Gears of War Reader Review
Perhaps the fact that I was struggling to remember the word 'Placebo' isn't without a certain sense of irony. Here we have THE game that we've been told WILL rock our worlds and based upon that clear, inescapable instruction, how easy is it to distinguish fact from reality? How hooked are we to the media machine?
Who knows for certain, but one way I un-hook from reality is by playing far too many games for my own good, so what better way to measure Gear's success as a game than by playing it. Straightforward, huh?
Well yes and no: for me Gears starts with less of a bang and more of a mild whimper. For some reason the developers chose the opening scene to show off some of the games darkest and dullest visuals. For some reason the first few skirmishes are some of the games most straightforward. For some reason the first gun you're given is the one you'll never want to use again. For some reason you take an instant dislike to the characters (although their humour does begin to shine through as the game progresses). For some reason the sound of the guns make the uber-macho marines seem a bit..girly (although later on you come to be kind of thankful for their unobtrusiveness, given the amount of gunfire you have to listen to). For some reason.yadda yadda yadda
Now it could be argued that these traits are evident in many AAA games. Maybe you could even argue that without them, the games 'progression' would not be as evident, but this is the so called 'next-gen', right? This is where we expect things to be a little different, right? Essentially the opening hours of the game, for me, simply fall victim to the success of the marketing team. I would have hoped that Epic would've been just a little bit more conscious of this effect and made just that little bit more effort to open with a real bang - a real explosion to the senses.
Still, can't everything in life, can you?
Expectations aside, the game is certainly not without it's (many) nail-biting sequences. Diving from cover to cover is superbly implemented. Reloading is a minigame all on it's own and, for the first time in a shooter I believe, does a great job of transforming the age old tradition of pressing a button and watching an animation into an experience that can, in the heat of battle, have you on the edge of your seat. I don't think it's any co-incidence either that my fondest memories of Gears are those where I played through an area for the first time in co-op mode with someone who was a good friend.
Huzzah! TH3 R3AL N3XT GEN!
Online co-op, something we've been baited with for a while now (/slaps Bungie's face), has officially landed. I implore you to find a friend and go through the entire game on co-op if you wish to experience the true fruits of Epics labours. As with re-loading, it elevates a well-worn path into a new and fresh experience - all without the aid of motion sensing silliness. Clever, eh?
Another area where the game refreshingly surprises is multiplayer. It's easy to assume from looking at the company behind the game and its whole 'image' that online will be nothing more than ANOTHER frantic, competitive, foul-mouth-ridden moshpit, but it's actually something much more sublime.
Using cover online, again something we've had dangled in front of us for some time (/slaps Ubisoft's GRAW face), elevates what would have been a very dull 'who knows the map best' affair into something much more akin to a game of chess. Sure, map familiarity plays an important role, as ever, but the fact that you can duck into cover when under pressure AND be revived by team-mates when you're downed adds a whole new dimension to online shooting.
Now despite all my praise thus far, if I'm going to be honest: I'm still not 100% convinced by Gears. There's something that nags at the back of my mind, expecting something more. Now that's either because the game is, in some subtle way, not quite put together properly, or it's a media induced hangover that will pass in time.
/takes a marine-size dose of glorious graphics to ease the pain
Is it next-gen? What is next-gen? A true evolution or a catchy phrase that's dusted down every 5 years or so?
Me, I couldn't give a rat's ass either way: as a diehard shooter I can confidently say that it does add new flavours to a very traditional recipe and bakes it all up into one of the finest looking cakes you're ever likely to see.
/wipes crumbs from chin
8 / 10