Developer: The Coalition / Epic Games
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Platform: PC, Xbox One (Reviewed)
Release Date: 25th August 2015
Note: Review contains minor spoilers about the game’s plot.
If ever there was a game that needed a modernisation a strong argument could be made for the original Gears of War. The Xbox 360’s chainsaw wielding bro ’em up is back and offers an experience similar to the refined design of later titles in the series.
Gears of War and it’s sequels are mostly well known for their fantastic multiplayer and horde modes but I have always been a fan of the singleplayer campaigns and the gory, violent destruction they are filled with.
The plot is pretty straight forward and exists for the purpose of giving you things to shoot, ways to shoot them and places to do said shooting and I love that. The game is a pure unadulterated violence roller coaster of blood, entrails and manly feelings for men. Gears of War is set in a post-apocalyptic world in which a war is raging between the surface dwelling humans and the subterranean Locust horde. A faction of pale skinned, super pasty bald humanoids with really bad full body eczema that like to mock you for being a “sapien”. The human characters of the game are large muscular super men with neck muscles so thick you could chop onions on them and they wouldn’t even cry.
The games signature weapon the Lancer is an automatic rifle with a chainsaw bayonet, its fast fire rate and high accuracy makes it a great all-round weapon to deal with most enemy types. There is also a shotgun called the Gnasher, which is super deadly in close range but pretty poor at range for the most part. Every weapon in the game is big, chunky and makes a lot of noise, signifying how bad ass you are as you gun down hordes of locusts.
Cover based shooting is the main way that combat will play out, especially on higher difficulties. You have the option to blindly fire your weapon around or over cover or you can risk popping out your head to shoot accurately. Different enemy types have different tactics for combat, shotgun wielding enemies will try and rush you, enemies with rifles will stay back and shoot at you when they have an opening, enemies with explosives will use their weapons tactically.
Your squad mates are pretty incompetent in a fight on higher difficulties and will mostly just shoot near enemies to present an illusion of combat. They also have a tendency to bug out and repeat the same voice lines over and over again until the game reloads. Speaking of loading, the loading times in this game are very long and there appears to be frame drop on the loading screens as well. This is especially annoying when playing on higher difficulties and having to restart quite often. To add to the woes of players that like higher difficulty levels the game’s checkpoints are few and far between. The movement and cover systems being very buggy in the second half of the game, low walls and corners have poor hit detection when entering cover and I constantly found that I had to keep trying to get into cover before the game would finally do so.
The boss fights are presented as epic battles between tiny menu and large monsters but mostly involve running from one place to another, taking cover, shooting when prompted until the enemy is dead. Although the action sequences are great to watch, there isn’t much in them to play. Although the boss fights are very straight forward they do provide a nice challenge and change of pace from the other part of the game.
Level design is great however, although you will mostly be fighting in corridors and large rooms each is different enough to feel new, even when they are recycled layouts from previous levels. There is some destructible parts of the environment but there is no benefit to actually destroying them most of the destructible environmental is minor furniture pieces like desks and wardrobes that can be chainsawed to pieces. As the game progresses you will learn to instinctively know the best places to take cover, where enemies will most likely spawn and how to make a quick escape if needed and this is all communicated indirectly through gameplay and map design.
As a game originally designed by Cliff Bleszinski you would expect the gunplay to feel genuine, meaty and loads of unadulterated fun. You will not be disapointed, although the shooting mostly involves firing at enemies that are in cover from your own cover the blood splatters and the visual feedback makes every fight feel authentic. Shoot an enemy enough and he will fall to the floor, keep shooting him and limbs might fly off however if you switch to your next target before finishing him off he might be able to get back up. Every kill in the game feels rewarding when you see the bloody chunks of steak flying and hear your squad mates complimenting your skill and bad-assery.
Sound effects and music are great too, enemies scream in pain when they are taking damage, big guns have loud bangs and the chainsaw is just awesome. Explosions sound genuine although they really should be a lot louder and the grunting of melee enemies is quite silly. The music for the most part sounds like generic action movie fight scene music but it fits in just fine.
Multiplayer is great too, although I had a lot of issues finding a game. The classic modes are back as are the maps that I remember playing years ago but now they look better and have a much nicer aesthetic. There was some connectivity issues and lag but nothing major. I much preferred playing the multiplayer in bot matches though as I was able to fully populate a game and play around in the different maps and modes. Not to mention the custom rules and spawn settings that made bot matches much more interesting to me.
The inclusion of bot matches is one of my favourite features, it allows people to play the multiplayer modes offline to practice or if they are having internet connection problems, it also means that this game will be easier to preserve in the future for study and nostalgic reasons.
This remake is definitely rough around the edges but is still a great game and a decent improvement over the original release. The multiplayer community is active enough to find a game or two but for me the real meat on this game’s bones is the singleplayer campaign and bot matches. The game offers a lot for it’s asking price compared to some other recent releases and it delivered the experience I wanted from it.
Rating: Hell yeah, baby!