Mass Effect review

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It’s been now 2 years since the new generation of consoles arrived but there’s no denying that the previous one had many games that left their mark in the gaming industry with high honors. Some of those games were undoubtedly the Mass Effect series and today I’m going to tell you about Mass Effect 1, specifically. Bioware achieved massive recognition with its Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic in the original Xbox era, so the hype for a sci-fi RPG, third person shooter adventure was huge. Released in 2007, one year after the launch of the Xbox 360, it quickly began as one of the most revolutionary games that focused on a story that could be tailored by the players’ choices. Of course nowadays decision making in video games are not rare by any means, but Mass Effect was the pioneer of a mechanic that would become the base of the whole franchise. Instead of opting for some good and evil ending, it focused on saving the galaxy, but with the actions you thought were the best. And some of those decisions meant sacrifices. Big sacrifices that would shape the whole game in many ways.

Story

It all takes place in the year 2185 when some years have passed since humanity discovered ancient technology that allows them to make Faster Than Light (FTL) travels and now they have joined the galactic community alongside other species of aliens who live in peace… most of the times. Commander Shepard has been sent to investigate a strange archeological discovery in the human colony of Eden Prime that will end up giving humanity the respect of the whole universe. When things go awry due to an agent of the galactic Council, Saren, gone rogue, Shepard is promoted to Spectre, agents that work as the “right hand of the council”, to travel beyond the stars to find and stop Saren from the evil plans he has.

So far the premise is simple. You are the good guy who has to hunt down the bad guy. But the beauty of this game comes in the form of which path you take to achieve that goal. Since the very beginning you are given the choice to make your character male or female and give him/her a pre-service history which can be Spacer, Earthborn and Colonist. Then, you have to choose one class for your character: Soldier, Infiltrator, Adept, Vanguard, Sentinel and Engineer. And finally, you have to choose a psychological profile that can be Sole Survivor, War Hero or Ruthless. If you are familiar with Bioware games by now, you might very well know that each customization you make for your character will affect the game in several ways, even being male or female will characters react different to you.

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However, the choice that will have the biggest impact overall is the class. You’ve got many choices for it and all of them give you different combat abilities. Soldiers are specialized in all sorts of weapons Engineers have a talent for manipulating technical equipment and use it to their advantages in combat. Infiltrators have weapons and abilities to disable the enemy and find advantageous positions. Sentinels combine tech and biotic abilities to create a strong defense to the squad. Adepts are experts in biotics, which are used to manipulate objects and enemies telekinetically and create other ways of manipulating the environment. Vanguards are brutal opponents that combine weapons and biotics deliver fatal strikes to the enemy.

After your character has been created, the real thing gets serious. You just made a step into one of the probably most detailed stories in gaming history to date, and I include the new generation. Yes, being the good guy who tracks down the bad guy is far from being new, but the magic here is why everything is happening. It’s been a while since humanity found a way to explore the universe and coexist with aliens after a harsh welcome and the game has an incredible way of telling you the details that makes you stay in awe for hours. There’s a huge number of sources of background story scattered around the different places you visit but the main one is the dialogue that the characters have. They all have a unique past that it’s inevitable not to stay and listen to all they have to say. After every mission, characters will have even more to comment about their life or the mission and how everything fits into the current plot of the game.

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Almost every time you find or hear a new concept or event narrated by a character, a codex will be updated with additional background story. If you are a person who doesn’t care much about the plot, you can skip all the background story and even the conversations to go right into the action without anything stopping you. However, we strongly believe that the story of this game has enough power to cause a huge impact on every kind of gamer out there. We, who are gamers with strong love for plots, lost ourselves into the magnificent background information in both the codex and the conversations with the characters.

But that’s not all! Remember we said you could choose the path you wanted? Well, that was not joke. Virtually every conversation you have with every character will give you several options to choose what to reply. These options will appear in the answer wheel that will have different outcomes. The left side will give you the option to investigate more about the story (there is too much!) while the right side will feature the paragon, renegade or neutral answers. These are the ones that will have a huge impact on the story, as they will determine not only who likes you or dislikes you, but also who will remain by your side and who will step aside, and some of these choices are not forgotten, carrying on to Mass Effect 2 and even 3.

 Gameplay

To complete the game, a series of missions will be available to you, and how you play them will be determined by how you personalized your character. By experience, we can say that the classes we enjoyed the most were Soldier and Adepts, as weapons and biotics, which could be describe as the magic equivalent of other games, have a very strong impact in not only the gameplay, but in the story as a whole. They give a special touch to the mechanics of the game that provides a new experience to use what would be magic in fantasy games in a way that suits perfectly a sci-fi shooter. After all, both weapons and biotics complement each other to be used simultaneously, instead of being individual skills.

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Of course, not all classes have those properties, so that’s when one of the most ambitious, yet polemic, elements of the game becomes relevant. The combat mechanics are both the most interesting and weakest points of Mass Effect due to several reasons. Throughout the game you choose 2 of your squadmates to accompany you on every mission, each one being a different class to complement the strengths and weaknesses of your Commander Shepard, but what makes it more dynamic is the fact that you can command each one of them to use one of their unique skills on an enemy, if you are ok with pausing the game for a brief 3 seconds, or let them do it on their own.

However, the AI was very questionable. When you let your characters fight on their own, they won’t exactly be very bright, as we found ourselves witnessing running into enemy fire just to keep dying every time. In addition, Shepard own controls are a bit hard to get used to, especially the cover system. You need to simply run and stick to the wall so that Shepard takes cover automatically. The only (serious) problem is that very rarely will he understand that he has to take cover, resulting in several frustrating seconds of your time until you get it right. This happened to us mainly when running, as Shepard can only sprint when in combat, and when he does, it’s more difficult to direct him to the place you want to take cover on, since probably you will end up taking cover in another, much closer wall you didn’t want to or even noticed.

The combat mechanics might look outdated for today’s standards by far, but, while it’s true that you’ll need a few minutes, you might forget a little bit about the difficulties of it and even enjoy it. Undoubtedly the ability to tell your squads which power to use is a great mechanic worth trying; but we saw ourselves in need of ordering to take cover and not move so that they didn’t get killed too much

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And of course, this is an RPG game, so plenty of customization besides your character will be there. Hundreds of weapons, mods, armor and other upgrades are scattered around the whole game which will have a real impact on your own and your squad’s combat. Of course, some of these upgrades only work for specific classes, so, even if your Shepard won’t use one, your squadmates gladly will! There are, however, too many of the same objects, and, since it’s hard to keep track on them, you’ll have to be checking a lot of times your inventory to discard some of the upgrades to not reach your limit capacity.

Another questionable factor is the side quests. There are plenty of them out there, some which requires you to visit other planets. These quests are very rewarding, as you get very good upgrades or even more plot details, but the quests themselves are a somewhat repetitive to be fun.

Atmosphere

We have already mentioned the great impact the story provided by the characters and codex has on the atmosphere of the game, but Mass Effect is a sci-fi game that uses many other resources to provide an incredibly rich atmosphere. You travel to other systems of the galaxy to fulfill your missions, and once the galaxy map becomes available to you, you get another proof of why this game feels deeper than you will probably think. You can’t visit all the planets, but all of them have a unique description that gives the game a sense of depth that makes you wonder about the real diversity of outer space. And the music is another strong factor that makes the whole space traveling feel peaceful and mysterious, while pushing you to delay your mission a little while and check out the planets and their descriptions.

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While doing that, you might encounter some planets you can land on. But this is probably the only disappointing point of the atmosphere of the game because the planets you can land on, while providing some upgrades, they are very tedious to explore and repetitive, so it’s better to just forget about them and continue exploring the galaxy map.

Conclusion

The first of the Mass Effect games began as a great hit for the Xbox 360 and we can clearly see why. The story and atmosphere made this game feel extremely complete from beginning to end. Sure, there were some drawbacks, too. If you haven’t played this game yet, it’s likely that you will struggle to get used to the gameplay for a few minutes, but once you do, the reward is a wonderful experience. All the characters feel alive and the dialogues are so detailed that you can learn something new from them almost every time you interact with them and the choice-driven system makes the flow of the game feel yours. It’s a game we strongly recommend to the whole community.

Ranking: 9

9 stars

 

Tomb Raider review

There will always be a special feeling whenever a new title of a long-running franchise comes out, especially if it is one that has conquered the hearts of gamers for many generations already. And the hype can’t be any greater when the franchise we are talking about is one that has one of the most iconic video game characters as the protagonist, Lara Croft. She is one of those characters that will never get too old to be loved. Lara has appeared in several installments as the brave and already-well-experienced-at-surviving heroine we all know but now Crystal Dynamics have come up with a brand new Lara that is different from the rest of her alter egos. In this game, we witness the new Lara developing survival skills from zero while facing more danger than ever in a reboot that feels fresh and more real than ever.

It is not the first time we have the chance to see a Croft learning to be a badass but the way this time it is one is quite unique. It all begins with Lara being so enthusiastic about finding the truth of the mysteries surrounding the lost kingdom of Yamatai off the coast of Japan. As she and her colleagues and friends reach their destination, a huge storm destroys their boat leaving them all stranded in the island. Unfortunately, Lara landed on a different location than the rest and is forced to get over her innocence and build up enough courage to venture into the island by herself if she ever wants to see her friends again and find a chance to escape.

From this point on, everything is focused on Lara’s journey to discover her brave side. Since the very first time we are able to have control of her, it’s inevitable not to feel compassion for our young adventurer. Her most exciting expedition yet has been ruined leaving her apparently helpless and without any real convincement that she will survive. What enhances the tension are the sudden dangers that she is forced to face so soon. But these are the moments in which Lara starts using her young, but gifted, instincts to survive. And that is everything that drives the story forward because as we see her growing up Lara passes that feeling on to the player.

And that is a remarkable achievement done by Camilla Ludington, who plays the role of new Lara throughout the game. Her acting is outstandingly convincing in every portion of the story. The transition from the injured and scared young girl to the now ferocious killer is something worth witnessing. Nonetheless, although the talent is quite evident, it is true that sometimes her constant screams end up being slightly frustrating. But, after, it is a Tomb Raider game. Constant dangers are to be expected. But while Lara is still learning to withstand them, it gets a little tiring at times. Yet, it’s nothing that truly affects the overall experience in the end.

Another aspect to highlight is that Tomb Raider is no stranger for gun fighting. Weapons in this 2013 edition play an important role and definitely have an impact on the gameplay experience. Since very early on the game, you will notice that silently sneaking around is one of Lara’s greatest talents and it is very probably that you end up fond of that mechanic like I did. And that’s because the bow and arrow can be used in a very efficient way that makes you feel like the real predator hunting its preys. However, there will be times when a little use of the machine gun or shotgun will be necessary. Sadly, this is one of the sections where I feel Tomb Raider lowers its quality. Gun fighting can be fun at times, but it doesn’t feel as fresh as other aspects due to the fact that it really doesn’t offer anything new (apart from some clichés).

The gameplay mechanics have its pros and cons. To begin with, controlling Lara throughout the whole game is rather satisfactory. She feels so light whether while jogging or climbing and how she automatically squats to take cover feel so natural as a whole. On the other hand, the difficulty level is rather controverting. To be entirely honest, I felt that difficulty level decreases significantly over time due to a number of reasons. The game teaches you right at the beginning how to purchase skills to improve your combat and survival instincts even more. At first it is cool to help Lara become a brave adventurer, but with the time everything becomes way easier as you keep purchasing the goods. That, and the fact that the ammo is found nearly everywhere doesn’t exactly make it a challenging quest from start to finish.

Last but not least, the world of Yamatai which the story takes place is very nicely done. The game is linear but there are several collectibles spread across every section of the map, including hidden tombs, that might make some players want to find everything because hidden details about some background story are featured in those items, while others might just ignore them and go on with the story. After all, they are not vital. Nonetheless, it sure helps the whole world not to feel empty or too narrow.

In every aspect, Tomb Raider is without doubt and extremely enjoyable experience. The experience of seeing Lara discovering her own wild spirit is something quite touching due to the great acting of Luddington. Sadly, the great involvement is not present in the whole game. It is to thank that Tomb Raider doesn’t rely on clichés for the story, leaving only the relevant elements to be told, but it regrettably does rely on them on some of the gameplay characteristics. Still, it is so pleasant to be part of a game in which a character full of history in the industry of games such as Lara receives as much love as in the previous installments of the franchise. It is a successful reboot, no doubt, and will leave many, including me, anxiously waiting for future sequels.

Rating: 8 – Definitely worth it

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The Walking Dead: Season One (the game) review

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A videogame is made to make us feel that we can be the hero of the galaxy or the best in certain sports, and with time the immersion a game can provide to a player has become even greater with the advance in technology but also in how the story is told. Nowadays, many games let you choose what you want to say, but the outcome will not make a significant difference compared to the other possible choices, which makes them practically useless. Other always follow the same pattern: to have a good ending or a bad ending. The Walking Dead: The Game has surpassed the traditional mechanism of how the player can experience that he is part of the narrative world by fully relying in what makes everybody unique: decision making. The difference now is that everything you choose will have a consequence. Everybody likes to know that their decisions make a difference and this game delivers that satisfaction with a story so deep that the emotional connection the player will feel from the beginning to the end will be like no other.

Based on the comics of the same name, The Walking Dead: The Game is a point and click adventure game spread in 5 episodes but far different from others you have probably played. Zombies are almost everywhere these days and almost every game about them will involve gunfire or another way to crush their brains. But this is not a typical kill-all-the-zombies-you-can kind of game. The Walking Dead is all about involving oneself into the story of some regular guys who have no idea of what’s going on and are just trying to survive by any means possible. Everything begins with Lee Everett, our character, on his way to prison until the police car overturns and the next thing Lee knows after waking up is that a zombie outbreak has spread. While trying to find help, he runs into a little girl named Clementine who hasn’t known about her parents in a little while and becomes his responsibility from now on.

As you progress, you will meet more people with whom Lee and Clem will share their fight for survival and the real core of the story-telling will come to light: decision making. In most of the conversations you will have to choose what to answer. Based on what you answered, the characters will remember that you only care about yourself or also about them. It sounds very simple, yet there’s another circumstance that causes the experience to be tenser than what it already is. You will have limited time to say something and if you don’t say anything, even that will have its own repercussion, as everybody will see Lee can’t make a difference in situations like these. And it gets tougher, because the moments when you will have to intervene with your own answer also involve very difficult and emotional decisions. There will be times when you have to choose which side you are on, who you save and who you let die. What makes this so special is that the tense, the fear, the responsibility will be yours. You will feel it with every decision you choose.

And that emotional experience comes most of the time thanks to young Clementine. Sometimes in the gaming scope, having to take care of somebody else is a burden, especially when that character can’t defend himself. However, that’s not the case here. Clementine is not a regular kid, not even for a videogame character. She’s not dumb, nor a girl that can take full care of herself. She’s fragile, she needs somebody for protection, and that person is Lee. Nonetheless, throughout the story, taking care of the child will no longer be Lee’s concern, it will be yours, because it’s impossible not to become fond of Clem as she is forced to grow up rather quickly. Her innocence definitely makes you rethink the answer you already had in mind. She is the main reason why the characters will feel there is still hope, and so will you.

During the moments of relative peace, you will have the chance to explore the place around you. Aside from some small puzzles to keep going through the story, you also have the opportunity to get to know the other characters. Perhaps a strong consequence will not come out from these small chats in the story, but it will definitely affect what you think about them, since it’s hard not to feel compassions about the others. Out of that, the gameplay will always follow the same formula- explore a little and continue with the main campaign.

Although most of The Walking Dead is done brilliantly, every game has its own flaws and the technical aspect is where this one has its ups and downs. There’s nothing wrong with the cel-shaded graphics, they look wonderful. Neither is the outstanding voice acting in every character (especially the sweet voice of Clem). The problem comes with some unexpected bugs in some of the sequences of a scene. Some lag, a relatively long loading sequence from scene to scene and a weird, awkward freeze of Lee while the action went on sadly represents a component that makes you wake up from a wonderful dream to the reality that it is just a game. Nonetheless, it’s not that it happens all the time, not at all. It happens once in a while, but it is still noticeable.

Everything that is integrated in The Walking Dead: The Game makes it feel it is a different game. The fresh choice-consequence mechanic is something that gamers will totally be grateful for, since finally there will a real proof that your character and everything around you will answer to your decision. And this is accomplished in a very big way thanks to the emotional connection the player will feel throughout the game due to the always optimistic Clementine that makes hope live one more day. Yes, the game is not exactly designed for the gameplay. I thought I would get bored really fast due to that but the truth is I haven’t been that constantly immersed in a game for a very (and I mean it) long time. Telltale created one of the (probably) most emotional experiences in the gaming industry and it definitely left everybody with the desire to try season two when it comes out. Let’s hope it allows the gamer feel part of the narrative as much as season one did.

Rating: 9.5 – Outstanding experience

Alan Wake review

“Keep the lights on”

It is not the tale itself what makes it good, but the way it is told, and Remedy definitely surpassed themselves in the area of how to tell a story in the art of videogames. For this, the use of plot twists, memorable characters, outstanding voice acting and unique combat mechanics became the focus points to create a game where the main theme is the constant battle between light and darkness. An Xbox 360 exclusive at first and later also a PC game, Alan Wake came from Remedy back in 2010 and 2012, respectively, to put the boundaries of narrative in games to the test for those who are fans of story-driven games.

This time the protagonist is (you guessed it) Alan Wake, a famous writer that has gotten a little sick of fame and decides to go on vacation with his wife, Alice, at the calm city of Bright Falls, Washington. What they don’t know is that the countryside has some dark secrets. What was supposed to be a relaxing time away from the pencil and paper suddenly becomes a total nightmare as some paranormal presence starts invading our main character’s lakeside cabin to hunt Bright Falls and kidnap Alice. When Alan goes to find her, the situation eventually becomes even stranger. He soon realizes it is all part of a horror story he supposedly wrote, but can’t remember doing so. What makes his journey more special, though, is the fact that he is just an ordinary guy, not a hero, nor with any special powers but the will to fight the Darkness and save his wife, no matter the cost. From this point on, Alan’s trial throughout the game will unfold many mysteries surrounding Bright Falls and himself while building up courage to pick up a gun for the first time in his life.

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Alan Wake is all about the story. It is a brilliant combination of a book, a movie, and of course, a game. A big part of the story is narrated by Alan himself (from the book he supposedly wrote) as you play and all of the cinematics are so Hollywood-like that they have a big role at enhancing the immersive experience of the game. All this is shaped into six TV-like episodes where every one of them ends with a cliffhanger and a title screen while playing some of the outstanding licensed music the game has. Then, at the beginning of every new chapter, you get a “Previously on Alan Wake” cutscene that tells what happened in the last episodes of the game. Although well done, the only thing missing is an auto save feature that occurred at every ending of an episode (it only happens until the beginning of the next) so that every time you turned your console on the first thing you saw was the introduction for the new episode. It might not be something strong enough to make it a bad game, but it would have definitely enhanced the TV series-like experience. However, every other aspect of the game is brilliant to fulfill the strong writing.

From the very start to the very end, there are a lot of things that immediately catch your eye no matter what your current mission is. As you take control of Alan for the first time, it’s inevitable that the astonishing lighting of the sky and the beautiful architecture of the city and the woods don’t take your breath away. The voice acting of all the characters is also crucial to transmit everything they are feeling to the player and it is done in a phenomenal way, especially with Alan during his tale telling and his desperation to find Alice. Even Barry, Alan’s best friend and sometimes sidekick, delivers some of the funniest moments in the game. His appearance, by the hand of his humor, helps the player feel positive in a hard situation like this. It might sound exaggerated to some, but, again, this game is all about the story and it every single detail is carefully taken care of.

Story aside, the gameplay is rather creative, although for a limited time. It is still a shooter where you have some conventional weapons like a handgun and a shotgun but they alone will not help you get rid of the your opponents. The secret is to keep the lights on. The enemies come as normal men (called “Taken”) that have become possessed by the darkness. Some of them will have axes, others will throw it at you, some others are oversized, which means, they are tougher, and later on there will be some others that can run at the speed of light. So, the first thing to do is to get rid of that dark force in order to shoot them to death. For that, the game introduces some unique tools that are our first source of light and our very best weapons. Considering Alan has no experience in gun fighting, all this combat system results in a wonderful experience of using anything you can to survive. Your flashlight will become your best friend every time there’s an enemy nearby. It, by itself, can take away the surrounding darkness of a foe but it’s light can be boosted for a faster kill. To do so, the flashlight will also need its own “ammo”, which are Energizer brand batteries. What’s more interesting and another creative touch is that the flashlight also serves the function of your aim. So, not only does it kill the darkness of your enemies, it also takes away the need of a conventional on-screen aim.

Apart from that, you will be provided with other ordinary tools as cool weapons, such as the flares, which are very handy every time you are literally surrounded in every single corner. It’s huge light makes the baddies go blind for a moment and fall back, giving you time to do the same so you can rethink your strategy. If there are too many the flare guns and light bangs arrive as the equivalent of a grenade launcher and hand grenades, respectively, with the ability to eliminate a lot of enemies at once. However, after they become vulnerable, the shooting process is a little boring. Most enemies need 3 to 6 shots to die but the game doesn’t ask you to have a precise aiming. Your aim can be a few centimeters away from their body and still receive the shots. The only enemies that don’t need bullets to die are barrels, cars, or other unanimated objects that are also possessed. They only require a constant beam of light and it’s way easy to avoid getting hit by them because it takes them around 5 seconds to charge at you, giving you enough time to dodge them rather quickly. No challenge there, where’s the fun?

Anyway, if you happen to be out of ammo in the middle of a fight you end up helpless, there’s no punch button or anything else but the “dodge” move. Your only way out is to run towards the magic light pole (the checkpoint) so the baddies go away. This actually helps the atmosphere of the game to make you feel constantly haunted until you find a source of light to scare away the monsters. However, it is forgotten at around half of the game. As the story progresses, all types of ammo start to appear everywhere. There’s no real need to look for it because it shines right in your face. Even the loading screens advice you to “look beyond the obvious places”. Well, apart from the ammo and the weapons you find (again) in every chapter, the only relevant collectibles are some script pages (snippets of the horror story he is trapped on) and some thermos (with no real use) but after such a linear path with nothing but trees around you, a cabin with an opened door at your left or right and an arrow, which appears only with the beam of your flashlight, that points to a cave or another cabin right where you are heading to is more than obvious, to name a few.

In other words, the whole gameplay experience loses its charm over time. Every chapter is all about town-woods with “taken”-town and so on, the enemies are recycled every single time, their appearance becomes very expected that you lose the suspense, ammo is found everywhere, there are no new weapons past chapter 3 and even the trigger points to unlock the next path are re used a lot. The only “new” things you will get is Barry or the local Sheriff as your side-kick at some points of the story, but nothing else. Sadly, all this makes up the majority of Alan Wake but fortunately the story is strong enough to leave you in suspense and encourage you to keep playing at until the very end of the game. Yes, that much.

Alan Wake is a game that has it all: a powerful storytelling, creative and unique gameplay mechanics, gorgeous visuals and outstanding soundtrack. Unfortunately, this game doesn’t provide everything at the same time. The first part of the game is filled with the nicely innovative combat system, while the second half brings a gameplay already too repetitive to be fun. In some kind of way both parts have their own charm so the experience doesn’t become dull per se, nonetheless, it might not be fair for people with a high interest in the gameplay because they would probably get disappointed after the first few chapters. In conclusion, not every game has a story strong enough to make you keep playing even if everything else has gone down. This game is definitely innovative, no doubt, but if only it had kept that innovation for most part of it, it would have definitely been close to perfection.

Rating: 8.5 – Definitely worth it

Gears of War Review

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“Take cover or die”

-COG’s golden law

At first glance, it’s so simple: a third person shooter where you have to shoot anything that moves in order to survive the apocalypse. However, Epic has managed to transform a simple theme into a thrilling experience that makes you think the fight for survival has gone real. One of the most hyped games of previous gen, Gears of War, came from Microsoft and Epic on 2005 to bring us, finally, something new.

More of a technical framework than story-oriented, the game begins with ex-soldier Marcus Phoenix, the main character, being freed from prison by his loyal friend, Dom, so he can assist the Coalition of Ordered Governments (COG) by joining Delta Squad in order to find Alpha Squad who are supposed to delivery a mass bomb that can kill the entire Locust species (the bad guys). After some tutorial stuff and going out to the real, chaotic world, you can’t help gazing at the great details of the buildings in ruins that tell you that a serious war is going on. You get to see during the entire game cities falling down, humanoid monsters coming out of the ground and there’s also music that turns out to be appropriate for every single place no matter the objective. Even if graphics have improved even more in the recent years, all this together still makes you feel how the atmosphere really suits the theme of survival.

Something else that made Gears of War stand out was its characters. All of them are very thick guys with enough strength to run and kick ass with a huge armor filled with guns. Every single one of them had a very well detailed not only in their image, but also in their dialogue. Everyone has his own lines matched with their personality but still nicely adapted to what you would expect from soldiers with a “let’s rock” attitude.

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And, since it’s still a shooter, to talk about the gameplay, we have to talk about the guns. The main (and probably the coolest) weapon of the whole game is the Chainsaw Lancer. What makes it awesome is the fact that it is a gun and a chainsaw. A small carelessness from the enemy and you can sneak all your way to deliver a fascinating, bloody melee attack on him. But careful because if you expose yourself too much you might be the one who gets a well expected death. Next in line we’ve got the Hammer of Dawn which works via satellite to deliver huge damage to even the strongest enemies. It is too powerful so, of course, the chances to get one and use it are limited. Apart from that, most of the weapons are some of the basic ones you would get from a shooter. You get a shotgun, a sniper rifle, grenades and some others to complete the task.

The locust themselves are, apparently, very intelligent beings since they have their own army. They are not just some monster creatures with a desire for blood, they are willing to fight the humans in their own game. This means they’ve also got their own weapons crafted by themselves. Rifles, Grenade Launchers, sniper rifles and the Torque Bow, which is my favorite of the whole game, that acts as a crossbow with explosive arrows strong enough to penetrate the gear’s armor and explode right in their intestines. Kind of interesting to see how other life beings play with guns against you.

But the guns are not the things that will make you survive, though, but the cover. The whole game was made in a way that makes you rely on cover and it is very well done, too. Almost everything you see, from the buildings to burned cars can be used for it and the control mechanics also makes it feel natural since very early on the game. Even if you don’t want to apply the rule you will learn the hard way because if you stay exposed even for a short time you will receive serious damage. A nice tactic so the game doesn’t feel one sided. However, perhaps the only downside about how the cover was implemented is the fact that you have to face directly the spot you want to use. This is sometimes frustrating because if you are flanking, you have to be very quick to stop running, turn your character around and then press A to hide. Do you think the locust are going to lose that opportunity to blow up your head?

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The gameplay mechanics are very well developed, too. Every button is well distributed so you don’t get lost finding out which one does what. Taking cover is exactly the same button for running so that struggling to find where to hide becomes easier and the “use” and “melee” buttons never interfere with anything else. The reloading trigger also comes with its own mini reward if you press it again at the right time while reloading which gives you a little damage boost, a pretty satisfying feeling that you master your own weapons. The only button that isn’t truly necessary is the Y button. It lets you give orders to your squad like engage, take cover or fall back. Sounds handy, but the truth is they all perfectly know what to do and how to do it that you immediately forget about the fact that you have some authority over the squad.

Once you are on the battlefield, you have the chance to show if you have really learnt how to use the controller. It takes a little time to get used to how to fight because, honestly, everything is too fast. There are all the time plenty of enemies everywhere and you don’t have time to try to aim any of them because, apparently, they have a very good eye to spot you and shoot you every time you try to do the same. Once you master this, you will love the feeling of delivering headshots and even humiliating the locust after they have fallen to their knees by stepping on their head. In case you haven’t noticed it to this point, the game is a little bloody.

One thing that is worth notice, though, is the fact that this game didn’t focus very much on the story. I must say I don’t think that was a good idea based on what the game delivers. Many of the cutsences infer that many things had happened before the events of GoW, but nothing is explicitly said, not even a proper background story for Marcus, or the squad, or anything, which leaves us as nothing more than mere spectators of someone else’s conversation instead of letting us be part of the story.

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However, that did not represent a real problem for Gears of War to deliver a good experience. The coolest thing about the campaign mode is that another real life person can be your companion. Once you try it, you will realize why this game is so focused on co-op. The strategies become endless when you have somebody else around to talk to and it’s the best way you can feel connected to your squad because, even without a proper plot, at the same time, it has an emotional feeling around the main characters. You know have the responsibility to decide whether to take some more ammo or leave it for your partner. And if he dies, you have the obligation to go and revive him before it’s too late, or it will be a game over for both of you. Always wanted to sacrifice yourself for your partner that has always been by your side? This game made it right.

The solo campaign also has its own charm, but the bad thing about it is that, if you try to complete the game on the highest difficulty, your whole squad becomes useless, dying almost every time they pop their head out from cover, forcing you to beat the mission by yourself. And this happens more with Dom. Its is clear that Dom was absolutely made for a second player so both of you had more challenge (Marcus also receives more damage). The problem comes when you realize they decided to let him be even more useless than the rest of the squad when you are in single-player mode. You can always revive them if you have the time to go to their spot, but having to do it every single time is so risky you might rather end up dead, hence, not fun. At least they revive by themselves when the mission ends.

All in all, Gears of War resulted in a technical masterpiece back in 2005. The environment, the characters, the dialogue, the music, the gameplay mechanics, everything together still feels so real. The only thing missing is an actual plot, something that motivates and pushes you towards your goal a little more than just killing everything that moves, or at least explains a little more what is going on. Nonetheless, thanks to, literally, everything else, you  wouldn’t get an overwhelming shooter game like other games that lack story, but rather a very good, funny experience. And the fact that Epic put a lot of effort in making a co-op campaign where both players feel the need to rely on each other to survive is something to thank. I’m quite sure that the endless fun and gorgeous visuals surely convinced a lot of people to buy an Xbox 360. It definitely worked for me.

Rating: 8 – Definitely worth it