Gears of War - Xbox 360
Microsoft is so confident that its latest gaming epic, Gears of War is so good, it's released it on the same weekend that Sony and Nintendo has their new consoles. So it is good enough to woo those in line to go Xbox 360? Following on from our First Look in October, we take a closer look.
You are Marcus Fenix, a disgraced former war hero, as he fends off an alien species as they battle to take over the planet.
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.
Although anxious about the camera angle in our preview, given a better chance to play Gears of War the camera becomes second nature. There are 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.
One of the major selling points beyond the gameplay, which has a strong focus on hiding behind pillars, crates vehicles and anything else for that matter, is the graphics.
Created by Epic under Microsoft's publishing arm, Gears of War utilises the new Unreal Engine 3 to create cinematic, high-definition visuals that, are well, the best we've seen on the Xbox 360 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 Xbox 360 and that HD Ready television you've no doubt got hooked up to it easily holding its own against Resistance: Fall of Man on the PlayStation 3.
Back to the gameplay and 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 shoot blind just like they do in the movies, in fact the gameplay is so good that there's not much left to do in games after this.
Squad AI could be a bit better (they keep running in your line of fire), but other than that, it is very good and should keep gamers very happy.
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.
Playing online is as good any other online multiplayer with opponents able to play either good or bad forces. Fully supportive of the voice connectivity we found the feature worked a treat when playing with mates in the co-operative mode or merely working out how to flank an enemy's position.
Multiplayer game modes vary, but one nice feature is that in one of them you can even save dying team members in certain modes as long as they can keep their heart pumping.
VerdictComing from the makers of Unreal Tournament you know that you are in for a good experience, and having played this solidly for a week, this is clearly a must have game for adult Xbox 360 owners who like combat-based games.
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 are right.
There's not much to do left in games after this.