Even though Gears of War has its detractors, it is undoubtedly the game that put Xbox 360 “on the map”. It largely contributed to the initial sales success and smoothed the ground for the celebrated birth of the already legendary Halo 3. Until now, the Xbox 360 version of Gears of War sold more than 4.5 million copies, so, the announcement of it being ported took nobody by surprise. Ironically, there were protests from the community around the console version, because it wouldn’t have had access to the extra content available on PC; and by so doing, the previously exclusive 360 title, was turned into a sort of younger brother of the PC version.
It must be said, since the beginning, that Gears of War is a tactical 3rd person shooter (just to be technically correct: the perspective is actually over-the-shoulder)…and that’s it. It’s about big men, with big guns against ugly big-ass enemies. Period. If you were expecting an Oscar story and dialogues that would show you the meaning of life on earth, you’re in the wrong place. But if you want non-stop action, uglier than death enemies, visceral fights and the possibility, in multiplayer, to execute your adversaries in the most barbaric ways ever known, please, do come in.
The premise of the storyline is very simple: 14 years have passed since the Emergence Day, when the planet Sera was invaded from the underground by a terrifying enemy, generally known as The Locust Horde. During the first days of the devastating attack millions have died and many more were killed by the mass destruction weapons that the Coalition of the Organized Governments (COG) decided to use against the invaders, but with little effect. Eventually, the last survivors had to withdraw on the Jacinto Plateau, whose granite base was a serious obstacle for the Locusts efforts. The main character is Marcus Fenix, ex COG soldier. At the beginning of the game he is in a high security prison, for insubordination. Luckily for him, the war against the Locusts is not going so well and the Coalition was forced to get its recruits wherever it could find them. Dominic Santiago, Fenix’s best friend, was sent to retrieve him from the prison before it got destroyed.
Even though I already said that you should not expect an Oscar-worthy story, the lack of details sometimes makes the game dull, especially when you are playing on the higher difficulty levels, where it’s pretty easy to die. True, the extra levels of the PC version do manage to fill the obvious gaps of the 360 version (where the flow of the action had a significant “hick-up”), but more could have been done in this regard, especially because, surprisingly, the crummy details that one manages to chew on between two fights manage to increase one’s curiosity. How did Marcus’s father intend to end the war before it began? What actually happened at Fenix’s military trial? What is the true motivation behind the Locust attacks? Even so, the levels are very well correlated, and the action flows smoothly from one location to the next location, and you never have the feeling of just completing missions, but that of going through different chapters of an action movie…even if it’s a B-type movie, as far as dialogues are concerned.
The artistic design greatly enhances the atmosphere and to sensation of “being there”, even though the freedom of movement is almost non-existent. Practically, you will always have to get from point A to point B, and in 99% of cases the main path will be the only one possible. There are a few situations though when you can choose to go right or left, but only for very short distances. However, the transition between open spaces – close-quarter fights and vice-versa, is also very well integrated and the level designers deserve their praises for the way in which they managed to create the atmosphere and support the gameplay at the same time.