Top critical review
Blood, bullets, and chainsaws.
on June 30, 2014
EPIC is a studio best known for titles like Unreal Tournament: an FPS multiplayer juggernaut that almost every PC Gamer has played in the last decade. Trying their hand at third person shooters, Gears Of War is their take on the genre, and it's abundantly clear the team who developed Gears Of War had the art direction of the Unreal games.
Emergence Day - the day that changed everything. Humanity is on the brink of distinction: cities reduced to husks by orbital weapons used in an attempt to crush humanities greatest enemy: the Locust, a subterranean race of 'monsters' rising up to take the surface. Civilization is but a few steps away from annihilation, and it's up to one, final plan to put an end to it.
The story of Gears Of War is the weakest of the trilogy. The first game lacks any sort of character development, or even introduction. The easiest thing to do when approaching the story is to look at it like a Michael Bay movie: full of explosions and bullet fire, but lacking much else to keep you interested.
You play as Marcus Fenix: a court-marshalled soldier who cost the COG a battle by disobeying orders and trying to save his Father, a scientist. Released from prison, he's sent to recover a device called a resonator with which to map the locust tunnels so the army can deliver a decisive blow to their subterranean enemy.
The biggest problem with the story is really the lack of exposition. Everyone seems to know what's going on but you. Players who haven't completed the three game voyage will be left wondering what the hell is going on most of the time, and after having played it three times when I first got the game back in 2006, I distinctly remember just that: confusion. WHat was going on? Why did Alpha squad go to a city that's no where near the objective they were told to go to? The whole story of the first game is just shoddy. It feels too much like you're being dropped into the middle of a story where everything has already been explained so you have some semblance of an idea of what's happening - but there isn't, other than a vague one minute cutscene at the beginning of the game.
Gears Of War shines in it's gameplay. It's cover system was something impressive back during it's release in 2006, and today the mechanics still hold up well. Marcus controls well, the AI is intelligent enough to make use of cover, or act aggressively depending on the situation. The guns feel good, vibrating every time you fire a round. Blowing enemies to pieces with the shotgun, or sticking them with a grenade, or ripping them apart with a chainsaw on the end of your gun is brutal, gory and satisfying all at once, and active reloading (which not only increases reload times if done correctly, but increases the damage for the bullets reloaded) is one of the more creative mechanics I've ever seen in a video game.
However, the games biggest failing is probably it's level design, which is so drab that it makes multiple playthroughs of the game nearly possible to enjoy. The colour pallet is varying shades of brown and grey, and ugly. Everything looks washed out, and the blood looks ridiculous. Understandably they were trying to paint a grim picture: but since the first game, the second and third Gears Of War have proven that the game can still look grim while managing to be more colourful at the same time.
Everything has a bombed out look to it: which is fine, however the scenery quickly gets very, very repetitive. Another problem is the lack of diversity in the enemies and guns. Enemies deploy the same tactics, over and over. Seldom is there a decent blend of enemy units to combat, and in a game where most of the time you're firing a gun at enemies, it makes for boredom after several hours of fighting the same things over and over again.
The multiplayer suffers from a slew of issues: such as a timed delay in shots, absolutely no tactical depth, and only a tiny handful of weapons are actually useful within the MP, all blended together to make an experience that isn't very fun or engaging for anyone but the dedicated fans.
----GRAPHICS & AUDIO----
In 2006, Gears Of War was the best looking game ever. And today, it's still an impressive looking title. However, the level design really hurts the ability to appreciate it. The design they used for blood looks, well, silly, and not at all like blood. Rendered on the Unreal Engine means, unfortunately, that textures are very slow loading. Often times the games cutscenes will be almost texture less while the engine renders them, leaving things looking ugly and at a rather frequent rate.
The games soundtrack has plenty of beautiful scores that'll stay with you over the years, music that'll get you excited to butchered your way through enemies with the chainsaw-tipped Lancer. Unfortunately, the audio department falls flat when it comes to voice acting: most of the dialogue is delivered in a flat, monotone with little excitement, and some of the characters who are on screen the least are those who often have the best voice acting, which is a shame.
In 2006, Gears Of war was a must have in any Xbox 360 owners collection. Upon sober reflection years later though, looking back it wasn't a very good game. The Multiplayer was a disaster, and the level design really sucked the replayablity out of the campaign. The story was weak. It's only saving grace was the core mechanics it established for the rest of the series. Still, it is a game definitely worth going through once or twice, and at the current price it's definitely worth picking up.