mode, Gears of War's single player mode was made to blend with either single player or co-op mode. They achieve this by having a storyline and scenarios that have clearly been designed for this.
The online multiplayer of the game is also well executed with a great use of their health system. Most other shooters have the player looking out for themselves over helping others. However Gears of War's gameplay gives the player good incentives to help out each other. It does this by setting up the matches so that in each round, once a player has been killed, they cannot revive until the end of the round. This leaves a great disadvantage to the team since their number would dwindle. The game is won once a team reaches the number of rounds that had been agreed upon. So teamwork is essential for victory.
Despite Gears of War's great gameplay, and in some ways revolutionary, it does not go with out some shortcomings. The game's single player and co-op mode is incredibly solid and balanced, even online; however its multiplayer mode does suffer from some issues. When playing online and trying to set up a game, its interface can be underwhelming at best. Compared to Halo's matchmaking, Gears of War's falls short. It doesn't do as great a job finding people of equal skill which can leave the player feeling frustrated when mismatched. Another issue with the online mode is the amount of bugs that it has. They vary from the ability to do what is known online as "the Crab Walk" which allows the player to run in unusual ways while keeping the enemy in sight, to a bug known as "Host Power" which allows the host to have an increase in the power of their shotgun.
It seems to me that the developer was so busy polishing the game mechanics for the story mode that perhaps they left the online portion of it to the very end. This would explain the amount of different bugs found in its online part. They have released some patches to deal with some of these issues; however most of the bugs remain. Next time all they need to do is spend more time on testing and perhaps planning to avoid these issues.
In the end, Gears of War is an awesome game that makes you want to play it with some one to fully enjoy the experience of team play. The game's use of the Unreal Engine sets the perfect mood for the story and is accompanied by music that enhances the experience. Gears of War is a game that is easy to recommend to any one looking for a great third person shooter with amazing weapons and balanced levels.