Gears of War: I Wouldn't Buy It

 Pages 1 2 NEXT
 

Gears of War: I Wouldn't Buy It

imageMicrosoft was planning to cream Sony in the game space this year. Not only was the Xbox 360 going to have a one-year head start on the PS3, but they'd have streamlined their Xbox Live service, released a ton of new features and (here's the big part) be releasing a must-have game just in time for the holiday season. It was the perfect plan in 2005, back when Mr. Gates laid it out for Time magazine. And sure enough most of it came true.

The one year head start has earned the Xbox 360 five or six million new users (depending on who you ask), a streamlined online service and a ton of new features including, in the coming weeks, TV and movie downloads. The Xbox 360 also has a must-own game for this holiday season. It's just not the one they wanted.

"It's perfect," Gates told Time in May of 2005. "The day Sony launches [PlayStation 3], and they walk right into Halo 3."

Unfortunately this wasn't to be. Bungie had no plans to ship Halo 3 in 2006, a fact Gates later acknowledged, saying it wasn't his place to establish launch dates, in spite of being the chairman and all. In fact, earliest estimates for Halo 3's release put it somewhere in mid-2007. Most likely in the fall - a year later than Gates had planned. Enter: Plan B.

Starting at this year's E3, Epic's Gears of War got pulled off the bench, shoved into the spotlight and handed the torch. Microsoft stoked the hype fires, wheeled out the charismatic Cliffy B. and poured cash on the ad machine. All in an effort to convince you, the consumer, that Gears of War was the next Halo, or at the very least an ample substitute this holiday season.

Did it work? Judging from the early press, yes. The scores have been through the roof, the buzz is out of control ("The amount of hype right now is ridiculous," Cliffy B. told EGM in their November issue.) and the game is currently topping the charts. This holiday season (today in fact) Sony is unleashing their PS3 console in North America and walking right into Gears of War.

Too bad Gears is not, as Gates had hoped, "perfect."

***

I played a game many, many years ago on the PC called Robinson's Requiem. I didn't play it very long, but I remember it well because of how painful an experience it was. The game was supposed to be an exercise in realism. You were a clone of some sort and your space ship had crashed on a supposedly uninhabited planet. You were alone, had limited equipment and were forced to survive however you could.

On the allegorical scale, it was more of a "man vs. his environment" game, as opposed to the majority of other games which are "man vs. other man." Your main obstacles were violent animals, the elements and time. I recall one mission requiring you to maneuver your guy into a cave to retrieve something or another. The only problem was that the cave was dark, and filled with pools of water. So you had to swim. But since the water was cold, you were in danger of hypothermia or catching a cold. To avoid this you needed cold weather gear, which you didn't have. But you could make mittens and a hat out of animal hides, a bone needle and some kind of cord. But you had to kill the animals to get the skins and you had no weapons ...

It seemed to be an adventure game modeled after the US Navy's S.E.R.E. survival training course. It was brutal, unrelenting and impossibly hard. One review I recall reading described the game's death screen in detail (an animation depicting your guy as a desiccated corpse), saying "get used to it. You'll be seeing it a lot."

Gears of War reminds me of this game. The Gears of War loading screen is beautiful. Colored flames lick the stylish gear and skull logo, pulsing red with rage or whatever. It's clean, functional and gorgeous; truly a wonder to behold which; is A) good, because you'll see it a lot playing Gears of War, but B) bad because it's the only aspect of the game that feels perfect.

imageTo be fair, Gears of War is not a bad game, it's just not great. Certainly not Halo great, and certainly not worthy of the tremendous amount of hype surrounding it. It's, as I've already mentioned, quite difficult, but mainly owing to gameplay quirks, bad A.I. and a few control issues. Problems many games have, to be sure, but things you don't expect to see in a game that will supposedly herald the arrival of the "next-gen," and definitely not what you'd expect from the game carrying the Xbox 360 flag this holiday season.

I also, still, found the game to be visually dull. It's not hard to detect the presence of some truly advanced whiz-bang technology at work in subtle things like smoke, shading and an odd, yet beautiful shimmer effect used on a number of metallic surfaces, but none of it really works together. The game looks, feels and plays as if a number of wonderfully creative people got thrown into the project together with little or no guidance, and all created masterpieces in their own right, which all nevertheless fail to coalesce into an appealing whole.

The story is a relatively uninspiring, B-movie quality Sci-Fi affair, pitting the denizens of an Earth-like place against a strange alien race which one day emerged from beneath the surface of their planet. The voice acting and dialogue compliment this tale the way a rusted Chevy Vega on cinder blocks compliments a trailer park, completely failing to induce one to actually care what happens to the various soldiers and citizens whose fates almost rest in your hands.

But those elements, while important to some, are merely gravy on the meat and potatoes of the average shooter. Most good shooters (and make no mistake - Gears of War is a shooter) fail to meet the high marks in those categories set by the likes of Halo and Half-Life. A good shooter can survive a corny story and lousy acting. What it can't survive, however, is flaky gameplay.

I played Gears of War's single player campaign in just under 12 hours (which, in the tradition of online-reliant Xbox 360 games like Chromehounds is a ridiculously meager amount of game for $60), and for about 10 of those 12 hours I was gritting my teeth, casting furtive mental glances at the multitude of other things I could have been spending that time doing. As I said before, Gears of War is not a bad game, but it's not the quality of game I'd prefer to spend my limited time playing. Mainly because a number of subtle gameplay difficulties all combined to make it less of an enjoyable ride, and more of a struggle versus bad craftsmanship.

imageTake, for example, the terrifying bat creatures which live in darkness, fear light and are incinerated by ultra-violet beam weapons. It's a novel concept, poorly implemented. A number of the game's missions take place at night, and in these you'll encounter areas which must be traversed carefully lest your character enter a pool of darkness and summon a wave of deadly bat creatures that will kill you instantly. This concept would appear to have beeen designed to engender terror, but it really only serves to up the frustration level, as it's often difficult to distinguish (due to the game's sloppy graphics) the difference between "sort of dark" and "instantly deadly bat creature summoning dark." Thankfully these levels end quickly and most of the game's other enemies are not instantly-lethal - when you can see them, that is. Telling friend from foe in Gears of War, again due to the sloppy graphics, is another constant struggle. With the game's washed-out graphics, the dingy, brown aliens look a lot like the dingy, brown human soldiers. Even close-up.

imageIt's this inconsistency, above and beyond the graphical and design failings, which ultimately ruined gears of War for me. At times, your A.I. squad mates will be accurately-firing, positively reinforcing killing machines, taking fire, flanking and generally doing their best to help you slaughter hordes of smart, deadly enemies. They sometimes follow orders, sometimes offer tactical advice and sometimes absorb heroic amounts of damage, springing back to full health the second danger has passed. Yet at other times they will stand dumbly in the middle of a firefight, run headlong into a wall of oncoming fire, knocking themselves out of the battle or wander too close to a rampaging, indestructible man-beast and get slaughtered (actually dying!), forcing you to restart (often many, many times). How and/or when they'll die is as unpredictable as their actions, even when they choose to follow orders.

I can't exactly say that I'm disappointed in Gears of War, since I had a feeling the game's over-hype, and slapped-on graphical amusements were designed to conceal the game's core mediocrity, but I can say that I'm disappointed in Epic's failure to capitalize on what is truly a revolutionary new graphics engine. The Unreal 3 engine will, I have no doubt, be used by a number of truly inventive game houses to create a number of stellar titles in the years to come. Unfortunately, Gears of War is not one of them.

Final Verdict: Gears of War is worth a rent, if only to see what the fuss is all about, but unless you're a hard-core member of an online clan, it is not worth buying, not when there are so many ultimately more satisfying alternatives.

Gears of War
Xbox360
Developer: Epic
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studio
Screenshots: Team Xbox

Permalink

It's nice to get an opinion on this game that hasn't been influenced by the tidal wave of hype concerning this game.

Preface: this first paragraph is a general criticism of game reviews that was triggered by this one, rather than a specific critique of this review.

I think, with this generation of consoles, the time has come when anyone describing how a console game looks and/or sounds owes it to their readership to describe the setup on which they played the game. A quick "I played the game on an X" TV of type Y over a cable Z connection, and an A.B speaker system over a cable C connection" would help immensely.

As a specific example, I could hear the bat creatures coming whenever I stepped too far out into darkness. That audio cue saved me many a death, and they only killed me twice in the dark segments. It isn't clear from your review whether you missed the audio cue, or heard it but still found those parts of the game frustrating. I also never had trouble distinguishing friend from foe in single-player or co-op, though I did pump an ally full of hot lead once in multiplayer. Fortunately, friendly fire defaults to off. ;)

A particular (hopefully constructive) criticism I have of your review is that while you say the game is much too short, you don't mention which difficulty setting you played it on. Having played part of it on Casual and part of it on Hardcore I find it takes me noticeably longer to get the same thing accomplished in the latter, because of the necessity of flanking and being cautious about poking your head out of cover. I do agree that the game is short, though that doesn't particularly bother me.

Finally, it's worth trying the co-op, particularly in light of your complaints about the teammate A.I.

On a tangential note, I'm also surprised by the praise you heap on Halo. I played Halo 2 co-op, and while it was fun, I didn't think the game was anything special overall. I'm enjoying the Gears co-op much, much more.

Having said all of that, while my take on Gears obviously differs from yours -- that is to say, I really like it -- I appreciate your thorough and unvarnished opinion. :)

Also, if you're looking for a novel use of Unreal Engine 3, check out RoboBlitz, which recently came out for PC and should find its way onto the Xbox Live Arcade soonish. I've been following it for a little while -- it's basically an action puzzler -- and it looks like a ton of fun. Added: It'll also be a demo of procedural texturing, which is what kept the game under the Xbox Live Arcade size limit (~50MB, IIRC).

Well, I almost entirely disagree with this review, but that's the beauty of opinion!

Something I found interesting: You are holding the Halo franchise up as the gold standard in this review. Both Halo games suffered from some significant design flaws in the single player campaign but offered staying power through excellent multiplayer. Gears undeniably has flaws, but if the single player campaign doesn't hold your attention the online multiplayer is really beautifully done. Yet, you don't mention it, even as you point to Chromehounds, a game with a cursory single player component at best, as a good example of a game with lots of content for your $60. Try co-op or vs. multiplayer before you dismiss the game.

I have to assume based on some of your criticisms that you were playing on an SD TV. Did you try various difficulty levels?

You're, of course, welcome to disagree with my review Ian, but I won't debate you over it. It's fairly self-contained, and wholly representative of my opinion. I believe, in other words, that it speaks for itself.

I will add, however, (and I've said this before in other reviews) I don't believe that a game designed to look pretty only on a high-end TV is a well-designed console game. A good design transcends whatever optional hardware may be installed at the point of use.

That said, I've seen the game on both SD and HD screens, and think it looks like ass on both. Brown, washed-out, muddy ass, to be more specific.

Fletch, here's what I've discovered... This is not a single player game. It sucks as a single player game. It requires a second player and is designed with a second player in mind. This is Contra, Toe Jam and Earl, or... some other game that requires two players. It's not Half Life. That's why the achievements are what they are, that's why the "left path or right path" contrivances come up. It's made to BS with a pal on the mic and almost role play it. It's a buddy movie where you byo-buddy. Thoughts?

Edit: I'm listening to the OXM pobcast as I write this, and I had a huge idea! Get me an interview with a game script doctor! Eric Nylund (sp), author of the Halo book(s?) went in to help Cliffy B and the Gears team make a point with their story line and it sounds like he bailed. To use his exact words, "I have to be careful what I say here." And then a Ms. Oconnel joined the team as a full-time writer, sitting in on meeting as they changed levels. Can you get her on the record about "what went wrong" with this game? Can you chat with another "game writer" and see how they go about their task?

Fletcher:
You're, of course, welcome to disagree with my review Ian, but I won't debate you over it. It's fairly self-contained, and wholly representative of my opinion. I believe, in other words, that it speaks for itself.

I'm not asking for a debate, you're entitled to your opinion. I'm just curious why the multiplayer isn't mentioned. I agree with you on the SD/HD thing (in general, not necessarily as it pertains to GoW).

Fletcher:
I will add, however, (and I've said this before in other reviews) I don't believe that a game designed to look pretty only on a high-end TV is a well-designed console game. A good design transcends whatever optional hardware may be installed at the point of use.

While that's easy to say, I think it's at least partly the nature of the beast. Plenty of games designed to look good on SDTVs look better on HDTVs -- I've definitely noticed this with most (though not all) of my GameCube and PS2 games since buying an HDTV earlier this year. Games designed to look good on both SD and HDTVs also look better on the latter. And, finally, games designed to look good on HDTVs first and foremost look much better on HDTVs.

A developer targeting 720p or better can make accommodations for 480i/p; from what I've read, Saints' Row does this explicitly while Dead Rising doesn't do it at all (I don't own either game). I agree that Capcom would have been wise to at least provide an option for making the text bigger in Dead Rising, but what they can't do is make the game look as good in 480i or 480p as it does in 720p or better. On my Mac, I prefer to game at my monitor's native resolution, with as much antialiasing as I can get away with. When I go back and play games like WarCraft III and Quake III Arena at 1280x1024, the difference is staggering -- I played them at 640x480 or 800x600 and low-medium settings on their release.

This is exactly why so many 1080i-only HDTV owners are so angry with Sony for forcing 720p-native games to 480p on displays that don't support 720p but do support 1080i. Of course, it doesn't help that Sony themselves have sold plenty of 480p/1080i-only HDTVs.

I want to be clear, though: all of this isn't to dispute your take on Gears' graphics. You (the royal "you") either like the choices the artists made or you don't. For my own part, I was really turned off by many of the screenshots and trailers -- and posted as much on this forum -- but have been absolutely floored by the game itself (scroll down from that link to see me eat my words). The muted colour palette and run-down environments remind me of Resident Evil 4, which, perhaps not coincidentally, I also loved.

What I'm getting at, I think (I'm basically formulating my thoughts as I write, here -- "How do I know what I think until I see what I say?") is that I'm not convinced a game has to be designed to look good in every resolution of every display that might be connected to it in order to be a good game. It might be truer of console games than computer games, because the range of resolutions is much more limited, so a developer could perhaps be reasonably expected to have at least tested the game at 480i, 480p, 720p, and 1080i on appropriate set types. In contrast, computer game developers have to consider graphics chipset and video memory variation as well as the myriad resolutions and refresh rate options available on computer monitors. I'll concede, then, that the point is debatable, but I certainly don't take "a good design transcends hardware" as axiomatic, even if we confine ourselves to discussions of graphics as we have done so far.

To broaden the discussion with a non-graphics example, I don't think game designs on the Wii will be hardware-transcendent -- rather, I think they'll be hardware-specific, and in fact contingent on hardware with a precise set of capabilities (specifically, a controller capable of sensing position and motion). So I might agree that there are contexts where making elements of a game contingent on a certain piece of hardware is indicative of poor design, but I don't agree that this is universally true, even specifically in the graphics context.

Added: Of course, you specified optional hardware, and the Wiimote could hardly be considered optional; I'm just broadening the question of hardware contingency for the sake of discussion.

I don't think I could disagree with a review as much as I am with this one. It makes me wonder if we have played the same game. Yes, you are correct in pointing out that Gears of War has been hype city since it was announced and Microsoft has built an understandable amount of advertising/hype-mongering behind it. Because, it *is* their flagship title for this year and a title that was perfectly timed to coincide a week before the Playstation 3 hits.

However, the game itself is terrific. You can look at the graphics as being drab and full of browns and grays, but so are some of the pinnacles of gaming. Ico, for instance, takes place in a castle for practically the entire game. Final Fantasy VII also has a very techno/drab color scheme. Both have been heralded as terrific games and also, for the time, graphic powerhouses. If you are only looking at the color scheme you are, in my opinion, missing the architecture, the beautiful crumbled buildings. The smoke, the fire, the gunshots.

But, graphics aren't everything. And, while there are some control issues with simplifying movement/cover to one single context-sensitive button, the truth is the game continues to change up gameplay (much like Resident Evil 4--another game to have "drab colors) so you aren't doing the same thing all the time. I would hazard a guess you haven't played this game with another person because that is where the beauty shines. The tactical nature of multiplay, the fun co-op that is actually considerably different from the standard, Halo-type of co-op.

The game's sounds also key you in wonderfully. Like a poster above mentioned, its very easy to hear the sounds of the Kryl before they attack, giving you plenty of time to high-tail it out of the area. The sounds in the game are terrific. I'll never forget the first time I heard one of the different kinds of wretches squeal before it launched itself at me. Or the surprise when a beserker exploded through a wall, desperately trying to sniff me out.

You can look at the very minor technical issues (some A.I. problems, simplified movement/cover) and denounce it as being a good game and then start an article about how the game sucks. Or, you can take the good and the bad in stride to make your determination. What I see here isn't a review, its an attempt to rant and provoke those who actually liked it to respond.

You know how after Halo released, there was that whole wave of "HALO IS THE BEST GAME EVER 11.5!!!" reviews, followed about 6 months later by "Well, okay, Halo isn't the best game ever, whew, why would anyone say THAT?!" articles, sometimes from the same source as the inital review? Think of Fletch's review as the first wave of the coming backlash. ;)

After reading Shannon's response I'm reminded of how flawed (and corrupt) the review industry for videogames is. Neverwinter Nights 2 had "rave" reviews when it first launched and now low scores are trickling in after the hype. Some reviewers acknowledged the serious game stopping bugs and scored it high anyway... where's the incentive to release near bug free games anymore?

When you read a movie review that scores 3 / 5 stars (60%), it's still considered an okay movie. In the videogame industry, 60% is a terrible game. If a game is scored below 50%, it's unquestionably garbage. The only thing that makes sense for this discrepancy is that game reviews are padded due to publisher influence and review company greed. As time goes on, mediocrity is scored higher and higher. I mean, if an okay game gets 75% now, then good games have to get 85% and awesome games get 90%. The gap is closing, it seems. It almost seems like reviewers are trying to justify previous publisher influenced scores by scoring games thereafter higher, even if they weren't encouraged to do so. The publishers have skewed the rating standard, in my opinion, and review companies have let it happen.

It's like the game review system needs to be simplified so that reviewers and publishers can be called on their bullshit more easily. Like a 0 to 5 star rating system (no half stars). Padding a review up a whole 20% is a lot easier to see than 10%. I remember reading game review magazines 10 years or more ago that had a 5 point rating system (something like 5 = outstanding, 4 = great, 3 = good, 2 = not so good, 1 = bad, 0 = absolutely terrible)... why did that disappear? Don't answer that if it involves publishers and reviewers being easily called on their padding, please. ;-)

Also, I really like how some magazines had multiple reviewers critique the same game (I've seen this in some recent magazines too). You got to see three or so independent scores. Brilliant! And all the reviewers had to do was write a few paragraphs justifying their score, none of these 5 page reviews to "register their disgust" or "parrot the hype" crap. They had to discourage you or sell you on a game with as few words as possible. Yes, they had to choose what they said and how they said it carefully. Crazy, I know.

This rant is making me less articulate as I go on so I'll cut it short here. ;-)

I've always been a big campaigner for the 5 star rating system. It just seems like a really logical way of doing things and would certainly make things a lot easier on the reviewers. who can really tell the difference between an 83 and an 87 anyway?

What does bug me is when sites like metacritic use an averaging system that scales everything to a mark out of 100, so the few sites that have realised that a 5 star rating system is the way to go will often be seen to give a good game 100%. I would much prefer that metacritic averaged the scores with weighting (eg for IGN scores, take score and subtract 5 then multiply by 2 to get score out of 10) and then rounded off and gave perhaps a score out of 10 with no decimals (5 stars with halves).

In response to fletchers review, I have two things to say given that I haven't actually played the game.

1. The review gives the impression that fletch played single player by himself. As wanderer said, it seems to me that gears was really made to be a co-op game, and i will attest to the fact that even a crappy game gets a zillion times better if you are able to play it in co-op mode with a friend. Now before you go and whinge about a company making a game that is only fun as a multiplayer game, stop yourself and think about what exactly just crossed your mind. Now that you've come to your senses, go and put chromehounds back in and hassle your mates to join you.

2. With regards to the colour scheme and the hd/non-hd issue. Firstly the 360 is a console designed for high def. If televisions were all still standard def the jump in graphical power would seem quite insignificant compared to the last few generation changes (it sorta does anyway). The 360 (and the PS3) are designed to use HD sets to get the most out of what is possible with the available technology. The only reason they still support SD/ED is because not doing so would eliminate the majority of the marketplace and wouldn't be very good for business. Its important that anyone commenting on the graphical capabilities of a game make sure they are using the proper setup. Those that can't afford to buy a new HD tv might find that a bit rough, but I think its fair.

That said, I agree with the opinion that the browny greys of a lot of games going around right now are very very bland and boring. BUT there are a lot of games doing this right now and there is a reason why. Real life generally consists of brown and grey and a billion different shades of green. If you include the sky on a nice day you could even include some blue but you won't see any real places with the vibrant colour schemes like in kameo and viva pinata. Realistic wartime games (and often other genres too) sometimes call for drab colour schemes. Its just something we are gonna have to learn to deal with.

just two thoughts...even If somebody just owns a SDTV-it should be no problem to connect the 360 with a PC Screen to see what the Hype is all about ;)
and yes...Real life generally consists of brown and grey If you spend your time in factory halls, caves, tunnels and the darkness of the night.I think nobody really expects Viva pinata colors in "serious shooters", but I can´t see why "next gen heroes" should not be able to leave their concrete bunkers and enter the jungle at daylight, fight in shopping malls or explore different planets. Realism in WW II Shooters is one thing-transfering that same realism to Future Settings, other Planets and even Alien Races is not mandatory.

Goofonian:
Real life generally consists of brown and grey and a billion different shades of green.

Real life is also often boring, frustrating and/or depressing. But that doesn't mean my games have to be.

I have to say that I feel Fletcher's review of Gears of War was meant to validate his earlier thoughts on it, rather than a genuine look at the game's qualities.

Adamus:
I have to say that I feel Fletcher's review of Gears of War was meant to validate his earlier thoughts on it, rather than a genuine look at the game's qualities.

You didn't "have" to say that, but since you've chosen to do so, I must now retort with (not to put too fine a point on it): You're wrong.

To quote Ralph Waldo Emerson, from "Self-Reliance": "Speak what you think today in words as hard as cannonballs, and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict everything you said today."

I've held this quote in my heart since I first began putting words to paper (etc), more than two decades ago. I, like Emerson, am not afraid of being wrong, or of changing my mind. That's the price one must occasionally pay for having the courage to express one's opinion. If one is unable (or unwilling) to admit to being wrong, or to change one's opinion, then that person is a fool and should not be speaking in the first place.

I am no fool, sir. I just don't like Gears of War. That I expected I wouldn't doesn't necessarily indicate bias. I was (in true Emersonian style) perfectly willing to embrace the possibility that I was wrong and that, in spite of my predictions, Gears was a great game and worthy of the hype. But it's not. As I said in my review, it's not bad really, just not great.

Your review is remarkable due to a total lack of insight on the game's multiplayer aspects, which are a vital part of the game's qualities and have been marketed as such. This does not indicate to me that you've given the game a proper running through to base your opinion on. Have you since tried the co-op play? If so, has it impacted your earlier review at all? If not, can you admit that your opinion is based on an incomplete picture of the game's features and qualities?

I think we can just chalk it up to different strokes for different folks. Gears either connects with you or it doesn't.

Adamus:
Your review is remarkable due to a total lack of insight on the game's multiplayer aspects, which are a vital part of the game's qualities and have been marketed as such. This does not indicate to me that you've given the game a proper running through to base your opinion on. Have you since tried the co-op play? If so, has it impacted your earlier review at all? If not, can you admit that your opinion is based on an incomplete picture of the game's features and qualities?

Dude. If I won't debate a good friend and colleague, I'm certainly not going to debate you :)

What I don't understand though is the amount of pressure being levied against folks like myself who don't like this game. It's almost juvenile. Peer pressure to the extreme, which, I think, is the necessary end result of the amount of hype generated before the game's release. Why it's just not possible for people to accept the fact that I don't like this game is beyond me.

Take for instance how accepting I'm going to be right now of how much you dislike my review. I wish you liked it more, but I accept that you don't. These things happen. But we can still be friends.

And thus the world continues to turn despite the fact that a group of people (myself included) didn't particularly like Gears of War, the fact of the matter is, when the ineveitable sequels start to roll out, everyone will begin to find fault with it (It happened with Halo and it'll happen again).

What this thread needs is a hug. Maybe a drink, too, but most certainly a hug.

It's strange, these arguments get so heated and personal that you'd assume some of us have a personal interest in how well the game does. I'd like to think we as a community will not be depressed if Microsoft only sells two million copies of GoW, instead of two million and one.

First off, I don't own an Xbox 360. All I've seen of GoW myself is five minutes of play at a friend's. I don't plan on buying an Xbox 360 so I won't be playing GoW anytime soon. As it stands I don't have any real opinion on the game. The hype was also mostly lost on me, as I'm pretty much a pure PC gamer and I tend to ignore a lot of what happens in the console world.

What I'm trying to get at, as a writer of game reviews myself I too sometimes make the mistake of judging a game on only part of its merits instead of all of them. I get called out on that, like when I gave NWN2 a bad score without having considered the toolkit that enables players to create their own multiplayer adventures. That is a huge part of the appeal for many players of NWN2, and to leave it out of a review and score the game without having looked at all its features, that doesn't do anyone a service.

So what I'm basically trying to do here is to make it clear that while GoW's single player experience may be flawed, it's very much possible the multiplayer aspect of it more than makes up for it. For example, if you judge BF2142 on its single player experience alone, you're not really reviewing the game properly as it's not meant to be a single player game. GoW is more single player than BF2142, but it still has a very strong multiplayer aspect to it and I genuinely feel that a game reviewer should also consider that aspect of the game before forming their definitive opinion.

Now I'm not trying to pick a fight, and if anything I posted is considered overly argumentative then I apologize, that's not my intention.

P.S. Demiurge, I'll take that drink.

Gears of War is really the first major "beta" release of the next generation, meaning it offers gamers the first taste of what the new hardware can actually do. People have been waiting a year for this drink of cool refreshing water and they are relishing in it. I do not think it's glowing reviews have anything to do with the hype machine as Fletcher claims, but are the result of a lot of eager gamers finally getting a tasty morsel of a good next generation game. As this generation matures, standards will get higher and Fletcher's review will not seem so out of place, but spot on. Let's be honest. While Gears of War is a great shooter, it really doesn't do anything all that innovative, besides render beautiful graphics. It takes already tried and true game play mechanics, with a few new twists, and executes them extremely well. For that it should be applauded and it may be the best game to come out for the new consoles so far, but it doesn't really have much competition at this point in time. Thus, should we judge Gears of War by the current state of the next gen. software line up or by a more rigid less historically contingent standard, which Fletcher seems to have employed?

Fletcher:

Goofonian:
Real life generally consists of brown and grey and a billion different shades of green.

Real life is also often boring, frustrating and/or depressing. But that doesn't mean my games have to be.

Word, Fletcher.

Monochromatic military games might be appealing to some for their realism, but to me, well, I might as well be watching the news from Iraq. (And whatever your politics, is that by any stretch fun?)

On the other hand, using the example of Halo, here you are: In a blobby, vibrant purple and pink environment, wearing emerald green armor. And here's your weapon: it looks like a huge sky-blue chicken leg with fuschia bristles poking out of it. And you have to shoot the orange guys with it. It's like military psychedelia. Now that's fun. That's playing a game.

well at least don't pay $59.99 for it, wait for it to hit the bargain, bargain bins say in the $5.99 bucket or better yet wait for the inevitable sequel that should at least manage to fix half of what the first game did wrong.

like getting rid of the one button does everything except what you want it too, like not get you killed in multiplayer because its stupid.

Adamus:
First off, I don't own an Xbox 360. All I've seen of GoW myself is five minutes of play at a friend's. I don't plan on buying an Xbox 360 so I won't be playing GoW anytime soon. As it stands I don't have any real opinion on the game. The hype was also mostly lost on me, as I'm pretty much a pure PC gamer and I tend to ignore a lot of what happens in the console world.

What I'm trying to get at, as a writer of game reviews myself I too sometimes make the mistake of judging a game on only part of its merits instead of all of them. I get called out on that, like when I gave NWN2 a bad score without having considered the toolkit that enables players to create their own multiplayer adventures. That is a huge part of the appeal for many players of NWN2, and to leave it out of a review and score the game without having looked at all its features, that doesn't do anyone a service.

So what I'm basically trying to do here is to make it clear that while GoW's single player experience may be flawed, it's very much possible the multiplayer aspect of it more than makes up for it. For example, if you judge BF2142 on its single player experience alone, you're not really reviewing the game properly as it's not meant to be a single player game. GoW is more single player than BF2142, but it still has a very strong multiplayer aspect to it and I genuinely feel that a game reviewer should also consider that aspect of the game before forming their definitive opinion.

Now I'm not trying to pick a fight, and if anything I posted is considered overly argumentative then I apologize, that's not my intention.

P.S. Demiurge, I'll take that drink.

people will drink piss if deprived of water long enough, some how i don't think that makes it as refreshing and satisfying as a nice cold filtered and parasite free glass of water.

im glad someone gave this game a realistic review, thanks Fletcher.

To counter the "Why I Wouldn't Buy It," stand, I say if you have a 360, this is THE game to own. Why? Fun, fun, fun! Put simply Gears of War is just a really fun game to play and it has a lot of satisfying gameplay elements. I think Fletcher's criticisms are all valid, but of all the shooters I have played Gears of War is one of my absolute favorites. So, while I do not disagree with any one point, I am baffled that Fletcher didn't have fun playing the game, despite some of the issues he brought up. Sure, the AI can be stupid at times and once in a while you roll instead of taking cover, but it rarely detracts from the fun of playing the game. Also, the world in the game is decidedly gray in color, but the graphics are stunning to behold and provide a sense of realism that I find immersive. But on to what I like about Gears.

To begin with, the third-person perspective, combined with the duck and cover system are wonderful additions to the genre and are implemented well. Playing a shooter where no one can use bunny hopping and the flop and fire technique in multiplayer is a breath of fresh air and makes for a more realistic battlefield environment. These guys move like real soldiers weighed down with hundreds of pounds of weapons and armor would move. They are lumbering beasts who would likely chainsaw any soldier they saw bunny hopping around like an idiot. To stay alive you have to stay in cover, protect your flanks, and plan an attack. This applies to the campaign and multiplayer. More than any shooter I have played, Gears of War perfectly blends the super soldier ideal with the reality of the lethal battlefield and the need for cover and tactics. I get the sense that you can win every battle, but only if you are smart about it. Epic's decision to not rely on either aspect too much (super soldier vs. tactical squad) was a great design decision. Online multiplayer is a blast and Co-op is just fantastic. Even playing the campaign alone is a lot of fun. I think Epic made a wonderful game here. While not perfect, it is still a lot of fun to play and I can't wait to see how Gears of War 2 turns out. If you only have one game for the 360 this is the one to have, IMO. Buy it!

I really wish I'd seen this review before I bought this game. I agree with almost everything in the review. I'd add that the washed-out colours make it seem extremely depressing overall, and I just don't like that in a shooter. It's like I'm playing a game in black and white back in the 1930s. I mean I can handle games like Call of Duty which are a bit washed out, but this is ridiculous: everything - EVERYTHING - is grey.

Also, the much-touted 'cover' system simply doesn't work. Sure, when you're in cover you're safe, but basically the only time the game allows you to shoot at anything is when they're shooting at you (because the enemies take cover too), and as soon as you aim and fire you break cover, rendering the whole system pointless. Then there's the issue of aiming - you can't aim when you're in cover so you have to break cover in order to get your gun on target, and there's no looking with one eye exposed - if you see them they can shoot you. Aiming is clunky at best - many times I find my aiming reticle bouncing around an enemy because I just can't control it with the finesse I need.

Then there's the graphics - sure there are some nice smoke and heat effects, but for a next-generation game built on a state-of-the-art graphics engine there sure seem to be a low number of pixels for the characters' bodies and facial animation is minimal at best. When compared to the faces in Dead Rising the facial detail and animation in this game SUUUUCKS!

Basically, it's a flawed shooter, uninspiring and clunky but with a huge amount of hype that will, I'm sure, fuel a horde of fanboys who won't hear a bad word said about it. Buyer beware.

i disagree with some of what the poster above me said. Some of the things that you complain about don't even make sense...such as the game doesn't allow you to shoot at an enemy unless they are shooting at you and that you can't aim while in cover. Well..duh. It's a stop and pop game play mechanic. The idea is getting in the right position to get off good shots. It's ducking behind a wall and reloading before the enemy blows your head off. And the cover system works fine...you sounds like one of those guys who just stands there and lets themselves die because they don't want to follow the rules of the game.

It's fine if you don't care for the kind of game that it is, but calling it a flawed shooter assumes that it's like other shooters which it isn't. It has a vastly different playing style. Sure it has flaws. The game isn't for everyone, and has fair steep learning curve...but it is indeed worth the hype. It's just not as "pick up and go" as the original Halo was.

I have played Gears of War to death and there is no doubt in my mind that it is a great game. Its focus on strategy is a breath of fresh air for shooters. The single player, the online co-op, the multiplayer, it's all great because the core gameplay is FUN. The hype surrounding this game was justified, in my opinion. It's one of the few games that lives up to its hype.

There is also no doubt in my mind that Gears is a game that not everybody likes. Case in point: this reviewer. Obviously this game is not his cup of tea. That's fine. What bothers me is that he makes Gears seem like a mediocre game that is only getting attention because of its hype.

The design issues he points out as major flaws are only minor annoyances that pop up rarely in the game. Yes, your squadmates are unreliable, and spend about as much time downed as they do fighting. Does this ruin the awesome strategic gameplay of Gears? Did your useless marine buddies in Halo ruin that game? No and no. There are problems in the Kryll infested level, where it's hard to tell if a semi-dark area is safe or deadly, and sometimes that results in your death. It's a minor flaw in one of the game's levels, but the game as a whole is still great.

But even great games can't please everybody. Personally, I can't stand Starcraft. All the micromanaging is tedious work to me. But I can still recognize Starcraft to be a great game. It has personality, a good plot, cool graphics, strategic depth, etc. It's just not my kind of game. Don't ask me to review it because I won't do it justice.

Gears of War is not Russ Pitts' kind of game, and it has more to do with his particular taste than the ignorable flaws he point out in his review.

maxjae:
I have played Gears of War to death and there is no doubt in my mind that it is a great game. Its focus on strategy is a breath of fresh air for shooters. The single player, the online co-op, the multiplayer, it's all great because the core gameplay is FUN.

Why is it fun?

I ask the above not because I will ever disparage anyone for liking any form of legitimate entertainment, and I won't ever do that. I just think most of the responses of "but it's fun!" come off thin in reply to the original article. If you had fun playing Gears, great. But is it necessarily more fun than the FPSes that have come since for the 360? Would it have given Halo 3 a run for its money? I have trouble imagining that it could.

Rather, I tend to think Gears came out right on the market bubble. People bought it because there were few good games for the 360 at the time, and even fewer shooters. I don't doubt there was fun to be had, but I wonder how many of the above replies of "but it's fun!" are just people knee-jerking against anything that might make them regret spending money on what might actually be a lackluster game.

Gamers are really good at kidding themselves that way.

J.theYellow:

Why is it fun?

Gears is fun because it's more strategic than most shooters. Playing well is as much about good positioning as it is about good shooting. If you take cover close to the enemy, you can pop up and do some real damage, but you're vulnerable to a sudden charge. If an enemy is running up on your position, you can pop out with the shotgun and try to blow him away, or you can blindfire with the lancer (machine gun) which won't damage him much but will make him retreat without having to pop up and make yourself vulnerable. It's these kinds of decisions that make Gears of War fun. Other shooters have this stuff, but it doesn't have as significant an effect on the gameplay as it does in Gears.

WHY OH WHY WON'T YOU REVIEW MULTIPLAYER WHHHHHHHY

Here's a thought on why so many reviewers don't. In single player your gaming experience is determined by the game, and you as the player. That's it. And an experienced player can eyeball the game and make determinations about roughly how difficult it's going to be for less experienced gamers. You can even make qualified comments about how the game will be for more experienced players if you as a player are somewhat lacking in an area.

Multiplayer experience depends largely on the other people with whom you play

How many times have you played a game which involves other people, and heard descriptions of it that frankly didn't even sound like it was the same damn game. I have many, many times. Additionally the personality of a player heavily biases one's experience. We all know 'those people' who seem to group with nothing but slackjawed asshats. Strangely enough the only commonality to their experience is...them. Good luck suggesting it's them though, they never seem to believe it.

Plus not everyone plays the multiplayer aspect of a game. Games are sold on the strength of their single player game. Yes, certainly games like Halo3 will have the majority of their market not because of the single player aspect, but the online muliplayer. But that's not a majority of games. And even people who did review Halo3's multiplayer had to stick strongly to mechanics and past history simply because it's so dependant on the others you play with.

Just some thoughts.

You know something how does a game with a keymapping that utterly cripples the player deserve all of these high scores? Why for the love of god is it not possible to change the keymapping so that people who use Southpaw and legacy layouts can actually control the game properly? Explain to me how great it is to be forced to use the A button for everything so that if you use the Southpaw layout it becomes virtually impossible to perform the actions that A controls while moving because YOU CANNOT MAINTAIN FULL CONTROL OVER THE STICK AND HOLD DOWN A AT THE SAME TIME WITH YOUR RIGHT THUMB!? I don't feel like choosing between aiming and the ability to move around correctly, and there is no way in hell a game worthy of those kinds of scores should have such a pathetically bad control scheme. What good is any kind of multiplayer if the game mechanic is so horribly broken that you cannot even play properly because the developers were too stupid (and yes they are stupid.) to properly adjust the keymapping to account for the stick options they provided in the first place?

 Pages 1 2 NEXT

Reply to Thread

Log in or Register to Comment
Have an account? Login below:
With Facebook:Login With Facebook
or
Username:  
Password:  
  
Not registered? To sign up for an account with The Escapist:
Register With Facebook
Register With Facebook
or
Registered for a free account here