Gears at heart is just another action-shooter, but it does it to a very high standard with great looking design.

User Rating: 9 | Gears of War PC
After almost a decade Epic Games finally created a new franchise to add to Unreal. Unfortunately, it only lasted one game before they moved exclusively to the Xbox, but I'm glad we got at least one single-player game in Gears of War. Obviously Unreal was a classic, but Unreal II was critically disappointing, so Epic really had to create something special, in my opinion, to live up to their grand reputation. Did they suceed? Probably not, but try telling that to the Xbox crowd.

This seems to be becoming a common trend in each game I review - it looks good. In this case, fantastic. As to be expected from Unreal Engine 3, the environments are chocka full of detail with backgrounds of epic proportions. Too many games turn into claustraphobic corridor crawls missing any kind of grand, imposing environment. Not true with Gears of War, as there are some massive looking levels. This is, of course, just part of scenery because the very linear path you follow is quite tight and small. There's very little exploration or wandering off course. Basically Gears does share those simularities with corridor shooters, but at least you've got some large scale eye candy around you. In fact, while this is a sci-fi shooter, the level design felt almost fantasy-like much of the time. Fantasy-Sci Fi perhaps? The one negative of the art and design is that everything is very dull and BROWN. Where's the colour in this world?

Now there are some other nitpicks with this game, some of which are more personal that general. No quicksaving is present; always a bad thing. Only two main weapons at a time, a nasty gremlin copied from Halo I assume, which developers really need to stop doing because I hate having to play through a game with the same couple of weapons. Sure I could pick up another weapon, but why bother if they're not as good or only suit certain situations? Instead I equipped myself with a machine gun and a... machine gun. Oh such variety! There's also almost no story. Sure you've got your mission, you've got regular team-mates who spit some quick funny lines. But what is this war and who am I fighting? There's no backstory at all. Would it really have been too hard to make a two minute intro on what the hell this game is about, like a lead up to how this war first begun? It wasn't until I finished the game and Wiki'd the plots to the sequels that I realised it wasn't supposed to be earth!

The difficulty was just right for me on casual, as I don't need too much of a challenge. Only a few instances did I have to reload the same checkpoint more than twice. However for the less skilled players, there needs to be an easy difficulty. Some could say this game is a little difficult.

The gameplay throughout Gears was consistently fun with enough variety in battles and bosses. In fact some of these enemies I really liked, especially the Boomer and Beserker. It's been a long time since I came upon a semi-boss I hated so much as the Beserker. However I think the lack of quicksave contributes towards that feeling, as I know if she gets me I have to start all over. And while that means you really fear her, it's also damn frustrating when you do have to start the battle again.

So, 2006 comes down to Prey vs Gears of War for action shooter of the year. And I've got to give it to Gears because, while it doesn't do anything new, Prey's antigravity and portal ideas became ugly and irritating after a while. Gears at heart is just another action-shooter, like I said with nothing new, but it does it to a very high standard with great looking design and fun gameplay.