I played all the way through the campaign mode in a couple of sittings and never got bored, but I can imagine that some gamers may find the gameplay somewhat repetitive after a while. To be fair though, that could be said for almost any shooter game, whether first or third person – you either like this type of gameplay or you don’t, and GoW does it so very well. However, Epic is keen to keep players interested and to keep coming back for more, so there are some very good multiplayer co-op options. Obviously there’s split screen, so you and a mate can play Marcus and Dom on the same screen, but you can also do the same over system link, if you happen to have two consoles and two TVs handy. But the best bit is that you can play through the entire campaign in co-op mode over Xbox Live! This adds a whole new twist to the game, allowing you to work as a team. It makes a big difference when Dom is actually taking out locusts and flanking entrenched defensive points rather than just being canon fodder.
The multiplayer goodness doesn’t stop with co-op play either, there’s an awesome team based multiplayer experience to be explored. There’s simply no doubt that Gears of War offers the best console based online multiplayer experience out there. Of course there will be lots of hardcore PC gamers that will whinge and moan about the fact that there have been great online gaming options on the PC for years, and they’re right, but they’re also missing the point. There are masses of console gamers that don’t play PC games, and for them the GoW multiplayer experience is earth shatteringly good.
As is always the case with Xbox Live, finding a game to join is as simple as pie – something that can’t always be said for PC gaming. You can filter the type of game you want to play, the type of map and whether you want to join a ranked or unranked server. I found the online experience to be smooth as silk, without the slightest hint of lag. The best part about GoW online is that it encourages team play even on a public server – again something that's woefully rare on PC games. Because of the excellent cover system, and the fact that your damage regenerates with a few seconds of hiding, you can’t win a round by taking a position and trying to take out the enemy when they pop their head up – basically, as soon as they get hit a few times they will duck back and regenerate, as will you. So the key is getting some of your team to pin down the enemy while you flank them and take them out from behind. Of course, while you’re attempting to flank the enemy you’ll find yourself out in the open and vulnerable – just like in real urban warfare. Just like your squad members in the campaign mode, players can be downed with a few shots – they can then be revived by a comrade, or stomped to death by an enemy
There’s no doubt that Gears of War has been hyped up beyond belief, but in so many ways it lives up to, and even surpasses that hype. No matter what I tell you about the visuals in this game, nothing will prepare you for the spectacle that you’ll be treated to when you fire it up on a decent high definition TV. The sound effects don’t let the party down either and having a decent sound system adds to the already immersive environment. If I worked for Sony, Gears of War would have me worried, because I’ve seen nothing on the PS3 that can match the impact of Epic’s, err, epic.
Gears of War has changed the face of console gaming. If you were wondering if it was worth buying a high definition TV to go with your Xbox 360, take a look at GoW running on a decent screen and you’ll be digging your credit card out in no time. Not only is this the best looking console game I have ever seen, the control method, the gameplay, the animation, the sound effects and the atmosphere are all straight out of the top drawer. I’m sure that some people will find the fire/cover routine dull after a while, but if you really get into the fluid movement, the swift reloads and the general carnage that’s constantly surrounding you, I guarantee that hours will fly by before you know it.
Throw in a superb multiplayer experience, both in co-op or team battle modes, and it’s clear that Epic has got all the right boxes ticked. Some dodgy AI, an absence of a coherent storyline and a few other niggles stop Gears of War from being perfect, but what you do have is stunning example of what next generation console gaming should be. Epic has pushed the envelope with Gears of War, and I doubt if we’ll see a better looking or more immersive game hit the 360 until Halo 3 rears its head.