QJ Review – Gears of War

Gears of War

I generally don’t review games for the sole reason that my tastes are a bit quirky. I tend to have very limited choices and only play something which I feel is good. And believe it or not, playing shooters on a console is not something I’ve always been excited with. Somehow, controlling the crosshair with two analog sticks doesn’t feel as good and as intuitive as my trusty mouse. But this one’s an exception; a mighty exception at that.

You see, Epic GamesGears of War doesn’t just suck you into itself, it chains your balls to the couch and commands you to sit in front of your TV and play it, something which I’ve felt in only a few rare games. And after having looked at all the pre-release hype, I must say that it was one of those games which was actually worthy of all the praises which were showered.

What’s in this review:

  • Gameplay
  • Controls
  • Graphics
  • Sound
  • Multiplayer

The full review, and the rating, after the jump! Click on “Full Article” to see how this game did.

Gears of War

I generally don’t review games for the sole reason that my tastes are a bit quirky. I tend to have very limited choices and only play something which I feel is good. And believe it or not, playing shooters on a console is not something I’ve always been excited with. Somehow, controlling the crosshair with two analog sticks doesn’t feel as good and as intuitive as my trusty mouse. But this one’s an exception; a mighty exception at that.

You see, Epic GamesGears of War doesn’t just suck you into itself, it chains your balls to the couch and commands you to sit in front of your TV and play it, something which I’ve felt in only a few rare games. And after having looked at all the pre-release hype, I must say that it was one of those games which was actually worthy of all the praises which were showered.

Controls: Like I said, I’ve hardly played any shooters on my consoles. But unlike most other console shooters, the controls felt quite natural here. One of the things I liked here is that the crosshair isn’t shown by default. That’s the reason why most of the console shooters feel kind of icky, atleast to me. You can activate the crosshair by pressing the Left Trigger, at which point the camera moves closer to your character’s shoulder. It’s very intuitive once you’ve played for a few minutes. Secondly, I’ve personally liked the fact that the A button does most of the work. While some might find it annoying, I like it because I don’t have to remember different combinations or having to scramble in the middle of a fight trying to hide behind cover. Go near any solid object and pressing the A button sucks you into cover, a very useful thing indeed.

Your crew

Gameplay: The most important component of any game, it’s what differentiates great games from has-beens. And while Gears of War, being a shooter, might not bring a lot of new things to the table, it does its stuff well, or should I say, almost perfectly. It’s the thing which chains your nuts to the couch and forbids you from going anywhere. The gameplay, while being pretty linear, is perfect for the kind of experience that they were aiming for. While the environments can be huge, you’re still a part of a small team taking down the Locust army one beast at a time. There’s no way you can venture out into the open and take down the army Rambo style. At most, you’ll kill a couple of beasts before being owned by the Locust. And that’s where most of the great gameplay comes from. Taking cover behind every object, aiming the reticule at a foe’s head and putting some hot lead into those big heads is where most of the fun lies. It makes you feel like you’re a part of something big, but on a small scale.

As the game goes on, you’ll find yourself being creeped out once in a while because of the ghoulish environments. Add in the nightmarish sounds from those screaming wretches and the game feels like a horror movie. And the night-time levels, well, they take the game to a whole new level. While the enemies don’t change much, there’s one big addition- the swarming mass of bat-like creatures which rip you to shreds as soon as you venture into darkness. This is enough to make you think twice, maybe even thrice before taking a step in any direction. You have to look for propane tanks which you can blast so that there’s light before moving forward. But it’s a welcome addition because sometimes, your foes forget that same fact and make a charge towards you. It’s quite fun to see them being lynched by their own “army”, so to speak.

Drone squad

At this point, you will notice the AI, which is easy at best on the Casual difficulty level. Crank up that setting and you’re guaranteed to increase the game-play time from a few hours to atleast a couple of days. And on insane difficulty, you’ll probably need a human friend to help you fight the Locust in Co-op mode. This is where my first grouse is- your dumb partners. It’s very frustrating when you’re in the middle of a fight and you notice that all 3 of your friends are lying down and asking for help after running foolishly towards the horde. Do you go back to help them and risk getting killed yourself, or do you take it upon yourself to fight all of them without their help? And during the night-time levels, it only gets more frustrating when Dom (your partner) just walks into the dark and gets lynched by the Locust swarm. At this point, it’s foolish to try and help him – You’ll be killed within no time; your best bet is to try and fight alone till the next checkpoint.

Onto probably the most fun thing in this game- The chainsaw. You know what? I want that damn weapon to be in every action game I play. It is THAT much fun. The raw sadistic feeling you get when you’re about to destroy your enemy with that scary piece of machinery beats anything I’ve played in a while. Obviously, if you miss, you can simply fire your machine gun and finish them off.

The chainsaw

This brings me on to the weapons in this game. Most of the weapons are nothing special; they do their work unobtrusively. But there’s a bunch of great additions, first of which is the Machine gun + Chainsaw which I was talking about. Another weapon worth special mention is the Hammer of Dawn, a small machine which focuses a tiny laser beam on your unlucky foe. What follows is again one of those pure unadulterated sadistic moments where you can simply burn down your enemies into ash. And lastly, you have the torque-bow, which is nothing but an explosive arrow fired from a bow. People who’ve watched Rambo III will instantly remember Stallone shooting an explosive bow at the Russian chopper and bringing it down instantly. Unfortunately, you don’t get much use of it in this game since it’s introduced at quite a later stage in the game.

The one thing I liked about this game is that there’s hardly any sign of a conventional HUD obstructing your view. In fact, minimal screen-space is used by only showing the ammo counter and a small reload-meter below it (More on that later). In fact, there is no health-bar at all. You just keep playing and gunning down the locust army. The only sign you get that you’re gonna be history in a few moments is a red colored Gear icon which shows up at the center of the screen when your health seems low. Again, the forgiving health-recharging system means that a few moments behind cover and you’re good to go again. The reload meter is another cool addition to an already-awesome game. The way how it works is pretty simple. When you’re reloading your gun, the slider moves from the left to the right. Press the reload button again at the right time and your reloads are fast and with more damage potential. Press it at the wrong time and you jam your gun for a few extra seconds. In tight areas with multiple enemies, a proper reload can mean life, and a jammed gun can mean a lot of bullets in your head.

One enemy I must talk about is the Beserker. Although it doesn’t have sight, it can smell and hear your presence in the vicinity. And trust me, you don’t want to be anywhere near that thing- It will crush you before you can even realise what’s going on. Just say your prayers and get ready for a couple of restarts from the last checkpoint.

Drone close-up

Graphics: Well, what can I say that hasn’t already been said before? In simple words, this is currently THE most beautiful looking game on the Xbox 360. The huge environments give ample opportunity to the Unreal engine to show its beauty and power- something which it does enviably well. Everything from the characters to the cities and environments is huge. You and your friends are hulking beasts who look like they’ll explode at any moment because of all that muscle. While your whole body is covered with armor, the head is left uncovered- perhaps because of the lack of fear, or in my opinion, plain stupidity. Again, playing in the night-time stages feels so creepy because of the great atmosphere which is a result of the Unreal engine. But the true beauty of the game is during the day-time when the great lighting effects show off the environment.

Sound: Another one of those things which Epic got bang on target. The freaky sounds of those wretches and their friends are the stuff of nightmares. On top of that, every time those locusts dig up and come out of the emergence hole, the sound effects do their best to let you know that you’re in deep trouble. And then, there’s that chainsaw which I can’t seem to get my mind off. All that blood-spurting and great action would go to waste if the sounds were not upto the mark. Fortunately for us, that isn’t the case.

The boomers

Multiplayer: While being limited in the number of modes it offers, it’s probably one of the most fun experiences you’ll get in this generation. People were afraid that the moderate to small sized levels would not be as much fun as Halo 2, but playing the game for a while, it’s now obvious that this is a great thing. For one, most of the weapons are geared towards short-range assault-type gameplay. Second, the basic gameplay is built around taking down enemies with as much stealth as possible. With bigger maps, it would only be less fun than it is now. I haven’t yet fully experienced all the multiplayer modes, so I’ll reserve my final judgment when I can get around to spending time with it.

Conclusion: Yes, the game is awesome. Yes, I’m hooked. And yes, it’s the game which I’ll be re-playing this weekend. Is it one of those killer games which forces people to buy the console? Looking back at my own experiences and the reviews it’s getting from the other places on the internet, I can only say yes. The greatest fun in this game comes from the co-op campaign mode which it offers, and does so well. I’ll probably be inviting my friends over the weekend, ordering a few pizzas and some beer and have a great time fragging the hell out of my opponents. I won’t put my word on whether it’s innovative enough. But in the fun department, this game shines! And the best thing for you to do next would be to get your ass off that chair, make your way to your nearest game retailer and buy this amazing game. It really is THAT GOOD!

Gameplay – 10/10
Controls – 9/10
Graphics – 10/10
Sound – 10/10
Multiplayer – 8/10 (From my limited experience)
Fun factor – 10/10

Final score – 57/60 or an awesome 9.5/10!

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