Tag Archives: Epic Games

On Gears of War 2

I finished Gears of War 2 the other day. It took me far longer than it should have done because of a slightly doughy patch in its middle that I needed a push through, but overall it was a better game than the first in every way. Crude and brainless, yes, but is that a bad thing?

There are a lot of gamers who will hold up games like Gears 2 as the worst thing to ever happen to gaming, somehow responsible for denying the medium its rightful place among the ‘respected’ entertainment media, but I think that there’s always a place for this kind of thing. Besides the point that no one except gamers takes it that seriously, you’re barking up the wrong tree if you think that games aren’t respected enough because of testosterone-fuelled action games.

Gears of War 2 - The Hollow

Aliens, Terminator 2, Die Hard, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, The Matrix… All of these movies are, to various extents, considered to be classics, if not in general then certainly of their genre. They might have some cod philosophy to please the chin-stroking crowd, but at the end of the day you watch them to see people with guns doing cool shit.

Gears is the same as that. It’s as subtle as a brick, but it looks amazing – see the above shot – the tight action is second to none when it’s on a roll and, on the whole, I just had a brilliant time with it. Is it art? Who cares? I’d prefer movie posters and comic book artwork on my walls to Monet, and I’d prefer Gears to a game that’s trying to be clever for the sake of it. At least Gears of War is honest about the fact that it’s a game, and the point of them is to be fun.

If you’re looking to Gears to bring you closer to enlightenment you’re barking up the wrong tree – hell, it’s barely even a tree in that case – and I won’t come away from it as a better person, but I got to ride a fucking Brumak!

Best of 2006 #3: Gears of War

Gears of War

Of all the games on here, this is the one that, almost above all, had to be good. Despite positive previews it was really an unknown quantity until launch, and without Halo 3 until next year it was the 360’s big gun for its first Christmas with direct competition. And while it wasn’t perfect, Epic did a fabulous job and laid the foundation for Microsoft’s latest big franchise.

Just to get it out of the way, Gears looks amazing. It’s certainly the technically most impressive console game I’ve ever seen, and until Crysis it’s debateable that even the PC has anything to match it. Look at the caverns in Act 3, and I defy you to tell me that it doesn’t look stunning.

While the campaign isn’t the longest in the world, while it doesn’t act on the potential of its story, and while the macho stereotypes are tired (though slightly tongue-in-cheek, which helps), what it does have is a refreshing take on the usual run and gun shooters and some of the most visceral and satisfying combat in any game, that is even better when played online with a friend. The chainsaw bayonet is an obvious and ludicrous example, but it works in this context where even the destroyed opulence around you is larger than life.

I doubt that Gears will have the legs that the Halo games have had, but nonetheless this is a lesson in how to do a next generation game. After this and Rainbow Six Vegas, expect every shooter in the next three years to have some kind of cover mechanic. If you didn’t like it in this game, you’re screwed.