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  First Impressions: ‘Gears of War’  
Posted 2006-11-07 by Tony Walsh
Gears of War, a 3rd-person tactical shooting game for the Xbox 360, hits the streets today. In lieu of a surefire blockbuster hit like the upcoming Halo 3, Gears of War is being pushed as this holiday season's must-have title. Microsoft already expects the game to hit 1 million copies, and to sell faster than any new IP for the Xbox platform. I don't care so much how it sells--high sales volume doesn't mean the game is any good, obviously.

I was given a copy of the game yesterday, and had a chance to play about an hour of multiplayer, and 45 minutes of the single-payer game. Overall, I'm unsure of the game's engagement potential--but I am willing to play for another half-day to write up a proper review. Gears of War is a sci-fi action shooter apparently taking place after or during some kind of alien invasion. I don't know if it takes place on Earth or some other planet, but the males in the game look like a cross between Hulk Hogan, Space Marines, and Tom of Finland. These guys are gnarled, burly, and macho to the point of silliness. Maybe they aren't supposed to be human.

The controls in Gears of War are simple to use, with a context-sensitive action button allowing you to crouch, run, jump, and dart around the small maps. A handful of standard-issue weapons are available, each behaving in a manner familiar to 3D shooter players: There's a pistol, machine-gun, shotgun, and grenades (a few others, too, but I didn't get to try those). Game-play boils down to getting the jump on your opponent and opening fire. It's easy to take advantage of a player's blind-spot, because in Gears of War, you either move or shoot, but rarely both. When moving, your field of vision is fairly limited. While shooting (and aiming), your field of view is very narrow. You could be standing right next to an enemy and not realize it. I'm not sure there's a sufficient range of strategic and tactical options in multiplayer mode to keep my interest, but I intend on playing occasionally over the next week or so to find out.

The single-player campaign seems like it's on rails, but I played for under an hour, so it probably gets better later. It seems to be possible to play like crap and still get through the game without too much trouble. As a squad-based shooter, your squad-mates don't seem to need any help at all, exterminating aliens with apparent ease. The game's graphics are quite good--as expected with a next-gen title--but the colour palette is drab and dark, making it difficult to distinguish points of interest. The story is weak so far. I don't care about any of the characters because they are repulsive, genocidal alpha-males. The cinematic cutscenes didn't seem very polished: The dialog was a joke, the storyline indecipherable, and the direction abysmal. Perhaps at the age of 37 I am in the wrong demographic for this game. On first glance, it seems like a videogame version of 8 year-old boys playing with action figures in a sandbox.
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