Gears of War: I'm Not Buying It

Gears of War: I'm Not Buying It

The most-hyped game ever is coming out on November 7th, and having it's Grand Opening (AKA Emergence Day) five days later. It's being praised as the Xbox 360's Halo; a must-have first-person shooter showcasing all that's great and wonderful about next-gen technology, cutting edge graphics and the hottest game engine ever made.

And I don't care.

When The Escapist went to E3 this past May, I was put in the enviable position of setting my own agenda. I had just started at the company, and in spite of the fact that they were willing to give me a plane ride to L.A. they had no idea what to do with me. So they handed me a notepad and asked me who I wanted to talk to and what I wanted to see.

At the top of my list were Microsoft and Gears of War.

Microsoft's E3 booth was a gigantic plastic and neon monstrosity towering above almost every other booth at the show. It was glaringly white, sickeningly green and deafeningly loud. It had two stories, dozens of private meeting rooms, two separate reception desks and the security-to-flatscreen ratio was off the scale. Very few people got in, and those who did were examined mercilessly.

I arrived on time for my appointment to get hands-on time with Gears of War. I was fifteen minutes late to the presentation. I left after two minutes.

When I hit the downstairs reception desk and handed them my card, I was greeted with a bit of humorous confusion. I would later come to call this "The Shannon Drake" effect. Shannon is the guy who was in charge of setting up our interviews at E3. As a result, most developers had his name listed where ours should have been. The joke at E3 was that Shannon Drake was the most popular guy at the show, yet few people had ever met him. I still believe he planned it that way.

After the nice lady deciphered the confusion and verified that even though I wasn't actually Shannon Drake, I was entitled to see Gears of War we both had a laugh, she pasted a green dot on my name badge and I hurried through the first security checkpoint.

I followed her directions up the stairs to the second story of the enormous booth whereupon I encountered Security Checkpoint Number 2. There another lady asked to see my name badge and my business card and we repeated the entire charade.

"I just did this downstairs," I complained, and she looked at me like I was a bad boy asking for candy. This excited me (only a little) but I was starting to become annoyed. It wasn't like I was trying to get into CIA headquarters at Langley, for crying out loud. I was a journalist trying to get into a media event. And I'd been invited!

The Shannon Drake effect, combined with the ridiculously redundant Microsoft PR/Security machine had at this point cost me 10 minutes of very precious show time. I gave the lady my best "I'm over 30, a paid professional and not in the mood for your crap" look and she gave me what I wanted: the number of the room in which they were showing Gears of War.

The catch: the room didn't exist.

After exploring the second story of Microsoft's edifice twice over, and asking one poor sod who's room wasn't in demand at all ("people have been asking me about that room all day. What's in it?"), I discovered the place where the Gears of War room should have been, but it didn't seem to be there. Or at least, it wasn't marked properly.

I came to a door partially hidden behind a small wall, which bore a rather dire-looking warning about what might happen if one were to enter. I was now 15 minutes late and had run out of options. If I was going to get hands-on time with Gears of War, the most anticipated Xbox360 title at the show, I'd have to take some chances. So I took a deep breath, grabbed the door handle and twisted.

The door immediately flew open. Inside was a stern-looking guy in shirt-sleeves holding a clipboard. He looked at me like he'd just discovered me in bed with his daughter.

"Who are you?" He asked.

I offered him my right hand to shake, with a business card in my left - my patented "shake and take" networking move. He ignored both and snatched at my badge.

"You're not Shannon Drake." He said. But let me in anyway. The presentation had already begun and he wasn't about to destroy the ambiance to give me what-for. He ushered me to the back of the room and set about ignoring me.

There were about three dozen play stations set up and not a one was currently available. Aside from myself, there were two other people standing in the wings, presumably waiting for their turn to play. Microsoft had apparently overbooked.

I looked over the shoulder of the guy sitting at the terminal in front of me. What I saw wasn't too impressive. The game looked overly gray and kind of washed-out. And the action looked incredibly slow. I was a little surprised. It didn't seem to be the kind of game modern FPS fans would enjoy playing. But what was more surprising was they seemed to be enjoying it anyway. Or that's how it sounded anyway.

Each gruesome kill or spectacular personal victory was greeted with a chorus of cheers and applause, the likes of which every gamer - playing against invisible opponents, in front of a non-existent audience, in their underwear - fantasizes about. There was a camaraderie and excitement in the air the likes of which I hadn't seen in years. It was exhilarating, intoxicating and completely fabricated.

Skulking about in the shadows was a throng of Microsoft employees, peeking over gamers' shoulders, waiting for exciting things to happen, and then showering the players with positive reinforcement. The effect was startling. What should have been a solemn, sober collection of gamers concentrating on the screens in front of them (like in every other hands-on room) was transformed into an inspirational power hour not unlike a fundamentalist tent revival.

Microsoft was playing on the age-old marketing adage that if you tell people what to think, they will listen. In the Gears of War hands-on room, gamer/journalists were being told by Microsoft that A) this game was so hot that it justified extreme levels of security and bureaucracy; and that B) it was more exciting than any other game at the show. And people were buying it.

Those would-have-been blank, focused faces were beaming at every exclamation of praise and hours later, every word I heard on the show floor was followed or preceded by "Gears of War."

Personally, from what I've seen of the game, I'm not convinced that it will be the mega-selling blockbuster it's being hyped to be. I think it will sell, but it won't be a console seller and it certainly won't be the next Halo. That game will be coming next year.

What I suspect Gears of War will sell the most of is Unreal 3 licenses. Then again, I've been wrong before, and it's possible I'll be wrong again. We'll know soon enough.

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Want to make a bet about that Fletch? I know a place that sells discount razors... ;)

The only reason I'm remotely interested in Gears of War is seamless drop-in co-op. I love co-op gameplay, and if it's fun I might be willing to put up with yet another shooter featuring burly men with big guns.

I no longer make bets on body hair, thank you.

Although I'm fairly confident about this one. The hype around Gears of War has the aroma of hardcore gamer freak out about it, which as we know doesn't always translate into mass-market sales.

Besides, as Cliffy himself says, it's not a run-n-gun shooter; it's a hide behind stuff and think tactically shooter. And those don't typically do as well, regardless of how nice they look.

But, like I said, I'm OK with being proved wrong on this.

Judging from the gameplay footage, I question how "tactical" it truly is -- it looks like the player can take an awful lot of punishment. Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter it is not. You've seen Gears of War in action live, though, and I haven't.

If I wasn't itching for another great co-op shooter, I'd probably skip Gears. The art style, atmosphere, and seemingly dull storyline all turn me off. As it is, it may come down to how good the co-op in Rainbow Six: Vegas is, since co-op was nowhere to be found inSplinter Cell: Double Agent.

It's not an FPS if it's third-person, right?

PS: I'm buying that sumbitch as soon as it hits shelves. Between the original UT and UT 2k4, Cliffy B has given me some of the best gaming hours of my life. I trust him to nail this one.

Gears looks interesting but not that interesting and its gameplay sorta reminds of Kill Switch with the whole hiding and shooting over walls bit.

Okay so it completely reminds me of Kill Switch I wonder why this hasn't been discussed more often, probably because Kill Switch didn't sell so well and it didn't have a name like Epic which is known for shooters.

Anywho I'm skipping Gears and the 360 altogether, going to save my pennies for that PS3 unless a 360 game really comes along that makes me say I must have a 360 now.

Fletcher:

The joke at E3 was that Shannon Drake was the most popular guy at the show, yet few people had ever met him. I still believe he planned it that way.

Our name is Shannon, for we are many.

I'm also waiting for a 360 price drop. I'm buying a Wii and PS2 next month so I'll have more games than I can handle with Okami, Zelda, Shadow of the Colossus, and maybe a Ratchet and Clank game. Gears looks like it has the same gameplay as Rainbow 6: Vegas but with much, much more hype. It also looks like it screws up the gameplay by making it so you can take a ton of damage, and they can take a ton of damage, so the difficulty looks like it's gone. It looks like it doesn't reward aiming which is a large part of the fun in games like that. It's fun to be able to target an enemy's head and then pop out and shoot it to drop it. Gears might as well be turn based with how boring the gameplay looks like to me.

Graphically it's pretty amazing, but if I had a 360 I think I would just pick up Splinter Cell and Rainbow 6 instead. I have a computer that could run Splinter Cell fine, but I think I'll hold off since the last few times I've bought it for the computer it's been hard to find people to play online. Speaking of which, if anyone wants to play Pandora Tomorrow for the PC let me know.

I'm planning on renting the game, mostly to look at the graphics, which lean towards the incredible if the game trailers are to be believed.

But I'm not a big fan of shooters in general, so I don't think it'll be my kind of game. Still, I can see the cooperative multiplayer being a pretty big draw.

I too will not be buying it. To me it looks like Kill.Switch with monsters. Looks pretty boring but I hope to be proven wrong. Too bad there are no decent online rental places for East coast users.

http://www.gametrailers.com/gamepage.php?fs=1&id=604

Gpig:
Gears looks like it has the same gameplay as Rainbow 6: Vegas but with much, much more hype. It also looks like it screws up the gameplay by making it so you can take a ton of damage, and they can take a ton of damage, so the difficulty looks like it's gone. It looks like it doesn't reward aiming which is a large part of the fun in games like that. It's fun to be able to target an enemy's head and then pop out and shoot it to drop it. Gears might as well be turn based with how boring the gameplay looks like to me.

Yeah, I guess if you expect a third-person sci-fi survival-horror shooter to have gameplay like a first-person modern military tactical shooter, you might end up disappointed.

And I canīt buy it...sniff...at least not here in germany cause they wont release it :(

Ian Dorsch:

Yeah, I guess if you expect a third-person sci-fi survival-horror shooter to have gameplay like a first-person modern military tactical shooter, you might end up disappointed.

Vegas is a third-person shooter with military characters peaking out from behind cover to take down enemies while working as a squad. Gears is a third-person shooter with military characters peaking out from behind cover to take down enemies while working as a squad. Maybe you're right though and having aliens gives creative license to make the gameplay less fun. I probably shouldn't be comparing games with similar gameplay and saying which one would be more enjoyable if the use of aliens makes a game incomporable to, uh, more terrestrial games. I hear in Gears they don't even use gravity.

I think something that has been brushed over here is the potential for great multiplayer in gears. While it hasnt been proven yet, of course, there could certainly be some awesome team vs team battles in gears. Just look at how many people bought chromehounds purely for playing on live, add in what may or may not end up being a decent single player/co-op game and there is certainly the correct ingredients for success there. I guess we'll know once it comes out.

Gpig:
Vegas is a third-person shooter with military characters peaking out from behind cover to take down enemies while working as a squad. Gears is a third-person shooter with military characters peaking out from behind cover to take down enemies while working as a squad. Maybe you're right though and having aliens gives creative license to make the gameplay less fun. I probably shouldn't be comparing games with similar gameplay and saying which one would be more enjoyable if the use of aliens makes a game incomporable to, uh, more terrestrial games. I hear in Gears they don't even use gravity.

Huh, I thought Vegas was 1st person like all the other Rainbow Six games. I'm too lazy to look it up, though.

Gameplay may be superficially similar, but Vegas is one-shot-one-kill tactical and Gears is walking human tanks tactical. Plus the context is entirely different. I just think comparing the merits of two superficially related games THAT HAVE NOT EVEN BEEN RELEASED YET is sort of an exercise in stupidity. Just sayin'.

I'll try to keep my discussion of games that haven't been released out of the threads that are about discussing a game that hasn't been released.

Haha alright now people let's all play nice and keep the comments about the games, and not about comments about the games.

Gpig:
I'll try to keep my discussion of games that haven't been released out of the threads that are about discussing a game that hasn't been released.

Dude, you're not discussing unreleased games that you've never ever played, you're critiquing them.

Edit: maybe you've played the R6:V demo, though. That is pretty sweet.

Edit 2: if GoW does turn out to be a sucky boring 2nd-rate rip off of Rainbow Six: Vegas I will admit that you are clairavoyant and you can personally kick me in the scrotum.

I've been put off of this game ever since I saw that the Shotgun has a Chainsaw attached to it...

Chainsaws... NOT TACTICAL AT ALL!!!

But they do seem to impress and attract that 18-24 age group that lives off of being extreme and possibly homophobic

I think you guys are making a mistake in assuming that this is any kind of serious tactical shooter, at least in the conventional Rainbow Six/Ghost Recon/Swat 4 kind of way. If anything, it owes more to a game like Resident Evil 4: it's a survival horror shooter with tactical elements. It doesn't nail that Rainbow Six gameplay because it's not trying to.

In fact, this is the big risk that MS is taking with billing Gears as a killer app: the game doesn't really fit cleanly into any established genre. It's got elements that are borrowed from a lot of genres, and IMO they've come up with a pretty compelling fusion, but a lot of purists may turn up their noses because it's NOT TACTICAL ENOUGH or whatever. You can't run and gun a la Halo, but it's not nearly the same kind of ultra-precise tactical experience as a GRAW or Rainbow Six. OMG it suxorz, M I RITE LOL?!?!

I would think that with all the bemoaning of lack of innovation in the game industry, people would be willing to cut a game some slack when it actually takes some risks with gameplay. But maybe y'all are only interested in innovation if it happens in a non-shooter genre, or in a low budget game that is developed by a no-name house? Or is it just a negative reaction to all the hype? Popular = bad?

I'm honestly not trying to be inflamatory here, I'm just a little puzzled by all the negative sentiment, especially when it mostly seems to be a knee-jerk reaction. But then, I think Epic makes great games, and I basically bought a 360 to play Gears, so maybe I'm a fanboy, I don't know.

Let's discuss.

Well I frankly am not really that impressed by the gameplay footage I saw. The game itself didn't look fun to play to me so much as repetitious. It's just not what I'm looking for in a game right now I think - I've never been big on shooters for console - the only system with a chance to change that is the Wii and that depends greatly on how the controller feels for me. Microsoft is definitely going out of their way to push Gears of War as the next super-game. I'm just not feeling it. I didn't think Halo 2 really improved drastically on Halo 1, I don't think either are stellar examples of graphics and the only thing that Gears / Halo have that really attracts me is cooperative storyline play. It's something that I would love to have for that style of shooter.

As to the Rainbow six comparison - unless the games have changed greatly recently Rainbow Six is what I would call a Strategic/Tactical shooter. You start by figuring out where you're going to infiltrate / exfiltrate from, how you're going to achieve your objectives, what weapon teams and people you're going to send in and at what time you want to move. It bears no comparison here to a game that so far has looked to me like it plays more like Doom3 does.

Well, time to eat my words.

Ajar:
If I wasn't itching for another great co-op shooter, I'd probably skip Gears. The art style, atmosphere, and seemingly dull storyline all turn me off.

*munch, munch*

Gears of War is an excellent game. There, I said it. I bought it yesterday and spent a couple of hours in single-player; this weekend I'm going to get into co-op and multiplayer. The gameplay is exquisite -- solid controls, strong emphasis on the use of cover, and contrary to the impression I got from the trailers, the characters can't take a lot of punishment. Gears uses a "recharge" system like Halo and Rainbow Six: Vegas to very good effect.

The music is outstanding. That was one thing that truly surprised me. It's instrumentally and stylistically varied, yet still cohesive, and it really adds to the immersion and atmosphere. It's also nothing like a typical shooter soundtrack.

In some ways, the game reminds me of a graphic novel. Characters are stylized, but not to the point of grotesqueness; it's just enough to remind you that this is a story, not the real world. And that's perfect, because it isn't trying to be "real" in the same way that GRAW or R6V are.

 

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