The first thing you'll notice about Gears of Wars, is the amazing graphics. The impressive light blooms, HDR, depth-of-field, motion blur, and alot of other awsome post-processing effects.
One of them that makes the game really stand out, is the color correction used for various areas, allowing to color entire scenes with a unified color range. A setting sunset really blends the environment in a soft orange-pink color scheme, aswell as walking around in a greenhouse will have a overall green vegetation look to it. In other words, the game will be colored differently throughout the game. But unlike what many critics says, it's not all good.
There's almost none dynamic lights, and almost all the shadows have been pre-rendered and are static. Like your own shadow doesn't react at all to light sources. Just try walking around a light source and you'll notice that the shadow doesn't change its direction relative to the light, but instead always point at the same direction. This is extremely subtle, and insignificant compared to how well the game looks anyway.
The blood spurts in the game is horrible to the extent that they're laughable. When shooting things, they'll register your hit by spurting some blood that's highlighted with a thick pink outline. Not just pink, but extremely pink. Also, the spurts doesn't create any blood decals to anything, so they won't stick to the surroundings. Most often enemies will just fall to the ground, without a single drop of blood around it, but if you're lucky, you might get a small pool of blood around him. The blood pool is static aswell, and doesn't make you leave any blood footprints after stepping in it (I miss Duke Nukem).
Speaking about gore, the thing that is worth mentioning is the chainsaw manevour. You'll walk up close to an enemy, and then use your weapons attached saw, and just saw right through the body of your enemy, while blood (good looking blood, not the fugly pink stuff) is splashing onto the camera (like it would be an actual camera), leaving the enemy in pieces on the ground. You're able to shoot apart limbs, and it's really satisfying to one shot a enemy in the head so it rips off and gushes blood.
There's one thing in the game that makes everything look very granular. This is caused by the detail textures being active even while you're standing a bit away from the texture, instead of only being active while the player is upclose or zoomed in.
The particle effects are looking awsome. Rain, explosions and dust flying over the ground, everything fits well together. Decals on the other hand, doesn't look good at all, if there is any. You can throw a grenade and it will make an awsome explosion, but leave no trace behind, as if nothing ever happened. Bullet decals are just black plumps stuck to a wall.
The framerate is stable throughout the entire game, except during the cutscenes (where they actually turn on a few more effects), but that doesn't matter since it won't affect the gameplay.
Let's go onto the most important aspect of a game, the gameplay itself. You'll play as a steroid pumped, grumpy old mercenary by the name Marcus Fenix. The game starts in a dark and claustrophobic cell, but you won't stay there for long, since a companion will quickly release you from your prison. From there and on, you'll always have a comrade with you throughout the game. It's normally controlled by a AI, but a second player can join in seamlessly at anytime.
Together, you'll provide cover fire for each other, or occupy a enemy while your friend will try to flank them. If one of you would die, he would just drop to his knees on the ground, loop a tinitus sound, until you come and pat his back and he'll be up again with full health. If both of you would die, or one anyone of you get gibbed, you'll have to restart from the latest checkpoint.
The checkpoints throughout the game are both stupid and annoying as hell. Instead of saving after performing some time-consuming and mundane task, like twisting a valve, it always saves right before you do it, so you'll have to redo it everytime you die. This apply to cutscenes aswell. If you die, you'll have to watch the cutscene once again. Even though it's possible to skip some of them, it's still annoying having to skip a cutscene everytime you die.
Unlike Half-Life, cutscenes are ingame cinematics that removes the control from the players. This is a design choice and adds to the overall cinematic feel of the game, but I still get annoyed when I'm not fully controlling my character.
I mentioned twisting valves earlier. This is one of the really few things, other than taking cover and fire, that you'll be able to do. Marcus Fenix allows himself to push buttons, control turrets, kick doors, blow up gasoline tanks (by shooting at them of course), and twist valves. Oh, and you get to control a really boring car once aswell. That's it!
The gameplay easily become repetitive, and if you're not into the whole take cover and shoot at things, you'll have no place here, since the story will hardly involve anyone.
There's not alot of weapons in the game, but two of them are real badasses. One of them being your mounted chainsaw, turning foes into mincemeat, and the other one is the Hammer of Dawn, which is orbital laser that will evaporate almost everything in it's proximity. It works like, you point at a coordinate for it to target, and then a huge laser beam comes down from the sky that you're then able to direct with the targeting device. Awesomeness!
Additionally, there's grenades, a grenade launcher, a shotgun, explosive crossbow, sniper rifle, two different handpistols and two variations of automatics. You may only carry grenades, two main weapons, and one handgun at all times.
Level design: 7/10
Although visually astonishing, the levels are relative simple, and feels mostly like running through several different kinds of corridors. Covers are spread throughout the levels, represented by broken cars, broken structures, furniture or concrete blocks laying around.
There are almost no physic objects, and almost nothing reacts to your gun shots other than creating that black plump decal, so you'll find yourself in a extremely static environment. But when you encounter the Berzerker, who runs through pillars, doors and even walls, you'll atleast get the feeling of a bit more dynamic environment, even if everything is predefined and very specific.
At a few points in the game, you'll get the choose which path you wish to take. It actually pause the game, brings down a menu and asks you if you wish to go either left or right, literally. The choices are always either "left" or "right".
The paths won't divide much anyhow, and will most often intersect in one way or another, or just go plain next to each other, and always connect at their ends. You won't have to worry on missing anything by choosing one path over the other. Other than that, they often present you the ability to flank your enemies, but most often that's the only way to progress anyhow.
This is a pretty mindless shooter, but it still presents you with a few "puzzles". Turn the valve, or press the button to open up a path ahead. Or at one segment of the game, you'll have to avoid the shadows, and you have to progress by lighting up the area by shooting at conveniently placed gasoline tanks. This is pretty much how deep it gets, and it almost makes the "find yellow keycard to open yellow door" feel a bit more of a intellectual challenge.
The levels will take you through environments like wartorn cities (with the essence of Save Private Ryan), ruined buildings, broken down highway, closed-off factory, greenhouse, underground caverns, and finally onto a train ride, which is the best and the last level of the game.
You'll mostly find yourself fighting against one kind of grunts and somekind of ceiling climbing dogs. Then there's these bigger grunts called Boomers, which are slower, have more hitpoints and wields grenade launchers. Even later into the game, you'll face a few Theron Guards, which are like quicker grunts with better weapons.
These are the main enemies, and then there's some half-bosses and bosses aswell. One of the first half-bosses are the giant Seeders, who launch flying biological drones at you. The second one, and the best enemy in the game, is the deaf Berzerker, who will run through almost anything while trying to get you. And lastly we have the grunts flying on Reevers, who're like huge, armor-plated, flying bugs, with saddles.
Then we have a giant spider, as seen from the Mad World-trailer, and of course the badass last boss himself. He's pretty tough when trying to take him down with just your AI companion, but with a real friend, he'll go down before he gets enough chance to make any resistance.
Enemy AI's are average, but they often try to take shelter behind things, and occasionally fire at you from their covers, although they're often too dumb to realize that their covers have been compromised. So it's mostly a mixture of charge straigth at the enemy, and the take cover behind everything.
Unlike what what many critics have said, the control works pretty swell. One button to aim, one to shoot. Press A to take cover, and press A again to change cover or jump over the cover you're crouching behind. Hold A to run like a bull, and just tap A to make a roll dodge. B is for melee attacks, and you need to hold B and press fire to use the chainsaw. To interact with buttons, turrets and valves, just tap X. To zoom, just push down the right analogue stick.
The right shoulder button reloads (the game automaticly reloads when out-of-ammo aswell), and during reloading you can time it and press it again, for a quicker reload and damage boost. If you fail, you'll fumble during reloading which takes a longer time. Use the digital directional pad to equip one out of four weapons (grenades, two main weapons, one handgun). Simple as that.
Pretty stale and clichéish dialogue. Cinematical orchestral music. Worst credit music ever. Boomers are a bit weirdly mixed, and is often heard as standing next to you, even if you're far away from them, aswell at they got a tendency to stroll around and say "BOOM". Most enemies sound alike, which might be good for consistency.
Overall the game is looking astonishing, but beneath the surface, it's really stale, static and uninvolving. There's not much motivation to carry you through the levels, other than to get to see another cinematic, or to shoot some more grunts.
The environments seems generally fake, with their lack of physics, and lack of remaining traces from battle. Enemies will eventually disappear, and seldom leave a blood pool behind. If you break some furniture, you'll get some weird particle effect that will fade out in thin air. There's almost no decals from battles, and there's like no window that breaks, or paintings that fall down.
Physic in the game lacks weigth, and you can go and push around Berzerkers and grunts alike, as if they would be almost weigthless. Paper-physics, that don't push the player, only the player pushing them. The same goes for when riding the car, and you'll just run straigth through every obstacle, since they don't slow you down anything at all anyhow.
You're unable to jump in the game, and every edge, and even corridors are blocked off by invisible walls. As mentioned above, the environment lacks reaction to your consequences, and stuff don't react to being shot at, like bullet just goes straigth through water without causing any ripples, splashes or anything.
This game is designed for HDTV, and if you don't own a HDTV, you're screwed. I can only imagine how disorted everything would look like on a normal TV. You would be unable to read the subtitles and tutorials, since the text is even smaller than that of Dead Rising.
The story of the game is abit uninformative, and boils down to you fighting the "aliens" (Locust), sort of. It lack emphasis and you never get emotionally attached to any of the characters.
To start a new game, you must select a profile, and each profile gets one save each. There's only autosave functions in the game, and if someone decided to start a new game with your profile, all progress would be lost.
Even though you're able to seamlessly turn a single player game into a cooperative game, the same thing can't be said about trying to return to single player mode. If one of the players logout, the game will immediately quit to menu.
In multiplayer, there's not much variations, and is mostly 4 vs 4 kind of battles. Other than that, it works pretty well, and you don't have to wait for too long between rounds. But the game lacks a anti-AFK system, in case some player would just go away, and leave himself connected.
There's not much depth to the game at all, and I wouldn't really call "flanking" a tactic, since most often it's forced. You take cover, shoot at enemies, walk around enemies and then shoot them some more. Since you can't jump, the levels lacks a dimension, and feels mostly like corridors. Just keep on walking forward.
The game is very cinematic, with alot of cinematic cutscenes, cinematic music, and cinematic camera movements. It really preform well to get a feeling of overwhelming, and with the graphical effects, it's easily to become astonished. But yet again, that doesn't mean it's fun to play, and I sincerely hope that I don't have to play it through ever again.
It's definetly worth buying because of the feeling alone, but the game is generally overrated and even if it might be next-gen graphics, it got the previous-gen gameplay...