Gears of War: PC Review!

2 11 2007

Despite clunky controls, the gears keep turning.

Before a little game called Halo 3 debuted, it was Gears of War that sent Xbox 360 systems flying off store shelves. Its intense graphics, style, gritty story and unparalleled multiplayer made it a must-have game for all 360 owners. A year after its initial console release, the game makes its way to the PC, where more gamers can find out what the hype is all about.

 

 

See more screens from Gears of War …

The story takes place fourteen years after an event called Emergence Day, when a group of creatures called the Locust Horde burst from the ground and launch a full-scale invasion on an otherwise peaceful planet. After countless losses, the humans exercised a scorched earth policy and destroyed their own cities instead of letting the Horde control them. However, the aliens continue their relentless invasion, and every capable person is called to arms, including Marcus Fenix, a soldier imprisoned for dereliction of duty. Players take the role of Marcus to continue the fight.

 

Gamers who already own the Xbox 360 version of the game won’t find too many new features in the PC edition. Epic added five chapters to the campaign, and with them, a new badass boss named Brumak that didn’t make it into the original. Multiplayer, handled by the Games for Windows Live service, includes three new maps and the addition of a King of the Hill mode. In addition, the developers bumped up the graphics to support higher resolutions and DirectX 10, and a full game editor was thrown in for modders to work their magic. Ultimately, it’s still about 98% the same as the original Gears for 360, but the additions go a long way.

 

 

See more screens from Gears of War …

Very little was lost in the port from console to PC. The graphics look better than ever, and there’s non-stop excitement, except we wish that Gears went a little further in customizing the controls for the new platform. It’s painfully obvious that these controls were originally designed for a gamepad. All the basic elements are there, with the WASD keys for movement and the mouse for looking and shooting, but Epic mapped the sprint, leap and cover functions to the same key. Gamers can alternatively double tap the movement keys to go into a “roadie run” or dive out of the path of danger. The controls take some getting used to, since they’re just different enough from the average first-person shooter scheme to annoy you. Thanks to the off-center camera position, there were numerous instances where we wanted Marcus to dive through a doorway, but he ended up pressing against the side of the doorframe instead, right in the path of enemy fire. Players could plug in an Xbox 360 style gamepad and even benefit from the rumble feedback, but then they’d lose out on the speed and accuracy of the mouse. All things considered, it’s a pretty hefty trade.

See more screens from Gears of War …

Besides some clunky controls, Macus’s computer controlled teammates often get in the way of the action. They may look tough, but they’re dumb as dirt. They’re often stuck running around blindly, trying to take cover in an already occupied spot, and get in the way of shots. Most of the time, they simply run in and get themselves killed or disabled, and go down fast. Players are usually left to handle firefights by themselves, or risk getting shot down trying to revive their squad mates. Gamers generally have to spend a lot of time watching their own backs, since these computer players do a lousy job guarding the flank and there’s no way to command them to take up specific positions. Luckily, the enemy intelligence isn’t all that much smarter. Foes will take cover and try to outflank a player’s position, but they’re also prone to making the same stupid moves allies are prone to, like stepping out into pitch darkness where flesh eating bats descend and devour them. We hardly had to fire a shot during these sequences, because all we had to do was wait the Locust Horde out.

 

Difficulty is all over the place. In Casual (easy) mode, foes drop pretty quickly. Scaling things up a notch to Hard Mode makes the Locust Horde tougher, but that doesn’t matter once players get their hands on the sniper rifle. Precision head-shots with the game pad pose a challenge, but we ended up popping skulls all over the place thanks the mouse’s accuracy. Once enemies peeked from behind cover, they were pretty much as good as dead.

As exciting as the singe-player campaign is, nothing compares to the multiplayer experience. Players use Games for Windows Live to find servers and host games (including a local Live server) and do voice communication. The new King of the Hill is very similar to the pre-existing Annex mode, where teams must stand within a control point and defend it to gain points. The main difference is that King of the Hill uses a single fixed objective while Annex has multiple ones. Also, Execution rules come into play in King of the Hill, so it’s not enough to simply shoot opponents. Players must run up to them and finish them off with the chainsaw bayonet. The bleed out feature, where a player can recover from being mortally wounded by tapping on the space bar, takes a lot of getting used to since it’s so specific to Gears of War, and it usually looks like a foe gets shot down and then spontaneously gets back up. It’s a little disappointing that multiplayer only supports a maximum of eight players (four on each team), but the relatively small maps keep up the pace. Finally, the inclusion of online co-op play, a feature sadly overlooked in most PC shooters, makes it all the more worthwhile.

 

Gears of War isn’t exactly the must-have game it was on the Xbox 360, but it’s still a remarkable game in its own right and fits perfectly into any action fan’s collection. The controls initially feel clunky, but overcome with time, and gamers will thoroughly enjoy this excessively violent adventure.

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