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Gears of War
  opened by paleface at 02:44:13 11/27/06  
  last modified by paleface at 02:55:57 11/27/06  
  paleface [sys=X360; cat=Shooter_3D; loc=NA]
Yet another shooter in which you play a big buff space marine fighting hideous aliens, but Gears of War at least does what it does rather well. Also, instead of the standard run-real-fast-while-shooting type of thing you find in most first and third-person (Gears is third-person) shooters since Wolfenstein 3d (see entry 648), Gears forces you to crawl from cover to cover, hiding from enemies who are pretty good shots and who, I'm told, will readily outflank you on higher difficulty levels.
All this crawling and creeping requires a bevy of new controls, which from the looks of it would take me a while to get comfortable with. You can press yourself up against a wall, spring from cover point to cover point, fire blindly around a corner, and so forth, provided you remember the right buttons. If you don't, you'll be dead pretty quick.
The levels are very heavily scripted, with you moving around in tandem with AI squadmates, and the enemy appearing in highly choreographed patterns, not to mention big ships flying overhead, radio chatter, and massive scripted explosions. The developers were clearly going for a cinematic action feeling, and you'd have to say that they got it pretty well.
There's a funky little minigame with reloading your weapons: when you reload, there's a timer bar, and if you time a second press just right, you reload extra fast, and your shots from that clip are more powerful; screw it up, though, and reloading takes extra long. I'm not sure I approve of having that kind of frivolous distraction around in the midst of a firefight, but my two friends who'd played through the game seemed to think it was worth mentioning.
The game's visual style is interesting, giving everything a very squat, heavy feel, right down to the blood, which gushes forth in big, syrupy strawberry jam gouts. The red blood stands out sharply against the largely black and white terrain; I'm told that in the game's options you can select different color schemes, too. Everything is very heavily textured in various flavors of grunge and decay. This kind of thing can, and has been, overdone, and certainly straddles that line here.
Personally I'm not so much into the "ugh me marine kill" type of military gung-ho theme you see in so many Western shooters these days, and that's certainly here in overdrive--in the cinematics, your generic grunt sounds like he smokes six packs a day. And it's not like the shoot-ugly-and-sorta-dumb-but-powerful-aliens thing hasn't been done to death, especially in shooters. Is it really that hard to come up with decently interesting characters and story?
On the other hand, the actual crouch-and-shoot gameplay is something rather new, and, together with the impressive sounds and graphics, comes across in a very visceral way that can't help but be compelling in its intense bursts of frightening violence, thematic scruples notwithstanding.
  paleface 02:48:30 11/27/06
Oh, I think my friends were also trying to describe a branching difficulty system to me. Apparently, at certain points in the levels, you'll be given a choice by an NPC as to which way you want to go: one takes you through the level's "easy" scripted path sequence, and the other takes you through the "hard" one. Kind of neat, although I always wonder, especially considering how much scripting this game has, if that development time wouldn't have been better spent on just making twice as many stages.
  paleface 02:54:48 11/27/06
Download added: 03_cinbridge.jpg (15532 bytes)
  "A bridge disintegrates in a cinematic explosion as you walk by."
Oh, one other interesting gameplay thing they did was give you a button that directs your view to nearby objects or scenes of interest. So, say you come into a room with a switch you have to throw: press the button and it will focus the camera on the switch. Or, if you're walking along, and some kind of big cinematic explosion is going to happen off to the side, you'll get a little notification, and when you push the button, it'll focus on the explosion for you. It's a pretty nice and intuitive way to offer hints and cinematic scenes without forcing the player out of play.

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