On this spooky Halloween night, I thought I’d check out my boys over at Xbox360Fanboy.com to see what was new and interesting. They ran this story talking about GameTrailers.com and how people were posting multi-player videos of Gears of War. I needed to investigate.
(One quick preface before I talk about the videos — I am not a multi-player first-person-shooter kinda guy. I didn’t play a whole lot of Halo multi-player and I don’t feel the need to be where the masses of gamers are all the time. Most of the folks who line up for Madden every year or who spent so much time playing Halo probably never bothered to check in with other great experiences to be found in Katamari Damacy, Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, or even Metal Gear Solid. But, I digress. My point was that I’m just not the guy who’s drawn to a multi-player experience even if I make the decision to buy a first-person shooter. The last game that I spent any real time with in the multi-player combat mode was when the Prey demo hit Xbox Live. It’s just not my thing.)
That having been said, I think I will be spending some serious time with the Gears of War multi-player maps. Seriously. You’ve gotta see these movies. I read all the hype and the interviews that Cliffy B was putting out about how his game was going to have all of these compelling features and after a certain point, I just shut down. For me, Gears is coming at the right time because it’s gotten so much hype that anything short of a 10 out of 10 or a legendary Halo like status is going to be considered missing the mark. If these videos on GameTrailers.com are any indication of what the rest of the game is like, then perhaps I can wait out that first round of PS3 shipments.
First of all, it just looks beautiful — you know, in a “post-apocalyptic” kinda way. In the movies that were posted, I saw three of what I believe will be twelve maps. There’s a graveyard map with mausoleums and other stone structures that will serve as cover. Another map was of what might have been a construction site(?) The last map I saw (and probably my favorite) can best be described as “the set of the military house from 28 Days Later”. (And if you haven’t seen that movie, what the hell are you waiting for. One of the best horror films in years.)
The characters are very bulky, but they move pretty deftly. The “CNN war camera” (a view when the player runs and a shaky cam follows their trail) is going to pleasantly surprise the few who haven’t already seen it. I can’t tell much about the gameplay and how evenly balanced the weapons between the Locusts and the Marines are, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that (like Tomb Raider earlier this year) you weapons don’t disappear into an invisible bag. You basically have two weapons — the one you’re holding and the one on your back. (This should be the norm for the next gen. No need to go to a menu screen to see my inventory. Show me what I have. These systems can handle it.)
So what hooked me on the multi-player? A few things. First, Cliffy made the best decision when he limited the amount of players for the multi-player experience. The four per side that I saw was just the right amount. The players were few enough that they were able to run through areas of the level and not worry much about “soldiers everywhere”. But the map was small enough that you didn’t have to spend too much time finding players.
Probably the best thing I saw in the movies was the fact that when you get hurt up to a certain point, you’ll drop to a knee……but you’re not dead — yet. You are dying, but not dead. You’re bleeding to death. There’s a brief period of time when the Locust/Marine that wounded you (or any opposition player) can come over and “finish the job”. But it can also be the case that your teammate can save you and give you health. It sounds simple, but it works REALLY well. (They even play a little victory theme when you save someone or when you get saved.) I saw a movie where a Marine was wounded by a Locust and you could just see the Locust coming in to finish the kill. Out of nowhere a Marine totally sideswiped the Locust and dropped him to a knee and came over and saved the Marine — at which point the saved Marine got the ultimate redemption and stomped on the head of his would-be killer. Sounds like a bit of conjecture? If you’re thinking that, then go watch the movies. (UPDATE 11/1: The movies appear to have been taken down by GameTrailers. Their message board indicates that they might have been asked by Microsoft to take them down. They should be back up sometime today — but I wouldn’t hold my breath. Take my word for it — the games look incredible.)
I’m not a complete “Gears” whore yet. Who knows how it will feel in my hands. And I kinda agree with the folks that have posted so far — the chainsaw does appear a bit “cheap”. (NOTE: Previously I indicated here that the Marines appeared to be the only team that has chainsaws — looking at a few other movies, perhaps this isn’t correct.) The Locusts appear to have some type of sticky bomb that attaches to you from close range and then they run away while you become hamburger meat. But we’ll see how balanced the weapons are in about a week.
One thing I will say is that the Jack Thompson’s of the world are going to come out in full force on this one. In only a few viewings of these multi-player movies, I managed to see some of the most visceral death scenes I’ve seen in a game yet. For all the excitement that the scene I described above (where you drop to one knee when injured) can create, it also creates a very graphic death. Nothing like Grand Theft Auto kinda death. This is a “begging for mercy but still got shot” kinda death. In one of the movies, a Marine gets injured and drops to his knee. He’s the last player of his four-man team on the map. The Locust goes over and kinda hovers over him for a second….. then he pulls out a tiny pistol and shoots the Marine in the head as he screams. Hmmmm. This is gonna get some press. Let’s hope they don’t take images like this to Congress. We’ll be back to the days of the “Mortal Kombat fatalities” hearings again before you can say Gears of Wars 2.
Go on over to GameTrailers.com sometime after this post — hopefully they’ll repost the movies. And if you’ve got the bandwidth, look at the high-definition versions of the movies. This is where all of the detail comes alive. Gears of War hits stores in exactly seven days…..and this is one gamer that just can’t wait.