#686 Gears of War

Posted: 5th December 2011 by Mulholland in Games
Tags: , , ,

105th played so far

Genre: Shoot ’em Up
Platform: Xbox 360
Year of Release: 2006
Developer: Epic Games
Publisher: Microsoft

I know not how interested anyone is in our personal gaming histories… but this is a gaming blog so to hell with that I’ll divulge the personal information.

The choice between 360 and Wii was a big moment in my gaming life. The fact of the matter is that I knew I would be getting one of them for Christmas and the likes of Viva Pinata and Dead Rising meant it won out. However, the first game I actually received for it was Gears of War seeing that it was a bundle deal. This meant that it also game with optional stickers (which I did not use) and a faceplate (which I also did not use) to commemorate this package deal… and then I got rid of it because I was at that moment unable to stomach shooters where enemies can pounce on you.

Yes, this is one of those cases where, years later, I rebought a game since I finally felt like I was able to play it. Was it worth the rebuy? We’ll reveal all… right about now.

Our Thoughts

One question you asked a few times while playing the game was why anyone would want to live on this planet. I think it must have been their adeptness at the mass production of sofas and comfortable chairs. I swear they must have been growing on trees on this alien planet. What my good chum is trying to convey in a humourous fashion *cough* is that the interiors of most of the buildings look like they have been furnished from the same Ikea catalogue.

Rather a small point when we consider this is one of the biggest selling games in the history of the Xbox 360 and has hugely influenced how cover-based shooters have been produced in the last five years. In fact there are some games released later, such as Killzone 2, which really could take more of a leaf from this well-thumbed book. In fact, for my money, there is only one game that is more influential in terms of cover based shooters and that is the game that introduced it as a core gaming mechanic (also known as Kill Switch; a game we will cover one day). I guess one of the major reasons cover works so well here is that, aside from it being absolutely necessary to survive, it’s easy to use it. The game seeks it out for you most of the time with a single (A) button press, bringing you close and allowing you to lean out to fire. Other games did that later as well… but it seems that this started here. Or was at least a game to really do it well. At the same time, enemies make frustratingly good use of the cover as well, and while not being unbeatable, can be timeconsuming to take out because of this.

One thing that I also loved about the cover controls is that it was incredibly versatile and there was always a small graphic in the bottom centre of the screen letting you know whether you are about to cover, roll or jump over a barrier. It’s small but it makes the experience of being under fire a little less annoying. The game is actually incredibly helpful, always showing a graphic when you can do a ‘special’ action, whether it’s pressing a button, kicking a door in, or taking one of several cover actions. It doesn’t feel like handholding, though, just clarification. It’s always nice to know that you are about to pick up a frag grenade instead of diving headlong into a ditch. But not as adventurous.

To come back to earlier, it took us looking up the game’s Wikipedia entry to figure out what was actually going on in the game. We knew we were there dropped on an alien plant, trying to survive and kill enemies, but why we were there and so on wasn’t as clear. Even when we found out it was an alien planet humans colonized where the alien life was under the planet surface and came out later to drive us humans out, it didn’t explain why we’d want to be there or what else was going on. Then again it didn’t really matter that Gears of War did not have an incredibly complex storyline, since to be honest shooters that have then (Halo, Perfect Dark etc) can feel a little bit weighter down by them. Instead Gears of War is free to indulge the player in some great cover-shooting with a gun that doubles as a chainsaw. Yeah, that was a surprise first time we noticed that. Awesome though. Some of the set-pieces also feel reminiscent of sci-fi and horror franchises. The entire second act comes with the caveat of ‘stay out of the shadows’ and it worked spectacularly well. It even worked in the penultimate chapter where you are having to drive a vehicle in the dead of night armed only with a pulsing UV-emitting searchlight to take out the monsters. There were several parts where (playing coop) we were shouting at each other to hurry to make it past the next section, with that leaving us replaying some sections simply by going a bit too far off the recommended path.

We played the game in coop mode – obviously, to make sure we both got the most out of the game, and because it’s really good fun. The split screen obviously has a few annoyances when playing, as it always does, but overall the game works well playing together – it felt right, with us helping each other out, and reviving each other when we ‘die’, instead of having to replay a section. Co-op modes all have their inherant difficulties and to be fair we should have attempted the campaign mode on solo as well… but there are two of us and there are not as many opportunities to play together as you would first think. So we jumped at the chance to spend our blogtime co-operating rather than an equal share of watching and playing. We will be doing the same when we get to the likes of Halo 3 so I apologise(ish) in advance. Even so, I don’t think any of the criticism we have about the game would be resolved in solo, while game design felt good enough that it would work in single player mode, where co-op helps, but isn’t required. Or lack of criticism if we’re being honest.

This will certainly be a game that is being added to both of our “to complete later” piles; a rarity for one of us. And even better, it’s a game we’ll probably love finishing together, making it that little better for both of us.

Final Thoughts

I guess we never directly answered the question of whether it was worth the re-buy… well you can decide for yourself. Bring on the sequel!

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