Well, yesterday’s post was a bit longer than I expected but, hey, that’s how I roll. Some times koffdrop.com is a barren wasteland with no updates for ages, other times, it’s an opinion fest with details, pictures and a host of typos. Damn, it’s good being me. Anyway, unless I start delving back into 2006 this will be the last Beaten post from me for a while as, right now, I’m at a point where I’m starting games instead of finishing them. So let’s end with a bang:
Gears of War (360)
Hang about! You know what this means don’t you? Koffdrop’s finally joined the next-gen. Yes, it’s true. I may have taken my time but I’m here now and I got a pretty sweet deal on a 360. Will I get other machines? Undoubtedly – when there’s sufficient content that appeals to me and the market has settled down a little. Some of you, I’m sure, will already have spotted the gamercard in my sidebar. Feel free to drop me a message or a friend request.
So, last Friday, my new toy arrived, I hooked it up to my last new toy (42″ HD LCD screen) and played nothing but Gears of War until I beat it. It was good!
I will, of course, talk about the visuals but first of all I want to talk about the dominant part of the gameplay – cover and shooting. It’s kind of odd that a week before I played Gears for the first time I should have worked my way through Second Sight which delivered a very satisfying mechanic of cover and shooting. In fact, had I not played Second Sight I’d be far more impressed with Gears. Now, I’m not going to start a fight between the two, I’m putting my experience down to coincidence, but it certainly casts a different light on things.
So, yeah, I totally sucked at Gears in the first chapter. Hell, I didn’t even manage to aim with crosshairs until way too late. However, I hit my stride and found the game really delivered some great action and made the most of the relatively limited mechanics it had to offer. Let’s not beat around the bush here, the game is a solid first/third person shooter with a cover mechanic worked into it (and a certain amount of vulnerability worked into the player so as to make it essential to successful gameplay) and a nifty active-reload doohickey. That’s the meat and potatoes. Co-op is gravy.
I don’t think I’m being overly critical on the core game. The cover mechanic is absolutely brilliantly implemented and, like the rest of the game, looks perfect. Heck, I was checking out the detail on the back of Marcus’s head and ear looking for some flaws and couldn’t really grumble! Thing is, as great as the cover system is, it’s a little contrived. For example, in Chapter 3 when you’re underground there’s a narrow passage you walk through and it just happens to have rocks and a structure that screams “Hello! These are really obvious cover points. I’m going to throw some bad guys at you in a second”. There’s other instances of such contrivances and it brought the game’s ultra-slick standards down a notch.
And whilst the game may not do loads of different things, what it does it does very well indeed and they get as much mileage from the mechanics as possible. The areas of gameplay where you have to stay in (or create) lit areas were a particular highlight. I thought the beserkers were great too, the game breaking it’s regular theme and having you act quietly and leading the enemy to an exposed spot was a good change of pace. Likewise, the driving section was decent. Thing is, I really don’t get the big deal with driving vehicles in games like this. OK, if vehicles are integral to the overall gameplay (Battlefield, for example) that’s one thing. But I don’t find this compulsion to play a half-assed driving section as some sort of ‘added dimension to gameplay’ particularly rewarding. It did hardly anything for me – but I’ll argue that it was as well executed as any other area of the game, just totally unnecessary. I also enjoyed the different qualities of the weapons. I tended to favour the Lancer because, lets face it, chainsawing is so wrong but it feels so right.
Of course, the visuals bring it all home. I’ve never seen anything quite like it and, more than anything, the human effort apparent in the game is what really impresses me. The principle characters are simply astonishing to look at and realise that this stuff is running in real time. Their appearance maybe highly stylised (particularly ‘Unreal’ stylised with their traditional big shoulders and big boots look) but it’s just gobsmackingly good. It’s more pronounced when you encounter some of the lesser NPCs in the game such as the Stranded where you can see the difference in design quality between them and the principle characters. Furthermore, the character animation is absolutely bang on. A particular highlight to me is when the player messes up an active reload and their character slams the barrel of the weapon a couple of times. But in pretty much all other areas the animation is so good you simply don’t question it or the impossibility of the armour and movement of the characters. There’s no question that the underlying technology is good stuff but, as expected of Epic, Gears of War makes it look
better than anything we’ve ever seen before. It’s Epic’s job to make their technology look peerless and, make no mistake, Gears of War sells Unreal technology. It sells it because it makes it look so good. Epic have clearly invested a massive amount of time and money into the appearance of Gears – not just to make an incredible looking game but to advertise their technology. I’d be willing to bet that they put a considerabaly higher percentage of their resources into their art budget than most games do because of how important it was to make the world go “Wow” and to sell Gears and generate incredible buzz for the technology. Once again, this isn’t a criticism it’s common sense and, like the rest of the package, it’s executed with style and precision. Good for them – they deserve the attention and the business.
I really enjoyed playing Gears of War and seeing my new toys flex their muscles. Now I’ve beaten the game I’ll be indulging in a bit of online play (probably only with people on my friends list) to get the most out of the game and machine. I’ve no great compulsion to return to the single player campaign other than for achievement points but seeing as I have Crackdown, PES6 and Oblivion to check out I’d rather see new things on the new toy than take another look at something I’ve already played through – even though it’s very pretty.
So that’s the end of my posting splurge for a bit. I’ll let you know what I’m currently playing a little later on – along with feedback on it. Who knows, maybe I’ll see you on the other side of the screen?