Immersed In The Gears Of War
November 22, 2006
So I guess I’m a geek, since I knew last week (Nov. 15) marked the five-year anniversary of the popular video game Halo. Most of you probably didn’t know or care to know that little tidbit. But even so, if you’re not a gamer or don’t follow video games at all, if you’ve kept up with the news in the past few years you would know that Halo is one of the most popular video games ever made. I loved Halo, then Halo 2. In fact, fellow MidWeek writer Chad Pata interviewed my husband and me about Halo 2 for his video game story back in 2004. At the time we were in the midst of planning our wedding, but still made Halo 2 a close second priority.
That all may sound purely psychotic to you, but as a gaming couple we have our priorities! Although I’ve played a variety of countless games after Halo 2, and even reviewed some of them in my previous columns, the next one to hit the Halo popularity mark with the rest of the world is Gears of War. It landed on the store shelves a couple of weeks ago, and was an instant success.
Gears of War was developed by Epic Games exclusively for Microsoft Game Studios and the Xbox 360. In this third-person tactical action/horror game, you live in the shoes of Marcus Fenix, and you’re seeking a personal redemption while leading your fire team against boatloads of monsters. In general, it’s a story of humankind’s epic battle for survival against the Locust Horde, a race of scary humanoid creatures that surface at you from underground.
The gameplay makes you feel like you’re running around in a horror movie, and the game uses the new Unreal Engine 3 to create high-definition visuals that will wow you. The graphics rendering is so top-notch that you can see the tiniest detail. The characters look extremely lifelike in their facial movements, skin tone, body armor, etc.
“Gears of War has the best graphics of any game I’ve seen, period,” says gamertag “Disastro Slick,” an avid Gears of War player (asked to be identified only by his tag). “The TV commercials you see do not come close to giving it justice. You need to see it in 1080i resolution to believe it,” he adds.
As you’re playing the game, you have to make sure you’re always taking cover, otherwise you will quickly die. The game allows you to quickly do this, and as with any other first-person shooter game, I like to use the sniper weapons and aim at the monsters’ heads, stopping them more quickly than shooting at their torsos. I also enjoy using the grenade launcher if there’s a bunch of them coming at me at once. Other weapons include the snub pistol (sidearm), Gnasher Shotgun, Lancer Assault Rifle (with a unique chainsaw bayonet used in close proximity of an enemy) and the Hammer of Dawn (capable of leveling a building).
“My favorite aspect of the game is the intuitive system used for ducking for cover and quickly jumping from one spot to the next,” says Bill Bal, another avid Gears of War player. “This allows for a skilled player to approach sniper posts without exposing themselves to the one-shot kills that are common in other first-person shooters. The intuitive system keeps the game from degrading into a slow-paced hide-and-seek match, and gives a skilled player a tremendous advantage to those accustomed to long-range engagements,” he adds. Bal (gamertag Arkim) is a seasoned gamer, and even sacrificed some World of Warcraft time to play with Gears of War.
Gears of War also offers you two difficulty settings right off - casual and hardcore. When you beat the game (all five acts’worth), a third setting is unlocked - insane. Once you hit this level, it’s way harder than the other two, but it builds your skills. When you start off, I would suggest putting it on the hardcore level and play in the co-op mode with someone else or on Xbox Live. It makes things a little easier and fun.
Overall, I think Gears of War has raised the bar for how this genre of console games should appear from here on out. This is a must-buy game if you own an Xbox 360, and if you’re of the appropriate maturity level/age. Gears of War is definitely a game for the older player, with its ESRB rating of M for Mature. It will cost you about $60 at your closest GameStop (www.gamestop.com) or CompUSA (www.compusa.com).
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