Xbox 360 Impressions: Gears of War

Gears of War
I just wanted to add this to my recent list of first impressions of Xbox 360 Games. I had the opportunity to play the first two chapters of Gears of War now. I really can’t understand the hype it received. It is a solid but VERY dull shooter with some polish, balancing and control issues. The characters look great as long as they are old or scarred (or both) to show off the normal mapping. The smooth young female – not so great. The environments look very dirty and use maps with a very high resolution. That’s quite nice but it gets OLD. They decided to go for a total Warhammer 40,000 “inspiration” and made the characters incredibly bulky. The environments all look like fallen gothic tombs. At first sight it is a cool styling but it gets old after the second level. Unlike Call of Duty, almost everything looks like filler material. There is nothing that stands out as being memorable.
The cover system is the new thing. It is a minor gameplay tweak that spread like a virus among other games (GTA4 for example). It is nice to see some development but I have difficulties to get used to it. One big problem is that all cover-related activities are stuffed onto one button that works context-sensitive. In the heat of the battle I constantly trigger the wrong moves and end up being exposed to heavy gunfire with my face against a wall. This makes me actually afraid to use that button at all. If I pull off some cover move correctly, I fail to get any advantage or satisfaction. It all seems a bit pointless. Might change if I go to higher difficulty settings. Right now, the fighting is mostly totally trivial and simple (the difficulty setting is called “casual” and it fits) which is fine. However, from time to time, there are situations where I die OVER AND OVER AND OVER again and I have NO CLUE what I’m doing wrong.

Also, I have come across some glitches. At one point you are attacked by killer bats so you have to stay near light sources (cool idea actually). You have to push a burning car across a dark alley. In my game the car got stuck halfway in the alley for no reason. I did not recognize this a glitch because it appeared every time and so I died numerous deaths trying to get trough the alley. Restarting the whole game fixed it.

I tried multiplayer very briefly but the match I was playing seemed to boil down to jumping around each other with sniper-rifles or the chainsaw and hoping for a one-hit kill. Not exactly the kind of experience I was expecting.

So there you have it. The game is not really bad. If you want to unwind with some repetitive, mindless shooting it sure hits the spot. I will play at least trough the casual campaign as it is very short. However, it doesn’t seem to offer any hidden depth, it lacks some polish and the superficial eye-candy wears off quickly.

Krystian Majewski

Krystian Majewski was born in Warsaw and studied design at Köln International School of Design. Before, he was working on a mid-size console project for NEON Studios in Frankfurt. He helped establish a Master course in Game Design and Research at the Cologne Game Lab. Today he teaches Game Design at various institutions and develops independent games.

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The Game Design Scrapbook is a second blog of group of three game designers from Germany. On our first blog, Game Design Reviews we describe some games we played and point out various interesting details. Unfortunately, we found out that we also need some place to collect quick and dirty ideas that pop into our minds. Hence, welcome to Game Design Scrapbook. You will encounter wild, random rantings. Many of then incoherent. Some of them maybe even in German. If you don't like it, you might enjoy Game Design Reviews more.


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