Genre: Action Developer: Epic Games Publisher: Microsoft Classification: TBC Release Date: 17th Nov 2006 Platforms:XBOX360
Average of 45 Ratings
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The Good bits
Simply the best action game of all time
A stunning validation of next gen hardware's potential
Amazing multiplayer experiences
The Bad stuff
Instantly makes ĺ of your game library look obsolete
Action game of the decade.
You read right.
GTA? Don't think so. CounterStrike, Battlefield or Halo? Not even.
Want to know why? Each of these games, and any other righteous gamer's choice for the best game in the last decade crown is too damn hard, looks too dated, or requires too much time.
"Too much time for whom?"
"Too dated for whom?"
"Too damn hard for whom?"
There's a simple answer to all three of these questions. Go to the beach, the shopping centre, to a local gig, to school/uni/your workplace. The masses.
The group of mates who will happily fork out 15 bucks to sit in a dark cinema for a couple of hours with people they don't know because it's "sociable". The wannabe too cool for school delusionals who pretend they don't know what videogames are whenever they're brought up in conversation. The folks whose grasp of technology is limited to playing solitaire and using MSN Messenger.
It's not like these people are luddites, they are just waiting to be shown why they should jump into gaming. Well folks, here it is. Gears of War is gaming's finest mainstream moment to date (see the first side box) and itís likely to generate some controversy as well (see our second side box).
Lord of the Rings.
All smash hits that have become standard fare for people's movie collections. And while Lord of the Rings had majestic marketing dollars, all these were big gambles. Science fiction and fantasy used to occupy the mind space that games currently does with the mainstream. The "it-looks-cool-but-its-something-my-mate/boyfriend/brother -is-more-interested-in" space. Flash forward to now. Ask anyone walking down the street if they've seen the Matrix nowadays. Thought so.
Gears of War is gaming's Star Wars. If games like Grand Theft Auto, Half Life and World of Warcraft were the games industry getting itself recognised by their entertainment siblings, Gears of War is the coming out party. The jump from being invited to the after party to hitting the red carpet.
Marketing is part of it, but it's more than that. This matches the hype. The bus posters, the cinema ads (probably the best game ad ever as well). Gears of War doesn't rely on a flashy custom controller or prop to make it mainstream friendly. It doesn't rely on servers packed to the gills with hundreds of players around the world to generate its thrills, it does it the hard way. It takes on film. And for the first time ever, gaming wins.
Developers Epic Games understand making an interactive cinematic experience doesn't mean trying to make your game cross multiple genres. You keep it simple, stupid. And that's what Gears of War is. A gorgeous bimbo of a game focusing squarely on loads of action, minimal puzzle solving, and the best audiovisual presentation ever seen in a videogame.
It's Aliens. It's Rambo and Arnie; Jean Claude van Damme and Dolph Lundgren in Universal Soldier, minus the splits. It's the gaming version of the flat out action film. It doesn't dwell on metaphysics. You won't find Marcus Fenix crouched a-la Rodin's Thinker, anguished about the time he spent in the brig or the countless lives lost. Fenix doesn't play around. He's got so much testosterone in him that he could have qualified for the 90's Chinese female swim team. His favourite expressions are "sweet" and "nice", usually tied directly to picking up ammo or offing the bad guy Locust horde. He's got just enough character to make him interesting, without detracting from the fact that this story is essentially about slaughtering the alien invaders who have taken over your home.
If Marcus Fenix sounds like a generic game-guy to you, you're on the right track. But Gears of War is done with so much style that Marcus gets elevated from being just an anonymous cipher to a sardonic anti-hero of the classic mould. Epic seem to realise the value of specific excellence. You don't need to make Marcus everyman. That just complicates things. Make him a stripped down macho man who doesn't explain jack. And when your game looks like it's one long CG movie, you get away with it, anyway.
That's right - we all expected Gears of War to look good, but this is just a ridiculously beautiful advertisement for next generation gaming. The only nitpick I could have so far is that the facial detail is perfect, but animation could be more. It's your own fault, Epic - now I want to see cheeks puffing out air, I want more forehead creasing, I want to see sweat cutting rivulets through the grime of combat. This is probably something for the generation beyond this, but apart from this ultra small request, I'm at a loss for how Epic could top this for visual splendour. And while the humanoid models are exquisite, the larger than human monsters are just crazy in size and detail. Try and find a jagged edge or a sketchy texture in this game - I've spent all weekend without any luck. And the visual effects. Good lord. This is how third person games should be played. And for the first time ever, first person shooter fans won't be wishing they could go view through Marcus's eyes. Apart from the screen shaking explosions, bullet marks and fury of battle, the way the camera is managed is simply masterful. Sprinting switches from the already uber-atmospheric standard camera tracking to a crouched, jolting tracking cam that brings to mind footage from embedded journalists on the run in Iraq and terrified camera crews during 9/11. Go into cover and the angles again work for you, rather than against. And just in case you're a bit kooky on the sticks, pressing the Y button allows you to switch vision to the most important thing going on.
But the real star of the show isn't Marcus, it isn't the chopper overflight vehicles - sweet as they are. It's not the awe-inspiring, elevated heartbeat inducing monsters. And it's not the superb, Hollywood-quality effects and camera. The showstopper is the environment. The carnage of Sera, the shattered ruins of a once majestic world is something that's never been realised so fully before. There's so much beauty in this game from an architectural standpoint. Interactivity with it - well, that's another matter which we discuss below. That aside, your playing area has never looked so good. Simply put: this ... game ... looks ... real. There's been nothing out there that even comes close.