Gears of War has made quite a stir since it was announced last year. The game, being designed by Epic, was depicted in only video demo form at last year's E3. Epic's main man behind Gears of War, Cliffy B aka Cliff Berszinski, was there last year showing off what many said would be the Xbox 360's killer app.
Oh Gears of War, Where art Thou?
Well here we are a year later; now let me rewind a little bit to E3 last week. When we got into the expo in the middle of last week there were many things we here at MyGamer wanted to see and get our hands on.
-The mystery of the Wii: did we get to play and find out what it's all about? Check.
-Wondering about an announcement for Halo 3: Did we see the trailer? Check.
-Actually being able to get our hands on the PS3: Did we get some hands on impressions? Check.
-Being able to play Gears of War for the 360: Were we able to actually play it? Did we even see it on the show floor? Negative.
So much for subliminal messaging
Gears of War, the possible 360 killer app was no where to be found on the show floor of E3? Outside Gears had by far one of the biggest banners on the whole convention center. Inside their were homeless looking guys holding up tattered signs as if they where preaching of the Apocalypse, that read "Emergence day is coming." Even on the floor of the South Hall lobby area there was a hand crafted pastel drawing of the Locust, the enemy in Gears, emerging out of the ground.
Watch your step…
So with all of this propaganda for this "Emergence Day," where was Gears of War? It was simply hidden, very well. Where was it, you ask? Tucked away behind a simple curtain on the outskirts of the Microsoft booth and also upstairs in a couple of strategically placed rooms. It was a blessing when Staff Writer Brian Grant and I got access to a private viewing in the hidden curtain room. We were able to watch a live demo of the game being played by the man himself, Cliffy B. God bless being Media.
Now On To the Game!
So as I was saying, Brian and I were able to get into a private viewing hosted by Cliffy B. We entered the curtain room and took a seat on the plush ground cushions they had provided to attendees. Soon after a couple of the nice young ladies handed us some heavy duty head phones; Cliff motioned for us to put them on. After a few witty jokes, Cliff got right down to business. He fired up the 360 and off we went. Cliff first showed us the trailer depicting "Emergence Day" and how the Locust Horde came from underneath the world demolishing everything in their path, leaving "billions dead." After the trailer, Cliff told us right off the bat that the game was running 100% actual game play and is using the Unreal Engine 3 and that he would be playing through the first level of the game for us.
The game starts with Marcus Fenix held in prison for an undetermined amount of time due to disobeying direct orders from a superior officer. He then is broken out of jail by a good friend and former fellow soldier to help fight the Locust onslaught. Once out of prison you are able to go two different paths through the game play, suggesting that there are split paths a player can choose to play through. Cliffy B soon confirmed this to be true stating that "there is a ‘high road and a low road' players can choose to take which will eventually merge back into one story driven path." Cliff decided to head straight out of the prison. This is where we got our first real glimpse of the beauty of the game. Outside laid ruins of stone and wire with a beautiful sky and buildings above: Absolutely stunning visuals. Soon after getting outside Marcus and fellow soldier head to take cover behind some makeshift wall while the Locust are preparing to bust through a door across the yard. This brings us to a big part of the game: using cover. Cliffy B stated many times that this is not a "Run N Gun" game. He calls it "stop and pop" game play. Players need to be aware of their surroundings and know where they can take cover and pop up and shoot enemies. By pressing the A button it puts you against the closest cover. Moving side to side out of cover will make you dive and holding in A will make you jump up and run to the next closest cover location, again solidifying the fact that if you don't play smart, you die.
As the Locust bust onto the scene Marcus prepares to equip his weapons: a futuristic semi automatic assault rifle with a saw attachment and a shotgun. The game puts you in an over the shoulder perspective but allows you almost a First Person Shooter feel when focusing in on aiming which will bring you an even closer view. Weapon mechanics work with the D pad. Marcus is able to carry two weapons on his back. The weapon on his left shoulder is equipped by pressing the left button of the D pad, and vice versa for the right shoulder weapon. Back button of the D pad equips a pistol and forward equips grenades. As Cliffy B was putting clip after clip into the locust he showed us a very cool addition to the weapons system, Active Reload. As you dwindle to near no bullets in a clip and prepare to reload, the gun icon will flash and players must hit the Right Bumper simultaneously with the action being shown. If players can coordinate with the effect, a much quicker reload is rewarded with the addition of a shot upgrade. This will then let you deal more damage on the first couple of rounds with your next clip. If the Active Reload is not correctly timed; however, players will suffer their guns getting jammed and a slower reload process. This little extra feature is enough to make players concentrate more to be rewarded, but doesn't penalize players drastically when they don't get it.
The Locust are very strong creatures. You will go through almost a whole clip of lead just taking one of these uglies down. They are also as smart as they are ugly, and they are really, really ugly. They will take cover just as you do and move from cover location to cover location looking for the best opportunity to strike you. Cliffy B soon emphasizes that "there is no I in Team" factor. He makes it known that your squad-mates are key figures if you want to survive the constant barrage of locust. A certain amount of directional orders will be able to be given out to your squad. It's all about the team effort.
Soon after dismantling the group of Locust at the doorway, Cliffy B directs us to watch as a huge tower blows up and crumbles all around the area. Debris is strewn everywhere and dust soon builds up. Many of these "in game cinemas" are half of what makes Gears of War so beautiful looking. Another example of one is when opening a door to a locker of sorts and the camera immediately zooms in to capture a couple of mangled up bodies being hung from the ceiling.
The Locust some how got out of the TV and proceded to attack Cliffy B
More fighting insues and Cliffy B demonstrates what promises to be one of the most fun parts of the game, up close encounters with Locust. Cliffy B steadily makes his way closer and closer to one locust and eventually hops over the stone rubble which was dividing them both. He then takes out his assault rifle and with the simple press of the B button Marcus revs the chain saw attachment and proceeds to cut through the Locust right down the chest plate. This gives way to a magnificent display of blood and gore flying everywhere on the screen. Another prime example of the gorgeous presentation Gears offers.
This type of up close encounter wasn't really explained that well by Cliff…I guess we will have to wait to play
Marcus and company soon make it to the top roof where they need to be evac'ed via chopper. As soon as they reach the chopper another in game cinema takes place with a HUGE Locust that comes bursting from the ground, breaking the concrete and stone that was once the floor. And with that level 1 of Gears of War ends.
Alright I hope reading that was as much of an adrenaline rush for you as it was for me to watch it right in front of my eyes. Gears of Wars is a massive title that offers truly remarkable visuals and constant fast paced and strategic game play, and that was only level 1. Cliffy B and his crew over at Epic are doing one heck of a job making this game the "killer app" everyone wants it to be. I can tell you one thing, when "Emergence Day" gets here, let those Locust fly baby!
Be intimidated Locust, Be very intimidated