Gears of War
We really wanted to introduce this section with a game that had definitely nothing to do with Rare. Which is something tougher than you think. From Donkey Kong to GoldenEye, Rare have tried the most diverse range of genres for a single company, no matter how cute or harsh they looked. So we needed to head for the extreme. After ruling out the obscene bleeding of Dead Rising and the onanistic pleasure of DOAX2, the choice was clear. If we had to talk about a non-Rare game for the first time in the history of this site, it should be not only odd enough, but also one of the biggest launches of last month along with Viva Piñata.
I’m naturally reluctant to games that feature characters with jaws as bulky as their biceps. I’m a Rare fan, after all. But this time, the hype was so strong that it would have been negligent at least to not give it a chance. Luckily, there is plenty to be pleased about beyond those Frank Miller-style utterly coarse and bloodthirsty marines. Gears of War is one of those immersive titles that make you truly feel the fear and excitement of the scene, not to mention that it’s perhaps the most impressive game in terms of visuals in any platform yet.
Two concepts made the miracle. The cover mode and the context sensitive camera. Funnily enough, both of them will probably sound familiar to the readers of this site. Gears of War is everything about hiding tactics and the way we manage to move in the middle of a bullet-downpour. Just like Joanna did in PDZ, our muscled bastards are able to use any element of their surroundings to crouch against it and find a safe way to reach their foes. However, Epic have provided their game with a deeper and richer range of possibilities that allow us to jump between barricades, dodge obstacles, slide along the walls or run berserk through the enemy fire while the camera trembles among the shots. Everything is quick and intuitive, what makes each combat a rush of adrenaline and something certainly fun to play.
As for the camera, one single button allows us to head our attention to the most relevant thing every time. It can be our nearest friend, some device we need to use, a helicopter that is coming to pick up the unit, or maybe next horde of monsters that are ready to emerge from the subsoil. It doesn’t work perfectly all the time since it depends on our place and position, but it’s a really good trick to let the player find his way in the chaos and it can help a lot when it comes to the final bosses.
The rest is purely amazing. Gears of War makes its developer worthy of its name. Players will want to find a calm spot to delight themselves watching how raindrops flow through the trees’ bark, or the way a building collapses over the main street of a devastated city. However, few will get it. The bloody battle between Humans and the mysterious Locust persists form the beginning until the very end of the game. Gears of War is, above anything else, a war game like any other. With obvious references to the wonderful gameplay of Resident Evil 4, Epic offer an action overdose that it is still full of enjoyment for every second it lasts.
The only minor letdown in the game may be its length. The campaign mode consists of nearly ten hours of intense battles divided by five acts. Although it depends on which difficulty level has been chosen, and most players will probably be eager to try higher levels after completing the game for the first time. Even if it is just to feel better with themselves by avoiding the teasing on Xbox Live because they have beaten the game in the shameful ‘casual’ difficulty only.
In addition, Gears of War has the most entertaining co-op mode since PDZ itself, playable both offline and through Xbox Live with a friend, not to mention the inevitable online multiplayer where teams up to eight players fight in three different game modes: Execution, a team-based classic death match; Warzone, where one team has to eradicate its opponents with no revivals allowed; and Assassination, where only the opposite team leader is supposed to be killed in order to win.
Briefly, Gears of War is one of the best games available for the Xbox 360 and one of those franchises that define the console’s brand image. Every gamer should have experienced the pain of the Emergence Day at least one time in his life.