Gears of War

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Hi first-time Multiplayer Singleplayer reader! Thanks for checking out the site. Did you google funny videogame reviews and find us? That’s great! So, here’s the deal: Two of us write for this site.

1. Me, Young Adam Dorsey
2. My good friend, Curtis Retherford.

Although this website is written under the guise of a funny videogame review blog, its true purpose is to convince my friend Curtis Retherford to buy an Xbox 360 or a PS3 so that I can play games with him. That’s kind of why I roped him into writing for the site in the first place; I figured he would be more likely to read the posts if half of the articles were credited to him.

Unfortunately, I seem to have lost my way, because I’m about to talk to you about Gears of War, and let me be upfront, Gears of War is no reason to buy an Xbox 360.

Maybe it tricked a lot of dudes into buying an Xbox 360 back in the day, but those dudes were wrong. There are exactly two things about Gears of War that are good:

1. The Roadie Run – When you press down on that A Button and Marcus Phoenix crouches and the camera swings low-and-behind and tracks him at amazing speed as the screen blurs ever-so-slightly — This is one of the most thrilling gameplay mechanics in recent gaming.
2. The Chainsaw Bayonet – It’s hard to find the words to describe the feeling you get when you’re holding down that B Button, hearing those blades rev up, and then sawing straight through a threatening baddie as blood splatters the screen. The best part of the whole thing is that your character screams out as he does it, which is the same thing I want to do every time it happens. It’s gross and exhilarating and usually the quickest way to stop someone from shooting you in the face.

So those are the two good things in Gears of War. You want to know the bad? How much time do you have?

1. The story is horribly told, which is awful, because it should be interesting. The concept of Emergence Day, this day when all of these horribly scary alien brutes burrowed out of the Earth (or in this case, the Earth-like planet Sera) and proceeded to attack humanity, is very cool, sort of a modern-day retelling of War of the Worlds, but with chainsaw guns. The history of this world is even better, particularly the fact that humanity had been entrenched in a 79-year war over control of a valuable power source mineral called Immulsion before the evil Locust Horde ever popped out at all. It’s an interesting story with an interesting setup, but throughout the course of the eight hours or so of gameplay, none of this interesting setup leads to anything worthwhile, or even comprehensible. Most of the time, I had no idea what I was even doing, let alone why I was doing it. There were some caves underground, there was something about rescuing your dad, and there was some sort of bomb-thing that didn’t really work.

I remember that while playing Halo 2 and 3 in co-op, I would sometimes have no idea why I was doing something, or what it was I was even actually doing, but these bursts of confusion only lasted for short periods with Master Chief. Gears of War feels like a bunch of unrelated but similarly bland levels stuck together, with boring cutscenes that fail to explain why anything is happening at all.

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2. All of the ugly, steroid-ed out alien dudes look just like the ugly, steroid-ed out good guys. I never turned to a bad guy and shot him outright. There was always a short pause as I thought “Wait, is this a good guy?” This is an abysmal failure in game design. In Call of Duty, where everyone is human, I never shoot my own guys instead of the bad guys. In Gears of War, where the bad guys are crazy mole-people-alien-things, there are no easy visual cues to tell them from my Delta Team cohorts.

There was a section while I was playing co-op with a friend, where he began shooting at me because he thought I was a bad guy, and I shot back at him thinking he was a bad guy. I even went as far as to throw a grenade at him.

“Wait, is that you?”
“Oh, crap.”
“Okay, let’s keep moving.”

3. All of this is because the art design is awful and uninspired. Everyone in the game looks like they should be playing football. One of the characters in the game is actually an ex-football player (except on the planet Sera, I think they call it Griffball). The story is very serious, but the characters are laughably ridiculous. The voice-acting is pretty good, but who cares when everyone looks the same. The ruined cities and ancient mines look like Unreal, which looks like Quake, which looks like Doom. The different Locusts mostly all look the same: There’s the normal soldiers, the crazy small hopping soldiers, the bigger soldiers, the hippy soldiers, and the exploding soldiers. The bigger creatures are the more interesting creatures, but the best looking baddies are only seen in the cutscenes.

When a game looks good and the characters are interesting, I want to get an action figure of those characters. I usually don’t, you know, actually get one, because I’m a grown-ass man–but I want to. If for some stupid reason I decided I wanted a Gears of War action figure, they could sell me one figure with eight detachable heads and I could change it into every character in the game.

So wait, why should I play Gears of War? You probably shouldn’t. I bought it for $9, even though I had played the first act before and didn’t really like it, but I thought for $9 bucks why not. I even bought two copies and gave one to a non-Curtis-Retherford-friend for co-op, and in a way, that is Gears of War’s saving grace, because co-op, as is the case with most games, makes it playable. The sheer mediocre-ness of everything sort of washes away as you voicechat with a friend, shooting baddies and occasionally accidentally shooting each other.

There’s real multiplayer, but who really cares. In a world where we have Halo 3 and Modern Warfare 2 and Left 4 Dead, Gears of War 1 multiplayer just doesn’t really hold up anymore, sorry.

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I followed up Gears of War by immediately playing Gears of War 2. It’s much better. Like I’ll-probably-play-it-a-second-time better. Like when-Gears-of-War-3-comes-out-I’ll-buy-it-day-one better. Here’s why:

1. The story is interesting and relatively easy to follow. It delivers on the promise of the fiction while introducing nice twists and teasing even bigger ones. It asks the tough questions, although it appears to be waiting to answer them until a later game, which is okay by me.
2. The graphics are a lot prettier, which makes it a lot easier to tell the good guys from the bad guys.
3. The characters are more interesting and more human this time around. Maybe I kind of want a Coletrain action figure. There, I said it.
4. The enemies are more varied, the set-pieces are bigger, and the variety in levels is there and very welcome. [SPOILER-RIFIC EXAMPLE] There’s a level where you get swallowed up by a giant worm that is burying human cities, and you have to navigate its organs to find its hearts and chainsaw the arteries until it dies. You can actually drown in the blood from the cut arteries if you are not careful. [END SPOILER-TASTIC EXAMPLE]
5. Horde mode, where you battle wave after wave of increasingly stronger enemies with 4 co-op partners. It’s so fun that it is now a required mode in most multiplayer games.

I could not feel more different about Gears of War 1 than I do about Gears of War 2. They just took everything and made it better. I still wish that they had made some different design decisions when it comes to the characters and environments, but I guess sometimes you wanna play as a steroided-out football player with a chainsaw gun, and that’s when Gears delivers in spades. It’s a bonus that the character is also voiced by John DiMaggio of Futurama fame.

So maybe this review won’t convince my good friend Curtis Retherford to buy an xbox, but it is me warning him that when he does, I’m gonna send him a $10 copy of Gears of War 2, because I need more people to play Horde with.

Also, did you guys see the trailer to Gears of War 3? Dom has a beard! What a twist! Day one, bitches. DAY ONE.

Adam Dorsey

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2 responses to “Gears of War

  1. Curtis Retherford

    I thought you started this blog to convince me to buy a juice box. I’ve bought a lot of those.

  2. Anonymous ONI agent

    Personally, I thought Gears 1 had the best campaign, if you don’t count RAAM’s Shadow in Gears 3. It really nailed the “bleak desperate fight for survival” atmosphere for me. The horror element also enhanced the experience, even if it was only pop-scares.
    What disappointed me was the multiplayer. I played about 30 glitch-ridden matches, and only completed one without lagging out, on a well above average connection. Gears of War 2 and more so 3’s mp is lightyears better in just about every way.

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