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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Gears of War:The Hype

If you have a keen eye, you will know that Microsoft has been pushing the heavily-hyped third-person shooter game, Gears of War for the Xbox 360, aggressively since it was first announced. Gears of War is touted as the next Halo by Microsoft, but will Gears of War really live up to its hype? But first, it must be known why Microsoft is doing this.

The main reason why Microsoft is promoting this game unlike any other is because of the looming holiday season next-gen console war. While Nintendo will rock gamers with the much-anticipated Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, as well as Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, Microsoft will have little to counter against since Halo 3 and the recently announced Halo Wars, an real-time strategy (RTS) game based on the Halo universe, are not slated for release until late next year. While Sony will make gamers drool with a slew of tempting games like Resistance: Fall of Man and Heavenly Sword, in addition to Lair, Microsoft, again will have little to show. Besides a few fantastic multi-platform games here and there like Splinter Cell Double Agent and Need for Speed Carbon, the Xbox 360’s big games will not arrive until next year, including Too Human, Mass Effect and the delayed-yet-another-time Forza Motorsport 2. Microsoft seriously need some outstanding games to help sell the Xbox 360 this holiday season, especially since it wants to meet its ‘10 million Xbox 360s’ sold target before the PS3 and the Wii are launched. Gears of War is the next big Microsoft-published game coming out so, of course, Microsoft will want to make sure that it is a hit. It wants Gears of War to be a game, whose experience will stay with the player long after the game is finished – another wholesome franchise of Microsoft. Microsoft wants Marcus Fenix, the main character, to be the new face of the Xbox 360 – to accompany Master Chief. Needless to say, to keep the game going, multiplayer is a vital component. It is Halo 2’s multiplayer that keeps it so popular, so the same must also be done with Gears of War (this will be expanded on later). Note: Halo 2 was even played at the 2005 World Cyber Games!

Now, the main question is not how Xbox 360 is going to become more successful with Gears of War, but whether Gears of War will truly deliver the ‘x-factor’. Gears of War will implement Halo’s tried-and-tested formula, yet at the same time, expand on it to make sure that the player will have a much more immersive experience. Yes, Gears of War and Halo are in the same game genre (well, sort of): they are both action shooters, only that Gears of War, as mentioned earlier, is played in a third-person view. On the behalf of all gamers, here is hoping that there will be no pesky camera issues that have plagued so many third-person action games before it. Gears of War is so similar to Halo to the extent of its storyline. It starts out like this: An alien race, Locust Horde is trying to invade Earth and Marcus Fenix (main character) must lead his troop of 4 into an almost-suicidal mission in an attempt to save humankind. Does this plot ring a bell in your mind? Aren’t the Convenant also trying to invade the Earth in Halo 2? Yep, you heard it right. This is the plot of Gears of War and every event will revolve around it. The story mode will span 36 hours of the life of Marcus Fenix, spreading over an amazing number of 30 missions. The one thing you should know about Gears of War is that the quest to save the Earth is not a solo effort – it involves your troop mates, unlike in Halo 2. This aspect of the game gives way to the possibility to include teamwork and the game developer, Epic Games, has done just that. Cooperation is definitely encouraged in this game – you will able to understand it from the scenarios, the missions and the maps. In the middle of a single-player mission, your friend can also conveniently jump into the game and take control of your troop mate either via split-screen or through an Xbox Live link. That is when the fun comes in. Branching paths are available, so you can go this way and your friend can go the other way and flank the Locust Horde together. Of course, the other 2 A.I.-controlled troop mates will offer a great help too. Like in Halo and Halo 2, your friend can pilot the vehicle, while you man the gun. EA aims to replicate this kind of experience in its upcoming action game, Army of Two, where both soldiers must be kept alive for the game to progress. Okay, back to the point. Imagine this: Voice chat. As far as multiplayer is concerned, you will be surprised to find that voice chat is also supported. Now, you can even strategize with your friend first – verbally – before actually moving in to attack. Deathmatch (4 vs. 4), and all the other bell and whistles of other fabulous multiplayer games. There are two other multiplayer modes, but not much has been known about those. Let’s put it in this way: Gears of War is your next-gen Halo with all the full-blown capabilities of HD graphics displayed, from lightings to animations, name what you want – Epic Games will have them all covered. Gears of War does have the recipe for success, or so it seems. The game stands a good chance of exporting the experience of Halo and Halo 2 over to the Xbox 360, if early signs are any indication. Without saying, the game will contain much much more content that has not been touched on in this article. Playing the game is essential to finding out more about it. It is there and if you take time to learn more about it, you will find it a remarkable experience.

Will Gears of War live up to its hype and really help push sales of the Xbox 360 just like what Halo and Halo 2 did for the Xbox? Will Gears of War truly deliver what we expect or will it flop? It all remains to be seen.


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