Ever since I finished Half Life 2: Ep 2 I’ve been looking for another good shooter to play. And then I heard that Gears of War was going to be available for the PC. I’ve been wanting to play GoW for a long time, and simultaneously not wanting to buy an Xbox 360, so naturally I ran out and bought it. Alas, Gears of War is not what I was hoping for.
It’s allegedly a tactical game, though you have no control over your squadmates — er, squadmates? Let’s not be afraid to call a spade a spade — “bait,” is what they are, as their job is apparently to run in, immediately be cut down by a hail of gunfire and for the rest of the level, lay there panting and moaning for you to come “revive” them — I put that in quotes because, really, if you do run to [deadliest point in level]
Your weapons, which have enough recoil to prevent you firing more than three accurate shots in a row, do not have enough impact to stop enemies from routinely charging directly at you, leaping over your cover, and chainsawing you in the face. Meanwhile your own melee attacks take about twenty . . . no, that’s hyperbole . . . they take a few seconds to execute, which is not fast enough to respond to the guy chainsawing you in the etc. etc. Not only that, but the number of times you have to hit an individual enemy to bring them down is INSANE. In one place I had a guy above me and across the way popping up from behind a wall. The only place I could hit him was in the head . . . and yet it took me a couple hundred rounds of ammo to drop him. Even allowing for a 25% hit ratio, that’s still 50 shots to the head. To take out one opponent. Ye gods. Apparently the human race HAS fallen on hard times, if this is the best tech we can muster.
The cover mechanism, while cool at first, proved very dicey in the heat of actual combat. Oftentimes, when I didn’t have a clear shot at an opponent, I would detach from cover and stand near the other face of the obstruction I was hiding behind, hoping to get a better angle. Then hit the “cover” key . . . only to NOT attach to cover, but to dive straight into an onslaught of gunfire and die instantly.
This would be an endurable frustration were it not compounded by an UNENDURABLE one, namely, in porting the game MS have not bothered to add a “save anywhere” feature. No, really. On a PC game. I know, right? You would think they would have learned their lesson from everyone bitching about Far Cry. So in this one place (I’ll call it “the last bit of Gears of Torture I will subject myself to in this lifetime”) you’ve got three Locust that you’re trying to kill with your little nerf gun — a guy with a cannon, a spotter for the cannon guy (the aforementioned dude in a loft across the way), and a roamer. About fifteen times I played through this section, often killing the observer, sometimes killing the roamer. Finally, I managed to get behind the guy with the cannon so he couldn’t instakill me, at which point it became apparent where they spent the AI dev budget they saved by making your teammates a bunch of slack-jawed monkeys. The guy abandoned his post to jump over my cover and chainsaw me in the face. It sure would have been nice to quicksave before that happened, so I didn’t have to kill the same two guys another fifteen times in a row, since doing so is not fun. I know, it’s crazy talk and I’m sure the designers at Epic have felt the etheric ripples of my heresy and are even now experiencing a twinge of irritable bowel syndrome.
This feature — er, lack of a feature — reduces the game to a sort of series of mini-vignettes in which you have to learn the correct sequence of actions the designers wanted you to do and execute them perfectly before being allowed to go on, such as the area where you have to close five emergence holes and they give you six grenades. No, really.
In short, Gears of War is a stunning looking game that only a certain type of person would enjoy, and that person would be someone who has never played any game but Halo and thinks Master Chief is the deepest, most well-developed character in the history of games. Unless your tolerance for suffering is greater than mine — and remember, I have kids — I would give it a miss. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go back and play through Episode 2 again to get this filthy taste out of my mouth.