|System: PC, X360||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Epic Games||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Microsoft||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Nov. 6, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-8||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Nathan Meunier
Around this time last year Epic Games dropped a bomb on Xbox 360 owners powerful enough to temporarily distract many hardcore gamers from their carnal daydreams about the impending release - 10 months away at that point - of the final installment of an epic first-person shooter trilogy which needn't be named. On Microsoft's high-end console, Gears of War was a gaming coup d'etat which crammed an enormous amount of attitude, artillery, and action into an über tactical third-person apocalyptic slugfest.
A year later, PC gamers finally get their chance to taste the grit and gunpowder in a last-ditch struggle to stem the bloody tide of a subterranean assault that's left human civilization in ruins. In its port to the PC, the game receives a few updates and some killer new content that's guaranteed to rattle your gut. The extra material alone may not be enough to entice players who've already shelled out the dough for the Xbox 360 version, but Gears of War on the PC is absolutely not to be passed-up.
Stunning graphic details, amazingly fresh gameplay, and a grand, sweeping story arc are only bits and pieces of what elevates Gears of War well above other titles of its ilk. The action is so intense and realistic - in a futuristic, impending doom for all humanity kind of way - that barely a single moment goes by where you won't feel glued to the heart-pounding conflict unfolding on the screen. Whether you're cautiously sneaking around through old decimated buildings to avoid detection, diving for cover in the midst of chaotic firefights, or frantically trying to reload before being overcome by a charging foe, the thrills rarely subside. The pace is frenetic, and the presentation is virtually flawless. The few occasional moments of calm, where gunfire ceases and subhuman bodies litter the ground, offer a chance to reflect on the desperation of your plight. Even then the eerie quiet is foreboding as you never know when the next ambush will shower you in a hail of bullets.
The game immerses you headlong in the fight to save humanity. If being stuck on the losing side of a violent conflict and facing the possibility of being wiped clean off the face of the planet wasn't bad enough, the fact your sworn enemy is a legion of snarling inhuman abominations makes the situation even more severe. Though it may not seem so on appearance, just the right flavor of survival horror atmosphere has been sprinkled into this well-oiled war machine. Every chapter of Gears of War is dark, ominous, and very carefully crafted to instill in players a sense of isolation and urgency; you are the very last line of defense against the complete annihilation of your civilization, and you'll feel the weight of your task pressing down on you every second.
Life on planet Sera changes drastically for its human inhabitants on Emergence Day, a harbinger of the catastrophic times to come. It was on this day a race of powerful and horrific creatures known as the Locust Horde burst forth from beneath the ground, causing death and destruction in their wake as they quickly overwhelmed key cities on the planet. After many people are evacuated to another planet, the humans are forced to destroy their own civilizations rather than let the horde control them. The story in Gears of War picks up fourteen years after Emergence Day as the horde continues their conquest unabated and all able-bodied humans left on Sera are forced to take up arms in a last-ditch effort to survive. Players end up in the unlucky shoes of Marcus Fenix, a former soldier imprisoned for desertion, who's put in charge of leading the small Delta Squad. Their mission is grim as the rough-and-tumble group sets out to map the horde's underground tunnel network and deploy a super weapon designed to turn the tables. No ever one said your job was going to be easy.
Fortunately, the precise aiming control afforded by the mouse and keyboard setup makes popping the heads off your enemies far more enjoyable and is in many ways superior to using a controller. The tradeoff is other actions are slightly more cumbersome since running, diving, and grabbing cover are all mapped to the same button. The biggest letdown is the fact the "F" key is used to rev up the chainsaw mounted on your rifle. Slicing enemies in twain with sprays of blood dripping down the camera is always a sinful pleasure, but it's one you simply won't be able to enjoy frequently enough since it's in such an awkward location in relation to the WASD keys. You can, of course, manually adjust other custom controls to your own personal liking, but the default setting makes it hard to switch over fast enough when it really counts.