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Volume 72, Issue 102, Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Life & Arts

Time for gamers to ‘gear up' for war

Action-packed graphics make up for plot holes 
in a must-have shooter game 

The Daily Cougar 

In an industry where shooter games have become hackneyed with recycled plots and average graphics, Gears of War 

stands out with fantastic graphics and enthralling game play, perfect for delivering hours of fun that leave gamers with a strange desire to use chainsaws. 

Emergence Day is a day that will be remembered in history as the day the human race was nearly brought to extinction by the appearance of the subterranean-dwelling Locusts. The Locusts are an insect race that craves the destruction of the human race. In response, the humans destroyed their own settlements and cities except for one last bastion, obviously the best solution to counter such an invasion. 

Gears of War begins with Marcus Fenix, a grizzled warrior court marshaled and imprisoned for abandoning his post in an attempt to rescue his imperiled father. Marcus' incarceration is curtailed when he is forcibly re-enlisted by his old comrade Dom Santiago. Marcus and Dom reunite with Delta Squad, an elite group who talk trash and are heavily armored. These machine-gun-toting giants sport vocabularies that could fit on an index card. Their mission is simple: regroup with Alpha squad and use a supersonic "bomb" to map the Locust tunnels in preparation for an underground torpedo strike to end the war in one fell swoop. The only obstacle is a horde of swarming Locusts that can shoot, claw, pistol-whip and self-destruct. 

Gears of War takes players through ruined cities, guano-encrusted caverns and abandoned facilities on a ride to save the world. The most immediately noticeable feature of Gears of War is the extremely detailed graphics. Environments and characters are rendered and animated beautifully, though beautiful may not be an appropriate adjective for grimy soldiers crouching behind gore-spattered rubble. The colors range from the resplendent silver of steel weapons to the flat crimson of drying blood, adding a great deal of vibrancy and realism to the experience. 

Another feature worthy of consideration is the cover system. Practically everything in the environment can absorb enemy fire from walls, barrels and couches, though moldy furniture is not necessarily the best defense against grenades. Once behind cover, extra maneuvers become accessible, such as leaping over walls, charging around corners and nifty spins between two adjacent pieces of cover. The cover system is a welcome addition to any sort of war game, and Gears of War implements a very intuitive system adding an entertaining hectic feeling to firefights. 

The weapon selection in Gears of War leaves a little to be desired, as there is a notable lack of innovative weapons. Of course the game includes the standards: machine-guns, shotguns, sniper rifles and pistols. However, there are a few highlights worthy of killing Locusts. When the machine-gun is first introduced, there seems to an oddly shaped attachment beneath the barrel. Sure enough, upon your first attempted melee, the purr of an angry motor blares from the television and suddenly what was once an ugly Locust is now a pile of chunky goo. 

Indeed, that attachment is a chainsaw-bayonet and ammo is rendered obsolete. The chain-yonet is the cause of a great deal of gory entertainment throughout the game because nothing is more satisfying than cutting a snotty Locust vertically in half after an arduous firefight. Another rather fun addition is the Torque Bow. At first, it seems to be cheesy bow and explosive arrow acting as inferior sniper rifle without a scope. However, in later difficulties, an arrow from a torque bow will transform even the hardiest of enemies into a smoldering mound of charred flesh. 

As entertaining as Gears of War is, the plot and story is as riddled with holes as the cover Marcus hides behind. First, most of the supposedly insect Locust race are merely oversized human models with overly pallid skin. No pinchers or tentacles or bisected jaws; just a regular mouth the exact diameter of a grenade. Also, Marcus' history is expanded very little, as are the origin and intent of the Locusts. Throughout the game, an eerie feminine robot voice occasionally narrates, but her explanations rarely explain anything, leaving the player confused.

Gears of War delivers a great game that can be played alone or cooperatively, or even online, though the online play is rather unoriginal.

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