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Gears of War on XBox…

Title Gears of War
Developer Epic Games
Type First Person Sneaker
Platform(s) XBox 360, Windows
Kelly Score ™ 87 / 100

I mentioned previously that I’ve acquired an XBox 360. I’ve been having a blast with it, and I plan on putting together a little overview of my experiences to date. But for now I’ll talk briefly about one game in particular, Gears of War.

Gears of War is one of the run-away success stories on the XBox 360. Over 4 million copies have been sold so far, and everyone seems to think it’s fantastic. So what is all the fuss about? GoW is not a revolutionary game: at its core, it’s a first person shooter of the oldest traditions. It has a shallow “aliens invade Earth/bad-ass commando type with a big gun saves the day” story, tons of action, vast arrays of monsters to fight, and plenty of weapons to play with. But it isn’t all the same….

The biggest differences in terms of game play versus GoW and, say, Quake or Doom, can be summed up in two different catch phrases: “run and gun” versus “drop and pop”. Run and gun is what you do in Quake or Doom: run around, rocket jump, bunny hop, and generally behave like you are jumped up on crack or something in an effort to avoid being hit by your opponent. Drop and pop is what you do in Gears of War: dive behind cover, pop up and shoot, then jump/dive to the next bit of cover. You can also poke around corners and blind fire your weapon if you want to maximize your use of cover. It’s different, and personally I prefer this approach.

The remainder of what makes Gears of War stand out can be be boiled down to production quality. The sound, the textures, and the graphical details are first rate. The control scheme is easy to learn but tough to master, with an innovative “action reload” mechanic that makes putting bullets in your gun interesting in itself. I liked my “squad” of computer-controlled buddies: often, they were actually helpful and required essentially zero handholding. Similarly, monster AI seemed first-rate, although a couple of glitches now and then, with monsters getting “stuck” or the like, marred the perfection.

In summary, I’d rate Gears of War as between an 8.5 and 9 out of 10 on the “Kelly” scale. The biggest frustration in the entire game, and what (for me) probably reduced my overall happiness the most, was the very end scene. Killing that final monster took me a couple dozen tries and several hours…not as much fun as frustration. Since talking about the final battle would be a spoiler, I’ll hedge things a bit by forcing you to click a link if you don’t mind spoiling the ending. If you want to know how I finally got past the last monster, see this strategy video.

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