Gears of War is expected to be the must have game for over 18s this Christmas on the Xbox360. Pocket-lint was given early access to the game.

It's the same old story. You are Marcus Fenix, a disgraced former war hero, as he fends off an alien species as they battle to take over the planet.

What isn't the same old story, is the graphics. Created by Epic under Microsoft's publishing arm, Gears of War utilizes the new Unreal Engine 3 to create cinematic, high-definition visuals that, are well, the best we've seen on the Xbox360 to date.

Whether it's characters, in-game video or details to the buildings the graphics are starting to match computer animation at times and it will certainly one of the best games to show off the power of the Xbox360 and that HD Ready television you've no doubt got hooked up to it.

Played in the third person like Splinter Cell, the game does offer first person elements allowing you better accuracy when shooting, however for the most part it's all about the camera hovering just above you. In our play of the game we experienced no awkward camera malfunctions and we especially liked the low jogging camera angle that the game automatically adopts when you start running - it is as if the camera man is there following you as you take out another alien bad guy.

Microsoft are pushing this as a strategic shooter rather than a guns blazing full-on death fight and because of this, the gameplay is considerably more focused on offering you chances to duck for cover or sneak up on enemies rather than simply charging them. It's a gaming stance that in practice works very well - you can use any wall or vehicle for cover and then choose your moment wisely or merely blind shoot just like they do in the movies.

As you would expect with all shooters there is a vast array of weapons at your disposal, including a sniper rifle for those who don't like to get too close and personal. Of course there is that option too and part of the reason the game has been given a BBFC 18 rating is due to the fact that rather than secondary weapon on your machine gun being the usual grenade launcher, it's a chainsaw so you can chop your opponent in half in true blood splattering gory detail (see images).

With an estimated 20 hours of gameplay on the single player missions the focus is on multiplayer fun and you can play up to seven other players either via system link or Xbox Live. Following Halo's example gamers will be able to opt for a co-op mode across all game modes, levels and scenarios and Microsoft has said that it expects more maps to be available via Xbox Live once a community has started to build.

Multiplayer game modes vary, but one nice feature is that in one of them you will even be able to save dying team members in certain modes as long as they can keep their heart pumping.

First Impressions

Coming from the makers of Unreal Tournament you know that you are in for a good experience, and if our first look is anything to go by this is going to be one of the must have games when it comes out in November.

Microsoft are saying that they've managed to get the graphics to be better than that of Sony's PlayStation 3 and judging by what we have seen they may just be right.
One to look out for.

We will have a full review in due course.