Some more Gears to Grind

So despite my bickering about a page in a game manual, Gears of War ain’t too shabby. Not mind numbingly, ballistically good, but if that was a requirement for every game what would we play? I have a couple thoughts about it though; maybe you would like to hear them.

– Greg Kasavin of Gamespot said some video clip I watched about Resident Evil 4 that it was an experience he expected not to see until the next generation. Now the next gen is the current gen, and it seems that RE4 certainly set the tone for the experiences we would see. Gears of War is very much in the same vein as Resident Evil 4, and not simply because they share the same perspective. Both are finely tuned action games in which every scene is meticulously crafted and yet every fight has the potential to play out differently. Both have fluid, context sensitive controls. I really don’t see why it is so difficult to draw the comparison. At least now I understand why all the initial reviews went along the lines of “I can’t tell you why Gears is awesome, it just is, so go play it”. That was the same feeling I got on my first time with RE4, and it is a very good feeling indeed. It just meant that with Gears, I was prepared.

– This is one of the smarter games out there in terms of design, and I wish more people would take a clue. I like getting Achievements for Casual difficulty when I win on Hardcore, as I’ve already proven myself. I like how the non multiplayer achievements are things you can earn simply by being decent at the game. I like how playing co-op doesn’t penalize you in any way, and that I can skip the intro tutorial, and how the cutscenes are usually quick and easy to swallow. All little things, but they all add up to a lot in the end.

– Really now, am I the only one who thinks Insane difficulty is only incrementally tougher than Hardcore? The only real difference seems to be that enemies are more eager to get up close where they can kill you instantly. Beyond that I’m not having any harder of a time with it, and in fact have gotten through some sections quicker than on Hardcore. Perhaps it is because I am much more familiar with the levels and the weapons, but I was hoping for something like Halo, in which the hardest difficulty fundamentally changes how you approach the game. On the other hand, I really appreciate how I can do so well on Insane because of the things I learned on Hardcore. It becomes not a feeling of “this is too easy”, but “I’m getting rewarded for my skill and diligence. Great!”

– There is a point where I begin to wonder if we have pushed the excuse of “its an action game, who the hell cares” excuse over the edge. Gears’ indoor areas are grossly similar to some of the castle areas of Resi 4, and the outdoors are straight out of Half Life 2 with a dash of thinly veiled symbolism. The story is like a mad lib from past games, yet it is apparently good enough to be further explored in non-game franchise entries. I’ve seen Wretches come out of thin air and Theron heads floating around with no bodies because I was too fast or observant for the game’s scripted events. And haven’t we seen these COG soldiers somewhere else?

Well what do you fucking know….

Look, I understand that this isn’t the most sophisticated game out there, not when it has chainsaw executions and all. It is the same story in the rest of the genre too. But at a certain point I have to stop saying “who cares”, and start saying “I expected more than parlor tricks and deja vu for my sixty dollars.” I’ve made apologies for games in the past as well, but there’s a difference between trying to better understand a game, and defending something that can and should be done better. Far Cry had some memorable set pieces, not because of scripting, but because of its large jungle environments and zany AI and physics. Imagine if someone tried to rope that in some more.

– Seriously guys, chainsaw bayonet. Shouldn’t we be at least a little concerned at how excited we as gamers get over something so violent?

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