| This has got to be one of the best possible games to christen my new Xbox 360 with. What an incredible one this is! I am completely blown away. I realize this might be as much to do with playing it on my also new HD TV, something I've never experienced before. HD is the way to go, even if I am many years late to the party. |
A friend recommended this Gears of War pack with 1 & 2 + an expansion. Since GoW 3 comes out in a few hours, this is a good way to move units and get more fans. I know they got at least 1 in me, plus 2 more in my roommates who have gone through co-op with me. Said friend is currently standing in a long line at some game store waiting to purchase a copy of GoW 3...
GoW is not what I thought it would be. I didn't have much knowledge of what the game was about, just figured generic super soldiers battling aliens stuff, pretty straightforward FPS with a cover system. Well first, it's third-person, not first-person, which goes perfectly with the cover system gameplay presented. Second, it's not so generic as I had assumed. The soldiers work in a squad of 4 to save some planet from alien domination. What's great about it is the characters have got personality. They jock each other, have some interesting back story that ties in (Cole Train's former football career), and just really act as if they're a team of soldier dudes taking on impossible odds and orders. Most games fall terribly flat presenting 'badass' characters, but this is done extremely, convincingly well. The story alone isn't terribly in-depth, but it's so mired in thrilling action that it seems more exciting than it is. The game hasn't let up, and I love it for that.
The visuals are amazing, and the thing is what, 5 years old. Again, I'm sure it's partly the TV. I can't imagine how good GoW 3 would look if GoW 1 is so stunning. Everything's really detailed. The environments are fantastic. So far I've played in three acts in unique settings. First...uuuuh...I can't remember the first one. Okay who cares, the second and third were awesome and totally memorable! The second act takes place throughout a ruined section of the city, bombed out buildings and rusty-car-strewn streets. There's a light/dark mechanic. These bats of death, some type of nocturnal flying and swarming alien, come out and kill whatever is alive in the darkness. So you have to stay in the light to avoid being swarmed and killed near-insta-death style. There are long scary stretches of darkness which you can alight by shooting propane tanks. Often, the propane tanks are not easy to spot, so you'll think you can maybe sprint through the darkness. Sometimes you barely make it; sometimes you die and notice you ran by a propane tank that you can shoot next time around.
This propane tank level was excellent for co-op play. I do wonder how my experience is different playing co-op rather than single-player. I guess this will be a new thing for me, playing games co-op or in the same room together with folks. I definitely enjoy it, the teamwork, the high-fiving...it's great. But I can't help but wonder what it's like for me to sit with headphones getting totally absorbed in it. I suppose introducing variety in who I play with (versus playing alone) will be cool and open me up to new gaming experiences. Anyway, back to the propane tank level. Having two pairs of eyes looking out for tanks, looking for how to create paths through the darkness, was better than one pair of eyes. I played act 1 on casual with H, and acts 2 and 3 on hardcore with J, who had played the game way back when. J and I were able to cover each other's backs against both aliens and darkness. There were some parts where we'd move through the level, me on the left, him on the right. We'd look out for propane tanks on each other's sides, so I'd shoot the ones on his side that he couldn't see, and he'd shoot the ones on my side, making it so we were laying out paths for one another to follow. It was very cool. Since we were playing on hardcore, and we aren't pro console shooter players, we ran into some trouble here and there and had to practice some areas a bunch of times before moving on. I really enjoyed how we developed strategies to deal with problem areas.
There was another part where we were split up, each with an AI squad mate, moving through a section of act 3, which was set inside an old factory and then inside some mines below the factory. That act, by the way, was really creepy because the game introduces these screeching enemies that crawl on ceilings and leap at you. They glow and when you shoot them they blow up. They are really fast-moving. If they hit you once, then you shoot them and get hit by their explosion, that's it. Two shots like that to die. It's rough when they swarm at you, very hectic. So this part of act 3, I went right and J went left through these two narrow corridors. Those glowing exploding runner aliens would jump down out of vents and stuff onto us, in front of us, and behind us. We figured out something about the nature of the enemy encounters in the game then, at least of this type. There seem to be a certain range, or possibly exact number, of enemies that the game tosses at you. Since you're split up on two sides, it appears random as to how many appear on each side. Sometimes J got almost every single alien while I only had 1 or 2; other times it was more even. This led to a gleeful unpredictability. We could pretty much learn where the aliens would come from, but couldn't know when and how many, or if they would come at all. So we were both watching both our screens. If I didn't have any for a while, I'd tell him so: Watch out! I haven't gotten any, they're all coming to you! Then he could prepare (or was already under attack) for the onslaught. The unpredictability kept us thinking on our feet. Really cool stuff.
The other crazy thing about that particular section of act 3 was that there wasn't any place to hide. Most of GoW features a great cover system whereby you advance on enemies by running and vaulting from cover to cover. It's a lot of fun and allows for some strategic advancing and plenty of flanking, by you and the enemies. But this section of act 3 was just a claustrophobic venting system, no cover to be had, with aliens that were extremely fast and dangerous bounding down the hall at you. Very scary.
The boss battles are also pretty damn cool so far. I remember two vividly that each required teamwork, or were at least made easier with teamwork. One was this giant spider monster in the mines. It defends itself with its legs, then every so often, when you shoot its belly, lifts its legs and opens its mouth to roar. Shoot it in the mouth and it backs up. Every time you shoot it in the mouth, a wave of those glowing exploding guys comes out of this lava stuff, so you've got to deal with them. Eventually you push the spider back onto this platform with destructible latches clasping it to the main part of rock above the lava. When the spider gets here, the waves of glowing exploding enemies continuously come. When we both tried to fend off those small enemies, neither one of us had time to try and kill the spider. After killing a few waves and realizing we were getting nowhere, with me seeing something about those destructible latches, J said he'd deal with the little enemies, and I said I'd figure out what the hell the latches were for. He held the little guys off, and I figured out that the spider needs to attack me on the latch, thereby breaking the latch. Break both latches and bye-bye spider.
There's another boss, I think it was near the end of act 2. Actually I don't think it was a boss, just a monster type, a berserker. But we haven't seen another and it was really involved, so maybe it was. Who knows? Anyway, the berserker was blind, and could only tell where we were by smell and hearing. Its attack was a charge, destroying all in its path. The goal was to lure the berserker outside by getting the berserker to destroy doors in successive rooms. Finally once it's outside, you can kill it with this laser satellite-targeting gun. Boom. But this required a good deal of coordinated movement between me and J. One (or both) of us had to stand in front of a door, lure him with gunshots, move out of the way, have him crash through the door, then we both run through to the next room. Usually one of us would mess up and not make it through the door in time, so that person would have to face off with the berserker one-on-one when it came charging again, avoid it, and run through the doorway successfully. It's harder than it sounds!
In co-op GoW, when one player dies, the other can revive him (or her). This system is awesome, in that it gives players a lot of opportunity and motivation to help one another off the ground. After all, you want your buddy fighting alongside you. It led to a ton of heroic rescues too! I can't count how many times J or I sprinted across a battlefield to revive the other one, narrowly avoiding rockets, nearly dying in the process.
All in all, I think EPIC is a good word to describe the game. I am so looking forward to playing more when I get a chance, probably next weekend. Then after that, we have GoW 2!
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