Home
Twitter
RSS
Newsletter
Chris Leigh
23 Nov, 2006

Gears of War Review

360 Review | Emerging today.
You don't need us to remind you that Microsoft has a lot riding on Gears of War. Since Epic first unveiled its futuristic third-person shooter at E3 last year, mouths have been left agog at the many images of the game that have been gradually pumped out to the media, and forums have been lit up with drooling fanboy anticipation. But while the visuals have a lot to do with the excitement that will greet the release of Gears in the coming days, this is a game whose beauty is a little more than skin-deep. Is it reason enough to buy an Xbox 360? Probably not, as this is no Halo in terms of being a step forward. But it is almost certainly one of the finest titles on Microsoft's machine, and is probably going to be one of the better games you'll play this year.

One thing is certain, however: as soon as you're chucked into the clunking marine boots of anti-hero Marcus Fenix and told to save Sera from the Locust race, it's pretty plain that Gears of War is at least going to be the best-looking title you'll encounter in 2006. Much has been made of the title's technical virtuosity, and it doesn't disappoint - quite simply, the sights you'll see in Gears are unprecedented. The game's lavish cut-scenes (all depicted using the game's extravagant real-time graphics) are sandwiched by virtual worlds that drip with atmosphere, sensational level design (the graceful architecture of Sera is a highlight), and some remarkable lighting effects. The marines are modelled superbly, right down to every crease in their craggy necks, while some of the weather effects raise the proverbial bar to jaw-dropping levels. Let's just say we were close to breaking out the umbrellas at the start of Act Three.

Infact, without wishing to create another pointless debate, we've yet to see a PlayStation 3 game in motion that can match what Gears offers, and you'll find yourself stopping from time to time, just to take it all in. It's a striking advert for the Xbox 360 alright, and Microsoft must be hugging itself with glee at how things have turned out. If we had to level one complaint at how it all looks (and hell, we're being picky here), we'd suggest that the art design is a little too steeped in sci-fi cliché. After you've seen one hulking, armour-laden marine, you've generally seen them all. This grey, futuristic dystopia has also had starring roles in games before; it's just never been quite as beautiful.

Tough as nails and equipped with grenade launchers, Boomers are swines to take down.

Tough as nails and equipped with grenade launchers, Boomers are swines to take down.
Close
Such ravishing visuals only go so far, however. Thus, it's a pleasure to report that Gears' soundtrack complements the eye-candy admirably. It also makes for one of the most atmospheric next-gen games yet, with the faraway battle cries of approaching Locust and the shrieking of the Kryll (an airborne enemy that attacks in flocks and only when you're in the dark) genuinely spine-tingling. Playing in co-op, it becomes easy to make the other player jolt with surprise, simply by revving up your chainsaw out of the blue. That alone is a testament to how well the game keeps you on the edge of your seat.

The palpable sense of tension can also be attributed to the combat. There's a certain rhythm to the gun battles in Gears of War, a pattern that largely consists of shooting, ducking, recovering health, and repeating the process. Levels are deliberately littered with features that can provide cover (pressing A lets you hug any such barrier), and using such aids effectively is as much a key to success in Gears of War as it was in Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter. Charging your enemy, even on the easiest of the three difficulty settings, is foolhardy in the extreme. After all, the Locust will find cover themselves and/or confidently flank you, thanks to some reasonably impressive AI routines (that said, the artificial intelligence would go wonky on rare occasions - once or twice during the game, we found ourselves face to face with an enemy, only for them not to react as we emptied a magazine into their head).

Although the pattern of "shoot, duck, recover" may sound like the perfect recipe for monotony, some novel level design, absolutely rock-solid camerawork, sharp enemy AI and rumbustious combat means that almost every skirmish feels different enough to warrant inclusion. It's only in the first of the game's five stages - incidentally, the weakest - that repetition really kicks in. You're also blessed with an impressive assortment of rolling and ducking manouevres, to help you weave to and from different points of cover, and all of these are intuitive to use within a hour of starting the game. Our favourite remains the "roadie run", a quick sprint (performed by holding A) that lets you rapidly cross exposed ground, and which is accompanied by an excellent shaking camera effect. Very useful, and it looks the part.

Your enemies aren't afraid to charge your way from time to time, and when you do get in up close, you'll discover another highly enjoyable trick: the chainsaw melée. By briefly holding B during close-quarters combat, you can get Marcus to flip his gun and slice his enemy clean down the middle. It's horrendously gory, but also viciously satisfying, and it's likely you'll laugh out loud (if only out of shock) the first time you pull it off. As finishing moves go, it's pretty emphatic. The rest of the weapons are a mixed bag. There's a fairly humdrum collection of grenades, handguns and shotguns, though the Hammer of Dawn (a targeting system that employs satellites positioned in space) and the Torque Bow will bring a smile to the face of even the most hardened FPS veteran.

As a marine, you're given access to a fairly flexible range of manouevres.

As a marine, you're given access to a fairly flexible range of manouevres.
Close
Although so far we've held back on mentioning anything in the game that vexed us, this isn't quite the perfect package. The brevity of the game (despite Mark Rein's claims, we completed Gears just inside 11 hours on medium difficulty) is one minor annoyance, though an excellent co-op mode arguably saves the day in that respect, not to mention the fact that you'll probably want to play through it again. And although we know you lot all hate poor old EA, the Electronic Arts executive who dared to criticise Gears for a lack of innovation isn't without a point - Epic's shooter is hardly representative of the kind of fresh, dynamic gameplay that next-generation hardware has the potential to deliver. Not that it ever pretended to be about innovation, but still...

It's also pretty light on both story and characterisation, with the game's foremost characters little more than square-jawed meatheads with single-digit IQs. Having said that, the dialogue is at least mindful of this, and some of the banter exchanged between the four marines is both entertaining and well-acted. Their repartee also serves a more important purpose, by powerfully reinforcing the sense of camaraderie and teamwork that Epic has clearly tried to imbue in players, the feeling that you're not quite alone in sorting out the mess you're confronted with. The constant chatter livens things up in the moments that the game does begin to drag.

Happily though, such moments are as rare as hen's teeth in Gears of War. What Epic has created here is a gorgeous, Hollywood blockbuster of a game, a title packed with soaring production values and a style of combat that manages to be highly engaging, despite its ultimately repetitive nature. True, it's some way from being original, and it features a cast and a setting that's almost as old as the science-fiction genre itself. But to whimper about such things as innovation would be rather missing the point; that for your hundred dollars or fifty quid, you're buying in to (at least) ten to twelve solid hours of supremely entertaining gaming. This is a formidable title - miss it at your peril.
The Score
One of the Xbox 360's best moments to date. Gears of War trades off innovation for the sake of high-class production, solid gameplay and enjoyable combat. A must. 9
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Gears of War Content

E3 2010: Gears of War 3 Debut Gameplay
15 Jun, 2010 I don't think this Lambert is a highlander.
Gears of War gets a new special edition
29 May, 2008 Not particularly special, though.
Gears of War film going green?
08 Oct, 2007 Screen, that is.
29 Comments
7 years ago
Echo wrote
GroovySamurai wrote
And do you guys think Marcus sounds like whinne the pooh or is that also just me?
No thats just you icon_razz.gif
Oh and the link to this from the front page is a tad random, as this is an older review.
Yes, for a moment there I thought I had entered the Matrix.

My mind is already screwey from being sick and having too much codiene and this was tipping me over the edge icon_razz.gif
7 years ago
Nick wrote
Echo wrote
GroovySamurai wrote
And do you guys think Marcus sounds like whinne the pooh or is that also just me?
No thats just you icon_razz.gif
Oh and the link to this from the front page is a tad random, as this is an older review.
Yes, for a moment there I thought I had entered the Matrix.

My mind is already screwey from being sick and having too much codiene and this was tipping me over the edge icon_razz.gif
Its because today is the real release day.
7 years ago
UmbrellaCEO wrote
GroovySamurai wrote
And do you guys think Marcus sounds like whinne the pooh or is that also just me?
I dont know they look kinda like sumo with guns, man how did art direction go wrong.
You serious? I reckon the the hulk like look to them is pretty neat. Especially Cole - that guys just a damn machine icon_razz.gif

I just find Marcus has a really slow and dopey sound to his voice, thats why it reminds me alot of whinie the pooh.
7 years ago
GroovySamurai wrote
UmbrellaCEO wrote
GroovySamurai wrote
And do you guys think Marcus sounds like whinne the pooh or is that also just me?
I dont know they look kinda like sumo with guns, man how did art direction go wrong.
You serious? I reckon the the hulk like look to them is pretty neat. Especially Cole - that guys just a damn machine icon_razz.gif

I just find Marcus has a really slow and dopey sound to his voice, thats why it reminds me alot of whinie the pooh.
His voice reminds me of that guy who played thing in fantastic four movie. Hulk is a beast, those four guys are with burger king syndrome. I just hate cole so much, he has soo many crappy lines.
7 years ago
Picked up the Collector's Edition for Christmas. Looking forward to playing the game it was one of the reasons I purchased the MS console.
Add Comment
Like this review?
Share it with this tiny url: http://palg.nu/1uj

N4G : News for Gamers         Twitter This!

Digg!     Stumble This!

| More
  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  24/11/2006 (Confirmed)
Publisher:
  Microsoft
Genre:
  Shooter
Year Made:
  2006

Read more...
Currently Popular on PALGN
Australian Gaming Bargains - 08/12/11
'Tis the season to be bargaining.
R18+ Legislation
R18+ Legislation
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations Preview
Hands on time with the game. Chat time with the CEO of CyberConnect 2.
PALGN's Most Anticipated Games of 2007
24 titles to keep an eye on during 2007.
PALGN's Most Anticipated Games of 2008
And you thought 2007 was populated.