Gears of War, the game that started everything! Gears of War was released in 2006 and stood as one of the most compelling reasons to purchase an Xbox 360. Gears of War received rave reviews and has a metacritic score of 94 out of 100. Gears of War won numerous awards in 2006 including IGN's "Best Overall Multiplayer Experience" award, Gamespy's "Best Console Multiplayer" award, and Gamepsot's "Game of the Year" award. Gears of War also sold over 3 millions copies within 10 weeks of release and was the very first Xbox or Xbox 360 game to rank in Japan's top 10 sellers.
To this day the original Gears of War is referred to by many as the best in the Gears of War series and is still played online by many. Now it's 2013, almost 7 years later, and the fourth Gears of War game is just one week away. For many, the free Gears of War code that comes with the purchase of Gears of War Judgment will introduce them to a somewhat new experience and for other's a tasty bite of nostalgia candy. Will taking a ride on this old roller coaster feel too jagged and dated to enjoy or has Gears of War seen enough structure and polish to fair well in the test of time? I intend to answer that question in my Gears of War 2013 Review!
Gears of War's graphics are no longer a spectacle in most cases, but there are a couple levels that still stand as visually appealing. The game's frame rate is often times horrendous and the game sees frequent texture pop in, especially in the cutscenes.
The Campaign's plot takes place 14 years after the Locust first invaded the surface of planet Sera. The game starts off with Marcus Fenix being pardoned from prison. Marcus Fenix is quickly thrown into the Locust vs Human battle and he becomes acquainted to a few new faces, such as the smart mouth brainiac, Baird and the ex superstar athlete, Cole. Throughout the game little info as to who these characters are is given, and as a result it's hard to make any human connection. Throughout the Campaign the main objective is to find intel on the Locust tunnels so that the COG can launch a devastating attack on the Locust Horde. The story doesn't do much in providing an emotional reason to move forward. You don't yet know the motives of the Locust and much of the dialog is brief non informative tough guy small talk.
Throughout the Campaign you will see plenty of action and death. The variety of enemy types is relatively minimal though, the most prominent of which being the wretches a four legged dog type creature that can climb on walls and pummel you with fearsome melee attacks. The most exciting of the enemy encounters are the boss type battles. There are a few battles that were intense and thrilling thanks to the well, yet relatively simplistic level design and scale of the enemies you encounter. Overall the level design is straight forward, nothing too clever to experience, often times it's just a matter of "Hey, flank over there!" kind of deal.
There are a few moments in the Campaign where you have to make your way around a turret called the "Troika" and these can be a bit weird. Sometimes the enemy piloting the Troika will make awkward movements illustrating a sense of confusion. Sometimes even when a clear shot to the Trioka pilot is given, you are still unable to inflict damage.
Awkward movements are seen frequently throughout as the person sized humanoid enemy AI are not only capable of doing things the player can't, but they often times get confused in the process. For the most part the enemy AI is competent, and they usually do what they are supposed to do. A rather large drawback from the Campaign especially if playing on the harder difficulties are the checkpoints...often times you will have to listen to dialog and watch cutscenes over again because the checkpoints are usually placed right before them. having to relisten to the same lines and being tempted to skip cutscenes over and over again becomes a nuisance.
The Campaign does experience some decent pacing, not only are the objectives unique compared to one another, but they can lead to a variety of action. There is an interesting and tense vehicle level, a level in which the main goal is to stay out of the darkness, and even a clunky level where you ride in a mining cart. The Campaign does have you see a variety of locales each of which have a style distinct to Gears of War..the design even to this day creates an interesting atmosphere. Overall the Campaign is easily enjoyable with good pacing, tight gameplay, and a bit of variety..but the Campaign is very short and lacks in story.
Gears of War Campaign is accompanied by a good soundtrack and immersing sound effects. Strangely though, the Lancer and Hammerburst sound the exact same which is odd considering the huge difference in manufacturer.
The weapons all feel forceful and with the gushing blood, popping skulls, and juicy dismemberment killing grubs is as satisfying as ever. The aspect of the gameplay that feels the most outdated is the cover system and movement. While the controls make it easy to pop in and out of cover, the fluidity and immediacy of the movement that we've become accustomed to in the recent years is absent. Hopping over cover for example, sees significant slowdown reminiscent of low gravity landings.
Campaign can be played cooperatively with one buddy and the experience is heightened rather than hindered by this feature. Replacing the companion AI for a live companion feels appropriate as the game seems designed with co-op in mind.
Gears of War also offers competitive multiplayer. There are 4 game modes, Execution, Warzone, Assassination, and Annex.
Execution and Warzone are both 4v4 single elimination game modes in which the objective is simply to kill the other team. The only difference between the two are the rules related to bleeding out. In Execution when downed you must be executed before being killed and if not executed within an given amount of time you may stand back up and continue fighting. Warzone is more straight forward as getting down only provides an opportunity to be revived by a teammate, but you can be shot to death before rescue. Execution and Warzone play out the best as most of the maps seemed to be designed with single elimination game modes in mind.
Annex is another 4 versus 4 game mode with an objective, the objective is to capture the rings and earn enough points to win the match. After each death you are able to respawn. Spawn times are determined by a timer. Dying can be a cruel punishment as the timer makes death feel like a time out.
Assassination is the last game mode and its pits two teams of 4 against each other with each team having a designated leader, I can't comment much on this game mode as I couldn't play the game mode online online due to the game's population.
The competitive multiplayer brings over much of the satisfaction of the Campaign. With all the gore, the fun cover system, and powerful weapons the multplayer can at times be more satisfying than the Campaign. Being able to do what you did in Campaign to real people is a devilish delight.
The biggest drawbacks from the multiplayer experience are the poorly balanced weapons, host settings, a bevvy of glitches, and mostly manual matchmaking. Instead of just searching in the game mode and playlist you want to play, you have to hand pick the host, wait for both the lobby to fill up and for the host to initiate the match. There is the advantage of being able to choose the connection that's best for you and the matches can vary in ruleset which does add some entertainment, but finding a match can become tedious.
Once in a match, connection and weapon balancing irritate the flow of the gameplay. Hosting a match gives you a very different experience as the immediacy of your shots registering with game put the Host at a big advantage. There also isn't any host migration so Host has all of the power in the matches in more than one sense.
The weapon that stands out the most to me and doesn't seem suitable for the game with it's current settings is the Longshot. The Longshot can down an opponent in one shot from virtually any distance on the map given you achieve a perfect active reload, this feels out of place because the weapon serves as a far easier approach than any other weapon. The characters are large, slow, and restricted in movement, hitting one shot is very easy. Getting downed multiple times from the same player using a Longshot can quickly become irritating.
Another large balancing issue is the melee. If successfully meleeing an opponent the opponent goes into a long stun, this stun usually inhibits the opponent long enough to do whatever you want, this leads to a tactic that is often times more effective than actually using the deadly weapons, even the shotgun, which specializes in close quarters combat. The melee even does such a significant chunk of damage that it's powerful enough to down an opponent even if the opponent is simply grazed.
Overall Gears of War's Co-op mode is great fun given you enjoy the style of the game and there is some fun to be had with the competitive multiplayer, the maps are designed well, and the gameplay and weapons are satisfying enough to make just about any mode fun. The lack of matchmaking, host migration, proper weapon balancing, and a bevvy of glitches bring down the quality of the competitive multiplayer quite a bit.
There is no doubt that the first Gears of War had a huge impact both in culture and the gaming industry. Gears of War created such a splash that ripples are still being created toady even beyond just the established franchise. While the game is now relatively simplistic, and much of the game's mechanics and technical design are no longer impressive, the game is still enjoyable to this day. Using Gears o War's big brutish characters to splash your enemies blood and guts over the floor still has a good sense of satisfaction. Even the competitive multiplayer offers something to enjoy because of the core that is Gears of War. With all things being said, Gears of War's age is immediately apparent throughout all aspects of the game, but I'm not sure if Chainsawing, Popping Skulls, and Gibbing with the Gnasher will ever be too old to enjoy. I give Gears of War a 4 out of 10.
Gears of War 2, EPIC games second installment in the Gears of War franchise was released in November of 2008. Gears of War 2 was yet another critically acclaimed entry in EPIC game's Gears of War series. Soon after Gears of War 2's release the game had set a new record for the number of simultaneous players on Xbox Live, with over 1 million people logging on to play the game at one time. The opening weekend of Gears of War 2's release saw the game topping 2 millions units sold. Gears of War 2 won multiple awards at it's announcement at E3 and walked away dubbed "The Best Xbox 360 Game of 2008" in Spike TV's Video Game Awards. Gears of War received a metacritic score of around 93 out of 100 and is still played online today.
Now it's almost 5 years later and the 4th entry in the Gears of War franchise is right around the corner. How have the years treated our old pal Gears of War 2? We'll see in my 2013 Gears of War 2 Review!
Chainsaw duels, meatshields, 5v5, and the original Horde, Gears of War 2 was the dawn of a handful of great features for the Gears of War franchise and although not the first, seemingly the trend starter of the co-operative wave based combat we've seen a few times throughout the shooter game genre since it's release. Gears of War 2's Campaign takes Marcus and Dom on an unexpected adventure with a few very emotional moments. Gears of War 2 also is fully featured with many ways to enjoy online multiplayer.
Gears of War 2 looks great even by today's standards. Despite the game coming out in 2008, you will have a hard time finding many games with such appealing technical design on the Xbox 360. Character models looks great, seeing Marcus Fenix land on some cover while grinding his teeth is still pretty impressive. What's even more awe inspiring are the vistas. Gears of War 2 offers a great deal of variety when it comes to places to see and at times, the environments can be jaw dropping. At times the game even features battles against multitudes of enemies, with seemingly near one hundred Locust appearing on screen at once. The graphical details in Gears of War 2 does show it's age from time to time though, things such as 2D smoke, underdeveloped textures, enemies spawning in clear site, and awkward looking animations do a good job at reminding you how long ago this game was released. Overall though, the graphics can still compare to some of Xbox 360's newer releases.
Story: Gears of War 2's campaign starts off 6 months after the happenings of Gears of War. At the beginning of the game you are immediately introduced to first for the series characters, Benjamin Carmine and Tai Kaliso. The main plot is centered around Delta Squad digging deeper into the Locust Hollow to finally neutralize the threat. Alongside the main plot Dom is undergoing his own personal mission to find his wife Maria. The story is well written and a few scenes were masterfully executed. These standout scenes were powerful most in part because of the incredible voice acting and cinematic camera. While Marcus remains badass and distant, the story explores dom's heart and the voice actor really stole the show in a lot of the scenes. Gears of War 2's story had some unexpected twist and provided a world for us to gain interest in. While the story explains plenty, it is also filled with mystery.
Gears of War 2's cover system still feels fluid and the weapons all feel powerful and are satisfying to use, with or without gore. Gears of War 2's campaign is paced well, with many things pulling you away from the standard shooting. You will get to ride in an assortment of vehicles, get an opportunity to use a variety of weapons, and commit to both unexpected and unique objectives. When you aren't in the middle of the ongoing war, the game provides you with some basic yet interesting puzzles. These puzzles take good advantage of the cover system and blended well with the story. There are a few minor drawbacks to Gears of War 2's overall gameplay, the companion AI often times take a long time to revive you when downed in the campaign, and every once in a while the companion AI doesn't seem to even acknowledge your existence. Also, Chainsawing can get a bit ridiculous as getting shot while attempting to rev the chainsaw will bring you into stunned animation, even long after the stun animation has ceased and enemy fire discontinued you will be brought back to the same animation if attempted to rev the chainsaw again within a few seconds, this gameplay mechanic feels weird and can hinder your oh so delicious chainsaw massacre without merit.
The entire Campaign can be played cooperatively with one friend and horde can be played cooperatively up to 5 players. The Campaign's coop mode feels appropriate and joining a friends match is seamless.
The Horde mode pits you up against 50 waves of increasingly difficult Locust with a boss wave every tenth wave. Horde mode can get very hard even if played on the easiest difficulty. The difficulty adds value to the mode as it requires both skill and teamwork although with every ten waves consisting of the same formula as the first ten, Horde mode can get repetitive.
Gears of War 2's competitive modes allow you to take your favorite weapons and mechanics from the single player campaign and use them to compete against real people, however some of the fluidity is lost in transition. Gears of War 2's competitive multiplayer feels slow, choppy, and sticky as the movement speed is pegged down significantly from the Campaign and internet connection is so prevalent in the multiplayer.
There are 6 multiplayer modes beyond the campaign and all of the multiplayer modes share the same maps. The uniform maps can serve as an inhibitor to a few of the multiplayer modes. Wingman for example sees 5 teams of 2 in a single elimination style deathmacth, but because of the core map design and odd number of teams, certain teams can be spawned at a disadvantage. Despite certain modes feeling unsuitable, Gears of War 2's multiplayer maps are numerous, distinct, and well designed.
All of the multiplayer modes beyond Campaign share a ranking system. This ranking system uses experience points to rank up from level 1 to level 100. When reaching level 100 your number is replaced with a cool looking emblem. Overall the ranking system is pretty boring, but it adds value to the multiplayer.
Quitting is a big issue in any online game and to combat this bots are used as replacements when a player leaves a Social or Ranked Match. The bots are a very frustrating solution as they never miss and are capable of doing things the player can't. Another frustrating solution to the war on quitting is the removal of the option itself. In Gears of War 2 you are not even given the option to quit in Ranked matches..now while this may sound like a good thing, there are rare instances in which quitting wouldn't be frowned upon but alas you still have to restart your game in order to abandon a match. One thing that wasn't done to aid the war on quitting was host migration. If the Host of a match leaves, it's game over. This is but one the the annoyances with the host' influence, in Gears of War 2 the Host of a match has a huge advanatge due to both the lack of dedicated servers and the hit detection. The hit detection is extremely inconsistent. Even when playing on your own host, it isn't very rare to see an enemy surviving a blow that should be lethal.
The Gnasher, (Gears of War's most popular competitive multiplayer weapon) happens to be the most poorly balanced. The Gnasher is such a powerful weapon that it trumps both the sniper rifle and assault rifles at mid range combat. At times you may find yourself being downed by the Gnasher at distances you didn't even know possible.
Another big negative in the competitive multiplayer experience is a condition the game refers to as "Stopping Power". This condition takes place when taking enemy fire. This condition is present to keep players from rushing, but instead it inhibits all movement. Even if you're rolling to the side or trying to take cover, "Stopping Power" slows you down.
The multiplayer stands as the most outdated aspect of the Gears of War 2 package. While the cooperative and competitive modes of Gears of War 2 can still be enjoyed thanks to a good cover system, great weapons, and good graphics, many of the subtleties that we've come to expect from a modern online shooter are absent. The overall online functionality leaves much to be desired.
It's been some time since Gears of War 2 was released, but time has been friendly to much of the experience. The Campaign is still great fun thanks to well pacing, good writing, and great voice acting. Things such as painfully corny dialog, awkward animations, minor technical flaws, and limited coop capacity does bring down the Campaign experience a couple pegs though. The competitive multiplayer provides some enjoyment, but is easily behind the times. I give Gears of War 2 a 6.5 out of 10.
Gears of War 3, EPIC Games third installment in the Gears of War franchise and final Gears of War to focus on the Marcus and Dom heavy story arc that was introduced in the original Gears of War. Gears of War 3 was critically acclaimed, receiving awards in 2011 from the likes of IGN, G4, and Gamespot, and had sold over 3 million copies within the first week of release.
Now it's 2013 and Gears of War Judgment is right around the corner! This is my 2013 Gears of War 3 review!
What stands out the most in the graphics department are the detail and lighting effects. Thanks to all the detail in the character models and maps, the game really pops. The lighting is at times just outright spectacular. Seeing a large Lambent explode is a sight to behold. There is no doubt that very few games will be able to compare in the graphics department on the aged Xbox 360 console.
CAMPAIGN & STORY:
Gears of War 3's campaign starts off with Marcus waking up from a freaky dream, stuff quickly gets real when the ex Chairman Prescott arrives and gives Marcus a data disc containing information presented by his father, immediately after a new wave of Lambent start an attack on C N V Sovereign, the COG remnants refuge at sea. After a few battles and shift in perspective, Delta Squad embark on a mission to uncover the mystery that is the Lambent, Adam Fenix, and the Locust.
Throughout the Campaign, you get to delve into the life that once was and the mind that now is Augustus Cole. These parts of the Campaign are accompanied by some fun banter between Cole and his fans, and a cool scene in which you get to relive the olden days first hand. What I found particularly interesting was how the scene in which you relive Cole Train's thrashballer days, but in modern times was executed..rather than being pulled out of the experience and being forced to focus on quicktime events you're just restricted in control and see what happens. Some quicktime events in other games would be better replaced with that system.
The plot is interesting and emotional, especially for a fan of the franchise. Common banter between squad-mates makes for an experience that demands your attention and frequently rewards you for doing so with an entertaining script. Even when playing through the Campaign solo, you never feel alone as your squad's frequent chatter brings the atmosphere to life. The script's well writing is accompanied by some great voice acting.
This episode of the series is action packed, urgent, and intense...you can always feel the serious matter at hand.
The Campaign's gameplay is excellently paced, with each battle tossing unique combinations of a variety enemies, new possible approaches to battle, and a variety of things to interact with..and it all feels natural. Never do it seem the gameplay had variety just for variety's sake. Much of the variety is thanks to the thoughtful level design and clever writing, both ends worked well together and brought to the table a nice blend. The well paced and full of variety gameplay is accompanied by vastly differentiating locales and scenery. Virtually no level feels the same.
By the end of Gears of War 3's campaign, you'll feel like you went through a lot, both in regards to action and drama. The plot and writing may not be the most sophisticated of drama or pushing the edge of our way of thinking, but it does well and it's certainly a loveable story.
Gears of War 3's soundtrack has a few attention grabbing scores and overall does well in adding to the experience. The sound effects all sound great and the voice acting is often ties superb.
What aspect of Gears of War 3 stands out the most is the multiplayer. Not only is the Campaign worth a play and is bound to invoke enjoyment, but there is much more to see with Gears of War 3. Gears of War 3's multiplayer modes are plenty, designed well, and for the most part play out well too.
Thanks to dedicated servers you may be able to have a match lag free, depending on when you choose to play and your region. Modes like Horde and Beast are co-operative and pit you up against increasingly difficult AI, Arcade mode allows you and some friends play through the Campaign, but this time with a scoreboard, and finally modes like Team Deathmatch, Execution, and King of the Hill are competitive game modes where two teams of 5 compete to win an objective.
There are a handful of multiplayer modes, spanning in over 20 playlist. A wide character selection, unlockables such as medals, weapon skins, and executions, and a ranking system help add to the multiplayer experience.
The ranking system is based off of experience points. The more you play and the higher you score, the more experience points you earn. Experience points can be earned in virtually any mode. You start off at level 1 and make your way up to level 100, once you attain rank 100, your number is replaced with an emblem and you are asked to "Re-up". The re-up system works much like the infamous prestige system found in Call of Duty, but instead of having to lose all your unlockables and gain a unique emblem, you gain a new weapon skin and your emblem and numbers change colors. With each re-up your numbered rank and even the rank 100 emblem has a new color...this system encourages you to keep playing, but the reward is lackluster as the final emblem looks so identical to the first that many will not even notice you are at the highest level.
Horde mode can be played up to 5 players. Horde mode pits you and your team up against 50 increasingly difficult waves of Locust. Every tenth round, you face a boss wave. At the beginning of each round you are able to fortify your position, things such as barb wire and turrets can assist you in defeating the Locust Horde. The more you fortify, the better fortifications you are able to build.
Beast mode faces you and up to 4 friends up against the COG and stranded. You can choose from more than a handful locust to dispatch your prey. The Locust operate much differently than the COG as you might presume, but even the humanoid class Locust can't regain health like the COG Heroes unless healed by a Kantus. It's especially fun to take control over a tinker and try get close enough to enemy AI to surprise them with an explosion. Locust like the Berserker and Armored Kantus are reserved for later, as you have to earn points to unlock them for use...unlocking the highest class locust group is usually quick and playing as these Locust is great fun. Beast is best played with human teammates, the timer is the same in both co-operative play and single play, you may have a difficult time making it past the levels even on the easiest difficulty.
Gears of War 3 has 7 competitive game modes, Execution, Warzone, Team Deathmatch, King of the Hill, Capture the Leader, Guardian & Wingman...with a few variations separated into different public playlist. All game modes can be played up to 10 players online with up to two players split screen.
Execution and Warzone are single elimination game modes and they feel the most appropriate given the multiplayer map design.
Team Deathmatch is a popular game mode seen across many video games, but in Gears of War 3 instead of racing to get a certain amount of kills both team are allotted a life pool, the life pool counts down and can make for some intense clutch moments.
The maps in Gears of War 3 don't seem to be suited for the Team Deathmatch game mode. On maps like Mercy and Bloodrive spawn protection last long enough to provide a safe way to as far as the middle of the map. this becomes a problem as spawn protection can get in the way of some expert strategies. Spawn protection shouldn't even exist during the initial spawn to each match as it only gets in the way. On maps like Mercy, Azura, & Drydock due to the central high ground on each of the maps you frequently end up in matches in which you are struggling simply to get near an opponent. Opposing teams can easily take point on these high grounds and watch over one of the two possible spawns and make it very hard to do anything besides be a target. Thanks to both the size and structure of each map, Team Deathmatch usually only takes advantage of binary spawns, this leads to already mentioned spawn trapping. Most of the Team Deathmatch matches only take advantage of a binary spawn system and because of this you are limited to spawning according to a timer..this timer eliminates the immediacy we see in TDM in other shooters..the timer can also become frustrating if you intend on changing your loadout during the match..sometimes you may be aiming to switch your loadout just to get interrupted by the spawning timer and thanks to both the timer and the counter intuitive loadout selection UI, you may frequent find yourself spawning with the wrong weapon. Game modes like King of the Hill and Capture the Leader see similar issues although with there being an objective besides kill the enemy team they aren't as prevalent.
King of the Hill pits your team of 5 against another team of five to see who can reach the score goal by sustaining control over the glowing rings..the glowing rings move from place to place within a round, giving your team plenty of opportunities to start fresh and do a better job at capturing the ring.
Capture the Leader is another 5 on 5 game mode in which one player on each team is designated the Leader. The objective is to capture the other team's leader and hold hold him or her until the timer runs out.
Guardian is a game mode that designates one player on each team of 5 as the leader, the objective is to kill the enemies leader and the rest of the team. If the leader is still alive after you kill a player on the other team, that player can respawn. .Once the enemies team leader is dead, the opposing team can no longer respawn. Playing as the Leader in both Capture the Leader and Guardian is great fun, because you are granted special abilities such as being able to see enemies through walls.
Wingman sees you and a partner facing up against 3 teams of 2 as you all try to be the first team to reach the score objective. Wingman can provide some intense action and compel you to keep the formula of other teams in mind. As you are approaching victory, tiny details like what teams are left standing are important and can win or lose your team the match. Where Wingman falls short, like team deathmatch, is the map design, the maps don't seem to be designed with Wingman in mind and because of this, the game mode never sees it's true potential.
Features like being able to spot your enemies, trade weapons, and lend ammo are all welcome additions and encourage teamwork.
The weapons all feel very satisfying when using them in a cooperative or single player play, but in competitive game modes you may often times feel the weapons are a bit cheap. For example: Having a intense, high adrenaline matchup just to be froze in place by an ink grenade can be very annoying. Having to remain wary of the looming ink grenade is a nuisance. Despite some of the weapons giving you a cheap feeling they all feel forceful and effective.
Probably the best part of Gears of War 3's gameplay is the cover system and movement. In Gears of War 3 the movement feels extremely fluid and quick.
Gears of War 3 is THE full package and offers more even beyond the core. Things such as easter eggs & mutators add to your favorite modes and Thanks to top notch graphics, excellent level design, and perfect pacing the Campaign is intense, emotional, and consistently entertaining. The co-op modes give you an opportunity to easily enjoy any game mode with buddies, but issues such as a lack of specialized maps, a boring ranking system, and a few annoying circumstances hold the competitive multiplayer back. The competitive game modes are still enjoyable thanks to fantastic matchmaking, fluid gameplay, and unlockables. With a game that received such great feedback you wouldn't expect it's value to have significantly diminished in just over a year and so my score doesn't differ much from what I would've given it upon Gears of War 3's release. Gears of War 3 is a fantastic game. I give Gears of War 3 a 9 out of 10!
That all depends on your budget. I rarely own more than a few games at a time and so I can usually clean space for the HDD. Even with PS+ games, I think I'll be more than ok. I bought GTA V digital version and I regret it. I will stick to hard copies from now on if possible, of course if I owned an awesome Vita, I may have to reevaluate.