Gears of War needs no introduction, it’s here to stay. Get ready, get set for the ride of your gaming life.

User Rating: 9.5 | Gears of War X360
Epic studios has delivered a fun next-gen gaming experience into the world of shooters. And while Gears of War is not the most innovative in the genre, it does excels in capturing the essence of an amazing fast paced action/horror flick that you can actually play in the comfort of home.

Marcus Fenix is your name and shooting is your game. He was formerly known as a soldier of the Coalition of Organized Governments (COG) but thrown into jail for treason. After a while, he breaks out from the help of your soon to be partner in crime, Dominic Santiago to aide you in the battle against the Locust. In the very beginning of the game, after Dom breaks Marcus out of prison, you are put through a tutorial/test like stage where you fight your way out to a chopper where you are soon met by other fellow squad members and the game moves on from there. The story really doesn’t give you a lot of background information on the origins of these characters which could’ve been fleshed out more.

When it comes to gameplay, Gears of War is based much around the cover system. The A button on your controller will do all this for you as well as other maneuvers such as rolls and back flips. Blind fire can be used as well as a tactical advantage to shoot and not become exposed at the same time. Early on this can be a bit troubling to some, but may work well for others as you become accustom to the controls. After the adjustment to the controls of course, you have enemies to combat, the Locust. They’re different types of Locust, some are almost human like and some are very reminiscent of the Grunts from Halo. Epic has done a nice job with the designs of these creatures even though their not a whole lot of them. The enemy AI is especially good as it will test your skills. For example, the Locust will try to flank you and your squad of teammates so you’ll have to be aware of your surroundings. Weapons are obviously essential in the fight against the Locust, so Gears of War gives you some. One of the more popular and satisfying weapons to use is the Chainsaw bayonet, which is basically a chainsaw attached to an assault machine gun. Get close enough, and press X to chainsaw the Locust through the chest and watch him dismantle into a million pieces, but unfortunately you won’t receive that gun right away. Their are also some unique weapons throughout the game, like the one they call The Hammer of Dawn which uses a satellite from space in order rain down a huge laser to destroy the more bigger bosses and enemies, but can only be used outside. Of course you have your typical shotgun, grenades and a sniper rifle.

The game has 3 settings of difficulty, Casual, Hardcore and Insane. The Casual setting is what the game automatically defaults to, but it may seem too easy for most. Hardcore is just right, offering the right amount of challenge you’re looking for. Insane… well it’s hard to say the least, take cover a lot more often or you’ll die a lot quicker. With all that said, the game’s length may be longer or shorter, between 10-15 hours depending on your skill level of a specific difficulty setting.

Now one of the coolest aspects of Gears of War is it’s co-op campaign over Xbox Live or offline split-screen. The way this works is simple, the player that’s hosting the co-op game will play as Marcus Fenix and the other will take control of Dominic Santiago or Dom. And if you start the campaign by yourself, you can invite a friend via Xbox Live to continue the fight from where you left off. Also, you are able to revive your teammate when he is downed by an enemy…trust me, it will happen. For the most part their is really not much of a difference in the graphical or technical presentation between co-op and single player, and everything seems to run fine.

In addition to co-op, Gears of War introduces a 4 on 4 team based multiplayer with COGs against Locusts. Surprisingly, there are only 3 game types to choose from with no option to respawn. One of these is called Warzone, your basic team deathmatch. The second is Execution, this mode allows you to revive yourself if downed by rapidly tapping the A button before the opposition can finish you off. The last game type, Assassination, has you or one of your teammates as the leader in which the opposing team must kill to win the round. The game offers fewer then a dozen maps which makes perfect for small yet open skirmishes.

Nothing really negative you can say about this game graphically, as it most likely tops every one's list as one of the best, if not the best looking game on the XBOX360. Each level is diverse in it‘s dark and gritty setting, and the character models consist of big muscular guys with detailed shiny war torn armor. So you can definitely tell these soldiers have been in some serious battles in one point or another. The music and cinematics are what makes the single player adventure truly immersive aside from the sharp graphics. Using in-game cut scenes to drive the story, which tends to bog down a bit when things get fast on screen, the musical score also adds great intensity to the already frantic action that’s happening around you. At times I was on the edge of my seat waiting to see what was going to occur next as the music starts ramping up. The voice performances themselves were decent, nothing too special, mainly one liners and mission briefings from Marcus, Dom and some others. Sound effects are particularly well done, hearing explosions, weapons firing and the splattering of blood & guts in 5.1 makes it more fun to kill everything in sight.

When it’s all said and done, Epic’s vision was to make the best shooter it could possibly make in the form of Gears of War. Having great graphics, fun gameplay, replay value, addicting online play and excellent production quality overall, it doesn’t fall short of any body's expectations.