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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Game Review 19:Gears of War

Before the release of this much-anticipated game, Gears of War received endless compliments for its gameplay and graphics, so much so that it has been frequently compared to Halo, with many people believing to be the next Halo. So, is Gears of War any good? Does it deliver the goods. Well, yes, it does, but Gears of War does not employ the run-gun-shoot formula of Halo. Instead, there is a heavy emphasis on taking cover, be it behind cement barriers, burnt cars, wooden pillars or even sofas. Standing out in the open will turn your screen red in no time.

For a start, the graphics and sound in Gears of War are first-rate. The power of the Xbox 360 has enabled the developers, Epic Games, to create a game that would never have been possible on the original Xbox. The graphics look life-like with vibrant colors. The enemies in this game, which are the locust, are well-detailed, with faces so unsightly that no one in this world can rival. Blood splatter on the screen when you chain-saw an enemy or when you get shot, making the game more realistic. The sound is not neglected either. In-game music provides a suitable atmosphere for the game, making it more intensifying; it gives you a sense of desperation. Different types of locusts make different noises. Wretches, the weakest of the locusts, may look harmless, but the noise that they emit is hair-raising. Gears of War went closely to replicating the experience of Doom 3 in one Act (one chapter, in other words).

The second aspect I want to touch on about the game is the A.I. (artificial intelligence). There is no doubt that the A.I. is an integral part of the game. A poor A.I. will ruin the game. Gears of War does not disappoint in this area. In fact, the A.I. here is one of the best I have seen so far in games. When I say A.I., I am referring to the Locusts, not your A.I. partner that will fight alongside at all times (there may be 3 other soldiers fighting alongside you at times). On casual mode, your A.I. partner does not do much to help you; you will have to do most of the work yourself. On hardcore setting, your A.I. partner, instead, possesses an irritating gung-ho attitude towards combat. While you are progressing gradually step by step to corner the Locusts, Dom, your A.I. partner will rush forward, getting himself killed, which isn’t what you will be wanting because once all your A.I. partner is injured, the Locusts will focus solely on you. You can revive him, though. Fortunately, someone can take over from the A.I. if you are playing over Xbox Live or you can select the split-screen option. Talking about A.I., it is also time to evaluate the difficulty of the game. Gears of War is easy to get into; it has a gentle learning curve. At the start of the first Act, you can choose either to go right into combat or to go through the tutorials first. You are advised to ditch the casual setting altogether. It is too simple and achievement points are low. Enemies go down easily upon request of your weapons, but on hardcore setting, more shots are required to down the enemy. The hardcore setting is challenging, but at times, it may get frustrating if you keep on dying in one particular mission. The game is very difficult, but yep, you should try hardcore. That is what the game is all about. You have to complete the game on hardcore setting to unlock the ‘Insane’ setting.

Okay, now to the controls and the gameplay. Controls are intuitive, with the ‘A’ button being used to do most of the things like ducking behind cover, doing a run, perform S.W.A.T. moves like rolling on the ground, or to jump over the cover. While you may find yourself getting sucked into cover at times while running, the controls have been kept simple, much to my delight. The pace of the game in the first Act may be a little slow – and dull, but be patient, once you get through the first Act, the pace of the game gradually speeds up, and then – Gears of War shows its true colors! What a masterpiece it is! Do not rate Gears of War based on the boring first Act; rate it as a whole. Within the campaign mode, numerous cut scenes appear and they prove to be a breather in between missions. If there is anything I can say, the cut scenes are equally stunning. There are quite a few variations of the Locust, namely the drones (standard Locust soldiers you will encounter throughout the game), the upgraded version of drones, Thereon Guards (Locust soldiers which shoot explosive arrows and appear during and after Act 3). As mentioned earlier, the Wretches, the weakest of enemies, but they have a different type: Lamented wretches, creatures which explode on impact like a grenade (beware the blast radius!). Boomers, who hold boomshot, a type of rocker launcher, only it is not called rocket launcher. Well, the others are up to you to find out for yourself. There are a great variety of weapons at your disposal as well – about 9 of them in total. Like in Halo, you can only carry 2 at one time, excluding your pistol and hand grenade.

To put it simply, Gears of War is a brilliant game. You will have to play it yourself to find out what a masterpiece it is. Buy it. Now. The A.I.-controlled enemies are clever, one of the cleverest, and the higher difficulty settings will have you begging for mercy. You should finish the game in approximately 15 hours on hardcore setting (including repeated fights when you perish). You can change the difficulty setting at any time in the game. Checkpoints are generally close to each other and the absence of a health bar levels the difficulty. Overall, Gears of War is an extremely good game. The ‘Halo’ of 2006 is here. Go get it and play it while waiting for the real Halo next year. Simply amazing.

Overall score: 10/10 (Number 7 overall ranking in my top 10 games of all times)

Good points: Gentle learning curve, intuitive controls, nice graphics and sound, intensifying gameplay, smart A.I. enemies. (A sequel is in the works)
Bad points: Relatively stupid A.I. partner (but they help you kill enemies sometimes). Very difficult (if you count that as a bad point; for me, it’s challenging).


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm in a love/hate relationship with digital memory because of how prices are always,and I mean always dropping. I hate buying SD Cards for my R4 / R4i at (seemingly) a bargain price only to see it become ten percent cheaper a few months later.

(Submitted by Nintendo DS running [url=]R4i[/url] KU2)

2:20 PM


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