Gears of War: Previewed at X’06

by MaxPower

Gears of War - Box

I had the chance to check out the much anticipated Gears of War for the Xbox 360 at the X06 event in Toronto. Gears of War is one of the heavily hyped games which is debuting up against the release of the Nintendo Wii and the Sony Playstation III. Unlike Viva Pinata (which we reviewed a few weeks ago), Gears of War aims directly at the typical “Xbox” demographic, which of course is males ages 18 – 34. The fact it is squarely aimed at those over 18 is made apparent by the fact that to view the website you have to enter your birthdate. This game is rated M boys and girls. If you’re under 18, the website says “The Coalition has determined your age too juvenile to proceed.” Now I wonder if those “juveniles” could figure out bumping their birth year back 5 years or so would get them on the website… I�d recommend those interested in the game to check out the website ( for 4 movie clips which provides a back-story for the game. The style of GoW is a ‘third’ person shooter (think Resident Evil 4, with the camera angle over the shoulder style), however it has some twists to differentiate it away from Halo or WWII first person shooters.

Developed by Epic Games and out November 7th, 2006 Gears of War thrusts gamers into a story of humankind�s “epic battle for survival” against the Locust Horde, creatures that surface from under the earth’s surface. That’s right, no aliens for here. This is an earth-centric clash of the titans. The surfies vs. the underworldians. They, Epic, and the publishers, Microsoft, don’t call it a “shooter”, rather it is a tactical third person action/horror game. Third person because you see your character battling, rather than living in the “first person” in Doom-style. It is also “action/horror” because you play the game like it was a movie. My first view of GoW was as I was walking up to the HD flatscreens which were set up at X06. I caught a rather cinematic sequence where the main character was running in a half crouch along the battlefield, the camera trailed behind at about waist height. The Microsoft staffer standing beside me said that was called the “CNN view” and you could see where the name came from, it looked like those handy-cam type shots of a battle. Everything was swaying and moving in a realistic manner, pretty impressive as it was a movie element which was integrated into the gameplay. It is also obvious that Epic and Microsoft were trying to build this into a movie type game, with dramatic horror elements – I mean just check out the preview video we have posted here.

The game play itself isn’t as run and gun as Halo or Doom as there is an element which is tactical in nature. How immersive this tactical element will be is hard to gauge without sitting down for a few more hours with the game as I only got to play around with it in one “area” but it seemed like if you didn’t duck and cover the bad guys would cap your ass pretty quickly. The Horde took cover and seemed to respond relatively well to unexpected events. However, when I jumped over a barricade and ran up to an enemy to give him a butt-end of the gun hit, he just kind of stood there and took it. The rep beside me said “Oh, you got him, interesting”. One thing I didn’t know is that if I would have been holding a grenade and then did a melee attack I would have shoved the grenade into the enemy body. Now that is something I’d like to see. I don’t know if the AI is consistently improved from the last generation of shooters or if there will be bugs like that. The friendly-team AI looks to be improved as well, and Epic claims that “For the first time, AI team-mates are indiscernible from human players. They move intelligently, take orders effectively, and seek cover and defend themselves when necessary.” Well defending themselves is always necessary, this is a battle against the Horde here, but they also seemed to move relatively effectively through a jumbled battlefield. The whole jumbled battlefield concept is a refreshing change from some of the more linear sequences in the Halo franchise for example. The big question is however; are the days of me popping my AI teammate just so they wouldn’t get into the way in battle over? It appears so. In the short time I played GoW my AI side-kick ducked, hid behind walls, threw grenades and gave competent instruction to me (they are coming to your left, which indeed they were). You fight with teammates quite a bit and you’re not a squad-leader so you’ll need to do what your told on occasion, which doesn’t take away from the gameplay. To be clear, you can’t just open a door and run into a room with guns blazing. Well you could, and you’d die. You can crouch, peer around walls, use supressing “blind fire” when you just put your gun around the corner and fire and take advantage of dynamic environs. Dynamic environs meaning stuff like kicking around your enemies corpses, ah yes, dynamic. (It’s rated M remember).

Gears of War - Screenshot 1

Gears of War - Screenshot 2

The graphics were also pretty impressive. The game is powered by the Unreal 3 Engine and on an HD screen it is very obvious you’re playing a next gen game. Beyond the solo missions there is a ‘fire team co-op mode’ where all levels and scenarios are playable with either yourself + AI or yourself + other gamers. GoW also is available on Xbox Live with an impressive array of individualized matchmaking, statistics, achievements to earn and game-types to be customized. Xbox Live is a big part of this game, the main quest should take about 10 hours to complete if you blow through it, similar in size to Halo 2. But of course the replay value here is with the co-op game play modes and the Xbox Live functionality. Viva Pinata this is not.

  • Gears of War: Previewed at X’06
  • by MaxPower
  • Published on November 11th, 2006
Gears of War
Epic Games
November 7th, 2006

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