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Retrospective: Gears Of War

Back in 2006, Microsoft didn’t have a great deal of competition in the console market, the PS3 was yet to come out in Europe and Nintendo’s Wii was a few months off release. This was a great time for the Xbox 360 and Microsoft was working hard with a number of developers to get some new franchises off to a great start of this new generation of consoles.

Developer: Epic Games
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Reviewed on: Xbox 360
Also Available On: PC
Released: November 2006

One of these developers was Epic Games, well known for their creation of the Unreal Engine, now a must for many developers. Outside of Unreal though their big budget franchises were scarce. That was until Gears Of War.

Released in November 2006, Gears Of War had phenomenal success with both the Xbox 360 and PC releases and has since led to numerous sequels and spin-off games.

The third-person military shooter takes place on the planet Sera. Set 14 years after an event known as “Emergence Day”, when the Locust began their attack on humanity, the story follows Marcus Fenix, voiced by John DiMaggio, Futurama’s Bender himself.

Fenix is part of a military organisation named COG whose elite soldiers are known as Gears (Hence the game title). As part of a Delta Squad, you as the gamer play Fenix, with the overall mission being to end the war which has decimated the planet.

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To help you on your perilous mission is Dom Santiago, your main ally and a playable character in co-op mode. The rest of your team is made up of Damon Baird and Augustus Cole. It’s important to note that all of these characters went on to become a big part of the sequels.

The story is nothing short of Hollywood blockbuster material. We get an in depth history of the situation, the bad guys and also the main characters. Cole, for example, was a world renowned professional athlete before the war and we find out that Fenix’s dad is pivotal to the story moving forward.

Because of such a great story this game sticks with you for years to come, even years after originally playing the game it is very easy to fall straight back into their world, its absorbing, it’s interesting.

Graphically this game has aged pretty well, back in the day it was top of it’s game but even compared to some of the more recent releases, like the newest Transformers game on the PS4, Gears of War holds it’s own.

It would have been very easy for a game of this nature to fall into the same trap as, say, a zombie survival game, where the backdrops don’t vary too much from level to level and instead we get an entire game of gloomy, moody, gray background. Luckily this game was thought out, it was planned well, and we are treated to a number of beautifully rendered, fantastic looking levels, each unique from the last. From a destroyed city street to an abandoned mine, Gears never gives you a chance to get bored.

Game-play wise, Gears plays like any third-person shooter. The controls are laid out well on the Xbox controller and it’s very easy to navigate, switch weapons, aim and shoot, anyone with experience in this type of game will have no problem jumping straight into the action.

cog2

As part of the single player campaign you do have the option to play it through cooperatively, either via split-screen (something of a dying art), locally through system link or via Xbox live. This adds a level to the game-play that you wont see in many games of this kind and can add a good amount of replayability as the co-op mode brings that little bit of fun that makes you want more.

Weapon wise, the game have everything you’d expect from a game of this nature, the player can carry two primary weapons at a time as well as grenades and a pistol, trust me you’re gonna need that amount of ammo to survive, even on the easiest level against the easiest bad guys they will still take at least half a mag to floor.

The primary weapon in the game has become something of a symbol for the Gear Of War franchise, the lancer. Essentially an assault riffle with a built in chainsaw, the saw provides some interesting melee attacks while the riffle is a very effective mid-range weapon.

The solo campaign game-play may get a little repetitive as you go from level to level essentially blowing the crap out of everything you come across but it’s never dull, it’s actually quite fun. To keep things from falling into tedium though the developers have added a few different game modes, from a vehicle based level to an objective involving a turret mounted on a train shooting huge bad guys out of the sky, and it does help keep things fresh.

In addition, there are multiple times throughout the story when you will be asked to choose a path, left or right. Whilst the overall outcome is the same, these do offer you the chance to replay the missions to see whats down the other path. It’s sort of like the flawed morality system from Infamous: Second Son but it doesn’t take itself anywhere near as seriously and so can’t really be classed as any kind of a flaw, just an added extra.

The one and only issue with the game-play really is the inability to jump. There is nothing quite as annoying as the many first and third person shooters which don’t allow you to jump and sadly this game is included. That said the emphasis for this game is on duck and cover and the controls allow you to rapidly take cover and move from cover to cover with little effort.

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In addition to the co-op campaign there is a standard multiplayer function as well. Again you have the option to go split-screen, local system link or Xbox Live. The game-play is bulk standard for the game genre, team based, one on one, death match, it’s basic and doesn’t add too much to an otherwise stellar game.

The soundtrack for this game is up there with the best. As mentioned earlier, our lead protagonist Fenix is voiced by John DiMaggio, a well known voice actor and he does his usual brilliant work here, adding a lot of personality to what could have been a very one dimensional character.

Dom is voiced by Carlos Ferro, something of a voice-over veteran himself, adding voice work to everything from Assassin’s Creed to Saints Row. The rest of the cast all do their job perfectly, adding to the unique relationships between the Delta team and the supporting characters.

The ambient music throughout would be worthy of Hollywood, it’s very good and does everything it needs to do to add emotion, depth and the sense of danger to a story that pretty much already has these things covered.

Gear of War was a joy to play in 2006 and still is in 2014.

The game-play, whilst repetitive at times, still brings so much joy to the gamer, it’s genuinely fun throughout and at times you may find yourself unable to put down the controller as the story draws you in.

[tabgroup][tab title=”The Good“]
Story worthy of a Hollywood Blockbuster
Game-play is never dull

[/tab][tab title=”The Bad“]
Inability to jump is annoying
Competitive multiplayer isn’t brilliant

[/tab][/tabgroup]

Official site link

 

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A co-owner of the Palace and the Tech Guru. He also co-hosts "The Geek Show" podcast and hosts "The Unhinged Gamer" videos on TPoW TV. You can catch up by following him on Twitter or (most likely) gaming: PSN: UKMickyJay - XBOX: Micky Jay.

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