Gripped by Gears of War

I’ve been playing shooters since Wolfenstein 3D, so I’ve pretty much seen everything the genre has had to offer over the years. Sadly, the genre seems to offer less and less with each coming year. Graphics improve—dramatically at times—but real gameplay innovations are few and far between. Maybe that’s just me getting old and jaded, or perhaps expecting too much, but it’s been a long time since a shooter really captivated me.

And then along came Gears of War.

Microsoft has been hyping Gears for a long time now, and the game was essentially the company’s holiday answer to Sony’s PlayStation 3 launch, but I hadn’t actually been paying all that much attention to the title. You see, while I love my Xbox consoles for driving, fighting, and sports games, I prefer my shooters on the PC. With a keyboard and mouse in-hand, I feel like Ding Chavez, moving through levels like an invisible ninja, efficiently picking off enemies with brutally efficient accuracy.

That’s what it feels like to me, at least. Until some 15 year-old kid with lightning fast reflexes fuelled by ungodly amounts of caffeine drops me with a headshot before the twitch makes it from my brain to my mouse hand.

Still, it’s better than playing a shooter with a game controller. That reduces me from a highly trained member of an ultra black ops strike force to a clumsy, awkward, slightly drunk 10 year-old dressed up like a commando for Halloween. The precision just isn’t there—not even close—and as a result I’ve never been able to tolerate a console shooter. I’ve tried a pile of them, too, from Golden Eye to Halo. But not even Doom 3’s console-exclusive co-op mode could coax me into shooting with a game controller for much more than an hour.

Given my less than stellar experiences with console shooters, I was ready to write off Gears of War as something I just wouldn’t enjoy playing. And then I saw the commercial. You know the one: gorgeous graphics, infectious emo, giant spider monster thingy, and a chainsaw mounted to the end of an assault rifle. That commercial struck a nerve, and after reading a handful of gushing reviews, I just had to see what all the fuss was about.

Well, the reviews were right. Gears of War is a stunning achievement. The graphics are phenomenal, the mood is gritty and raw, the musical score is beautifully composed, the dialog is appropriately adult, and even cooperative gameplay is well-implemented. Gears’ in-game camera is particularly genius, creating the impression that you’re watching the game through the lens of an embedded journalist; the over-the-shoulder third person viewpoint drops and shakes as you run, as if you’re being trailed by a terrified cameraman trying to keep their head down, and sooner or later you’ll spray the lens with a healthy dose of blood from the gory evisceration of an enemy with your chainsaw.

Gameplay is where Gears really shines, though. The concept of cover isn’t a revolutionary idea—we’ve all hidden behind crates and barrels before—but gears makes cover the focus, adding a level of strategy and tactics to an otherwise straightforward shooter. Cover also adds an element of tension that isn’t always present in shooters; you spend most of your time ducking behind cover, bullets flying over your head, not so patiently waiting for your window of opportunity to pop up and drill a few rounds into the nearest enemy before diving to your next source of shelter.

Gears is all about surfing that edge between cowardice and aggression. Stick your neck out too much, get too cocky, and you’ll be savagely gunned down. Spend too much time cowering and you’ll find yourself flanked or overrun. But ride that edge between the two, and you can lose yourself on a riveting joyride that mixes just the right amount of cerebral tactics with senseless, juvenile violence.

Somewhere in the glorious mayhem that is Gears of War, I forgot that I was using an otherwise awkward game controller. A keyboard and mouse would have surely helped, but for first time I can remember, a console shooter was good enough that I just didn’t care.

Comments closed
    • Usacomp2k3
    • 12 years ago

    I for one am really enjoying this game!

    • SGT Lindy
    • 13 years ago

    I was in the same boat….played CW3d on my 286-12 all the way up to BF2 on the PC.

    Then GRAW came out for the PC, which I bought being a huge Ghost Recon/Rainbow Six Rouge Spear/Raven Shield fan…….and it was a total, bug ladden, broken…console port…steaming pile of……well you get the point.

    Anyhow I went over to a buddies house, 70 inch Samsung DLP in the basement, Xbox 360 and GRAW for the 360. Hooked up to some 5.1 sound action….well I light came down and converted me…..probably forever. Yes I felt the controls at first were hard to master….but now I dont even notice anymore.

    GRAW….Rainbow Six Vegas and Gears are are great games on teh 360…and they look great on my 56 Samsung DLP in my basment:) Add Xbox Live and games like Rainbow Six Vegas are a total blast with friends.

    I thought I would never…EVER be a console convert. But it is just to easy to pop in a game, sit down on the couch and game……patches are automatically downloded over live and installed… driver updates, hardware upgrades…OS/hardware tweaking not needed…..just game on!

    My desk stop PC sits idle…..waiting for Supreme Commander action in 6 months…..after BattleStations Midway, Forza 2, and GRAW 2 on the 360:)

    • indeego
    • 13 years ago

    10 to 12 hour gameg{

      • Corrado
      • 13 years ago

      Multi-player = buy.

        • indeego
        • 13 years ago

        No time or friendsg{<=<}g Rental

          • zqw
          • 13 years ago

          OMG no green. EDIT!!

            • indeego
            • 13 years ago

            Good Catchg{

    • sroylance
    • 13 years ago

    I haven’t been able to convince myself to buy a 360. GoW is the first, and only so far, game that has drawn my interest.

    I hope it makes it to PC eventually.

      • 13 years ago

      That won’t happen for a LONG LONG time.

        • wierdo
        • 13 years ago

        so next year? ๐Ÿ˜›

    • PerfectCr
    • 13 years ago

    Oh yeah GOW is awesome. I play almost nightly with guys from Ars, including Ben Kuchera.

    Geoff, post in our thread! We need more TR people on XBL! ๐Ÿ™‚


      • Corrado
      • 13 years ago

      I wanna play! But I never know when you guys are playing. I see you online frequently, but I never get an invite ๐Ÿ™

    • Nitrodist
    • 13 years ago

    So true about the controller turning the best of a player into a retarded version of that same player. The control for the character just isn’t there with a controller. The keyboard and mouse is much better. Even if just the mouse was on there, the control would be much, much better, at least with FPS’s.

      • lyc
      • 13 years ago

      a friend of mine is always going on about metroid prime… it’s an interesting enough game (3d sonic the hedgehog?), but /[

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