Classic Review: Gears of War
Now awhile ago I put forward the Gears of War 2 trailer as one of my epic trailers, a trailer which went above and beyond the normal mash ups of game play and shoddy voice overs. An unexpected result of that was that some of my harsher opinions of Gears of War were exposed – but not fully explained. So I thought I would take a look at Gears of War for a Classic Review, in what people may soon call “the only negative review so far on GamePlayer”.
Now it’s not that I hated Gears of War, because I didn’t. I don’t finish games that I hate. Because I hate them. It was a mix of things which tainted GoW for me, and to be honest some of them had nothing to do with the game.
I’ll set it up. It was the year 2007 and I had only just purchased an Xbox 360. As an avid Halo fan and chronically addicted WoW/crack addict (note: I wasn’t addicted to both, I just wanted to put my addiction to WoW next to a term which can put it into perspective. It was bad kids.) I wasn’t doing that much gaming, but was waiting for Halo 3 before buying a 360. The wait proved too much for me, and about two months before its release I bought a 360 and Gears of War.
Now it was probably just because I wanted Halo so bad, and this is probably an unfair statement to make about the game which put Epic Games on the map (or on my map at least) but here goes: It played like a gritty, cover-based, less imaginative version of Halo.
Hear me out before you start lighting your torches and braying (it’s a thing) for my blood. I know the two games aren’t that much alike but it really did seem like Microsoft was trying to throw Halo players a bone in the time between the 360 release and the Halo 3 release, a bone called Gears of War. First you have the humanoid aliens, basically recoloured human models (and recoloured is probably the most generous way I can describe them). Then you have the small (dare I say Grunt-like?) annoying enemies (who even squeal a bit like Grunts). Then you have larger, Hunter-like enemies which require specific tactics to defeat. I know I’m pushing it a bit, but you see what I’m getting at?
Looking back now I guess the two weren’t really THAT alike. But Gears of War was kind of mediocre. Unimaginative environments with a lot of “handily” placed cover. Waves of enemies with very little variety, they even let you plug the spawn points – I mean, Emergence Holes – to stop enemies spawning. The multiplayer seemed very unbalanced, basically people just running right up to you with the shotgun or the chainsaw and one hitting you or (on very rare occasions) you would get shot from a bow (which is also a one hit). Moving straight from a campaign which taught you that your rifle was your best friend to an online environment where it was almost useless was jarring to say the least.
But for all of its faults, there were redeemable moments which I enjoyed (and delude myself into thinking that they, instead of Epic Games and Microsoft’s power of advertising, resulted in the sequel). Some of the weapons, like the Torque Bow or the Hammer of the Dawn really did feel iconic. Some of the levels, like the one where you split up and move through the refugee level at night time – did feel real, and distinctive. And (very, very) infrequently, the dialogue came off as chummy instead of forced.
Gears of War wasn’t a bad game. But neither was it a game like Mass Effect, Halo, Bioshock or even Fallout 3. It was a good shooter, in a time where there really weren’t any good shooters on the 360 yet. But that makes it’s faults excusable, not ignorable.