By Sam Coles:
Say what you want about the Gears of War games, but they did have a huge influence on how third person action games are made today. I want to go over the first three Gears of War games as it was intended as a trilogy originally *cough* *cough* Halo. So let’s journey back all the way to 2006.
Gears of War (2006):
The Xbox 360 had only been out for a year at this point and most people were anticipating the new Halo which was due out in 2007. However there was a new I.P announced known as Gears of War, it took elements of what third person action games were doing at the time and tweaked and improved them which set the standard.
The story is about a war between humans and a race that occupies the caves and tunnels of the planet called the Locus. They emerge to claim the planet to be theirs so a bloody battle begins. You play as Marcus Fenix who is in prison because he is apparently a traitor, his comrade Dominic Santiago breaks him out. Marcus suits up and starts kicking ass and taking names with the iconic Lancer assault rifle. I know what you’re thinking “what’s so special about an assault rifle”? Well… what if I told you that it had a chainsaw strapped to the bottom of it which lets you cut your enemies in half.
The game really showed off what the 360 could do in terms of graphics (at the time) with great environments and animation. However the game hasn’t aged well with its aesthetics as they look baron and drab compared to next two instalments. The gameplay introduced a good cover system that you see in any game that uses a third person perspective that involves shooting, where you cling to cover and pop up and open fire, even stealth games adopted this method.
Multiplayer was very popular with this game and use to be part of the E-sports circle with live broadcasts. It was thrilling to see players who were really good at the game because they would use a technique called wall bouncing to get around the map where they would slide from cover to cover. However the multiplayer had an extreme lag problem due to the fact that the game did not use dedicated servers, it used peer to peer where if the host had a bad connection you would have lag.
Gears of War 2 (2008):
Gears of War 2 took the foundations of the original game and tweaked them such as the chainsaw mechanic, cover system and improved the multiplayer.
Gears of War 2 takes place after the first game where the COG’s super weapon didn’t wipe out the Locus. You once again take control of the very angry Marcus Fenix, but the story does focus more on Dominic Santiago because he is looking for his wife. You start off in a hospital with injured soldiers, but everything goes south really fast when the Locus launches an assault on the infirmary.
The gameplay has been tweaked compared to the first game as well as adding more weapons such as the ink grenade which will slowly poison your enemies if they’re in the area of affect. What was a great addition was that you could counter chainsaw attacks; I know this doesn’t sound like much but chainsaw attacks were instant kills. How this works is that if you press the B button you would go into a chainsaw duel where you have to mash the button as fast as you can and then get the upper hand and kill them.
Multiplayer was vastly improved compared to the first game because they started to use dedicated servers over the peer to peer that was almost unplayable in the first game. They added a new horde mode where you and a friend could go up against 50 waves of enemies which would get progressively harder, it’s a fun mode a few times but it gets old fast.
The world of Gears of War 3 is a world which is on the brink of destruction where the society and government have collapsed. The COG is in ruin where they’re just fighting to survive rather than fighting for their cause. The team are up against a new threat called the Lambent, these creatures are mutated Locus where they have absorbed too much Emulsion which is the planets fuel source. It’s not just the COG who are trying to survive, the Locus are trying to survive as well because the Lambent are mindless zombie versions of them so they don’t take sides.
Graphically this game is mile better, as they improved everything from animations with facial expressions with the lip syncing to the fantastic blood effects. They took what they had with the second game and turned it up to 11, all textures have been smoothed out and it really pushed the Xbox 360 to its limits
The multiplayer in this game has to be the best in the series; they finally fine-tuned the multiplayer to perfection as there was barely any lag and plenty of game modes to keep you busy. It also helped with the gameplay as it is the best and fastest in the series, for the first time you can mantle kick, what this means is that when you mantle over cover and there is an enemy on the other side you can kick them in the face and set up an easy kill. They added in a few new weapons there is the Retro Lancer which had a standard bayonet instead of a chainsaw which also kicks like a Mule, there is the sawn off shotgun which can kill someone with one blast if you up close.
They still had the horde mode which could be played with 4 players rather than two; the reason why it’s 4 players is because this horde mode is much harder than the second game as they have added in boss waves. These bosses are generally Berserkers who can only be killed with the hammer of dawn. This version of horde kept my attention for longer due to the fact that you didn’t just do wave after wave you had manage a small base which can have barbwire to slow enemies down or gun turrets for extra fire power.
Horde mode also got another twist in the form of Beast mode, where you can take control of the Locus horde. This mode is really fun because each Locus creature had unique abilities; you start off with the basic Ticker who could explode on demand to the Berserker.
The Gears of War series great for letting off steam with it’s over the top violence that seems to be the norm these days. If you want to give the trilogy a go it’s super cheap to pick up all three. However if you played Gears of War Ultimate Edition on Xbox One from its release back in August last year to 31st of December they’re yours for free on Xbox One backwards compatibility.