By Josh Di Falco 15.02.2017
Originally conceived as the first of a trilogy, Gears of War became one of Microsoft's largest exclusive franchises, just behind the success of Halo. Now, rereleased for the Xbox One through digital download, Gears of War delivers a bullet-storm, heart-pounding campaign, with the added fun of multiplayer for those searching for new ways to spill juice. Cliff Bleszinski and the rest of the talented team at Epic Studios' original hit now has a chance to reach out to newcomers on the Xbox One, while also allowing for fans of the series to relive the first game.
The campaign centres on the Delta Squad, as they are humanity's last hope in their 14-year war with the underground-dwelling Locust Horde. Marcus Fenix, who is busted out of prison by his good friend Domenic Santiago, leads the Delta Squad in the game's campaign. While the overall story surrounding the plot of this first game doesn't feature anything ground-breaking or new, it still delivers on the intense fire-fights that derive from the many situational battle sequences.
Well-crafted maps allow for cleverly placed obstructions that either the Delta Squad or the Locust Horde can hide behind, as Gears of War focuses heavily on the tactical-cover system, as opposed to a full-blown shooter. Managing to time gun shots to hiding and reloading becomes an art-form with this experience. With plenty of covers to hide behind, and ample opportunities to flank the enemy or filter a large wave of them through a tiny corridor to allow for more efficient kills, the map designs are crafted to perfection.
In addition to the single-player campaign, there is also a co-op campaign that can be enjoyed with a friend, thus adding to the small list of couch-co-op games that are available. Playing in split-screen reduces the difficulty of the game greatly, as being able to talk to someone and generate strategies for defeating the Locust Horde makes for an easier task as well as having a helpful teammate. This is due to the standard AI-teammates, that the game employs, not being overly effective during combat.
Dom and the rest of the squad are prone to dying quite a bit, and needing to be revived in order to continue the battle. While trying to be helpful, they sometimes get in the way of dire shots as they cross through the path of a well-timed sniper-shot. They do have their moments, however, such as one time when Marcus was out of bullets and while he was searching for more, Dom took out the remaining three cronies. However, these were few and far between and rarely made up for the rest of his showing throughout the campaign.
There are a variety of different weapon-types to dish out some damage with, and there is something for everyone as each gun category gets a tick. The high-powered machine guns, known as Lancers, are commonplace, with a nice added chainsaw onto it that is used to slice up the Horde when they get up close and personal. Snipers, shotguns and pistols round out the gun-line, while grenades are handy to clear out close-knit areas. Each of the guns have their moments in the game, and apart from the pistol, are great fun to play around with. Performing long-range headshots or splattering some Locust blood across the TV screen with a shotgun blast to the torso is as gratifying as it is impressive to watch.
Rather than having a health bar, when Marcus takes damage, a red cog fills the screen, signifying his damage level. As it fades into the screen, Marcus weakens, and will die once the icon is clearly defined. However, hiding behind walls or other forms of cover will allow for Fenix to recover his health, so that he can get re-join the action. When squad mates go down in battle, they can be revived as long as Marcus reaches out to them on the battle field. Deciding when to do revive someone can be a strategic decision, especially in those dying seconds of the battle when it's between reviving, or ending the battle.
The score is superbly choreographed, with bombastic tunes that play at the right moment during pivotal cut scenes for that added element of grandeur. The enormous scope of the level designs coupled with the music and the ear-lobe pounding blasts of the fire fight makes for some pretty awesome viewing. Add in a few cool killing animations with the chainsaw-gun, or the aforementioned shotgun blast up close, and this is definitely one of the better third-person shooting games on the console.
The multiplayer aspect really let the rest of the game down. At the time of this review, accessing the online portions of the game were troublesome, as finding games took a lot of time, and there were so few players partaking in this version of the game's online front. However, when a game was found, all the modes turned into shotgun-slugfests, as everyone continuously ran out into the open space and basically contradict the entire tactical-cover base shooter that the campaign employed.
Gears of War is a great game to revisit for newcomers who wish to play the campaign and experience the first chapter in the Gears battle against the Locust Horde. Past fans looking to revisit the game for the multiplayer aspect may want to look away, or even think about purchasing the Ultimate Edition of the first Gears of War. However, the campaign does a terrific job in forming these characters that end up becoming franchise staples, while the high production values makes this experience truly cinematic. Though the AI teammates can be very bothersome and prove to be liabilities, going at it with a partner for a co-op playthrough is where the true fun begins.