Gears of War

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Gears of War
Gears of War.png
Developer(s) Epic Games
People Can Fly (PC version)
Publisher(s) Microsoft Studios
Producer(s) Rod Fergusson
Designer(s) Cliff Bleszinski
Programmer(s) Ray Davis
Artist(s) Jeremiah O'Flaherty
Chris Perna
Writer(s) Susan O'Connor
Eric Nylund
Composer(s) Kevin Riepl
Series Gears of War
Engine Unreal Engine 3
Platform(s) Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows
Release date(s) Xbox 360
  • NA November 7, 2006
  • EU November 17, 2006
  • AUS November 23, 2006
  • JP January 18, 2007
Microsoft Windows
  • NA November 6, 2007[1]
  • EU November 9, 2007
  • AUS November 15, 2007
Genre(s) Third-person shooter
Mode(s) Single-player, multiplayer
Distribution Optical disc, download

Gears of War is a military science fiction third-person shooter video game developed by Epic Games and published by Microsoft Game Studios. It was initially released as an exclusive title for the Xbox 360 in November 2006 in North America, Australia, and most of Europe. A Microsoft Windows version of the game was developed in conjunction with People Can Fly and released a year later, featuring new content including additional campaign levels, a new multiplayer game mode, and Games for Windows - Live functionality.

The game focuses on the troops of Delta Squad as they wield a desperate, last-ditch attempt to save the remaining human inhabitants of the fictional planet Sera from a relentless and seemingly unstoppable subterranean enemy known as the Locust Horde. The player assumes the role of Marcus Fenix (but can also play as Dominic Santiago), a former prisoner and war-hardened soldier. The game is based on the use of cover and strategic fire for the player to advance through the scenarios; a second player can play cooperatively through the main campaign to assist. The game also features several online multiplayer game modes for up to eight players.

Gears of War sold over three million copies in ten weeks and was the fastest-selling video game of 2006 as well as the second-most played game over Xbox Live during 2007. The game has since sold over five million copies by September 2008 and it currently stands as the 5th best selling Xbox 360 game. The game received universal critical acclaim by critics, who praised its gameplay and detailed visuals, and it won several "Game of the Year" awards in 2006. The success of the game has led to the development of the Gears of War franchise. Currently three sequels have been made, starting with 2008's Gears of War 2, its follow-up 2011 Gears of War 3 after having initially been set to have been released on April 5, 2011,[2] and 2013's Gears of War: Judgment. Adaptations to books and comics have been released, with a film in development.

Gameplay[edit]

Marcus Fenix, the player-controlled character, takes aim from behind cover at a Locust with the Lancer. The game uses an over-the-shoulder camera angle when displaying the targeting reticule.

Gears of War is a third-person shooter that places emphasis on using cover to avoid taking damage while moving towards enemy forces. The game uses a number of weapon archetypes, but predominately featured is the Lancer, an assault rifle that has a mounted chainsaw bayonet that can deal melee damage at close range. Playable characters can carry two primary weapons, grenades, and a smaller, secondary weapon such as the Snub Pistol. Weapons are reloaded with a tap of the RB button, and a second tap within a given time (active reload) rewards the player with a damage bonus. However, failing to perform the "Active Reload" correctly will cause the gun to become momentarily jammed while the player's character fixes it. When the player takes damage, the "Crimson Omen", a red cog representing the player's health gauge, will fade into the screen, becoming more defined with larger amounts of damage. The player can seek cover to recover their health, but if they take too much damage, they will become incapacitated. Once this occurs, a skull will fill the center void of the omen. The player can then be revived by a teammate, executed by an enemy, or remain incapacitated until they "bleed out", dying from blood loss.

The game features a five-act campaign that can be played alone or cooperatively with one other player. The campaign focuses on COG Army soldiers Marcus Fenix and Dominic Santiago and their efforts in the Delta Squad to wipe out the Locust forces on their planet known as Sera. The players will be joined by AI teammates that will help fight the Locust. Certain sections of the campaign feature two paths that can be taken as selected by the first player. If there is a second player, their character will automatically take the other. The campaign can be played at three difficulty settings in the first game. From easiest to hardest, these are "Casual", "Hardcore" and "Insane". The "Insane" difficulty is unlocked once the game is beaten on either the "Casual" or "Hardcore" difficulty.[citation needed]

Multiplayer Gears of War features up to four-on-four competitive gameplay, with teams representing the Gears or the Locust. Players must execute downed foes, otherwise these will revive after a time. In Assassination matches, the team's leader is the only one that can track the other team's leader and pick up new weapons, after which teammates can pick them up, with the goal to eliminate the foe's leader. An Xbox 360 patch added the "Annex" mode, which is similar to King of the Hill, in which players must try to control a shifting control point for a certain amount of time to win.[3] The PC version of Gears introduced "King of the Hill", a mode not present in the Xbox 360 version, which uses a fixed control point but varies the conditions on which it is controlled.[4]

Synopsis[edit]

Setting and characters[edit]

Gears of War takes place on the planet Sera. A liquid called Imulsion became a highly valued power source after a scientist discovered how to use it, and the economic shockwave led to several wars between nations. The Coalition of Ordered Governments (COG) originally existed only as an obscure world-government philosophy, but it evolved into a legitimate, though minor, political party during the 79-year-long Pendulum Wars. The soldiers of the COG are called gears. After "Emergence Day" (E-Day), when the Locust began their attack on humanity, the COG were the ones who took the necessary steps to ensure the survival of human civilization, instituting martial law and taking charge of the effort against the Locust. Fourteen years later, the COG is the only human government left on Sera. One year after E-Day, after losing battle after battle against the Locust, the COG made the greatest sacrifice using the Hammer of Dawn on Human cities giving the citizens of Sera only three days to evacuate to the Jacinto Plateau, the only place Locust couldn't dig through before pushing the proverbial button on the hammer strike.[5]

The game primarily focuses on Marcus Fenix, the main character, and Delta Squad, consisting of Dominic "Dom" Santiago, Damon Baird, and Augustus Cole.[5] Side characters, such as Colonel Hoffman, Anthony Carmine, and Lieutenant Kim, also aid Delta Squad. Players take control of Fenix in the campaign; while in co-op mode, the second player controls Santiago. All four squad members are available for play during multiplayer games, along with Anthony Carmine, Minh Young Kim, and Victor Hoffman, in addition to the various Locust characters.[5]

Marcus Fenix is voiced by John DiMaggio; General RAAM and many Locust creatures are voiced by Dee Bradley Baker; and Augustus "Cole Train" Cole is voiced by Lester "The Mighty Rasta" Speight.[citation needed]

Plot[edit]

The game's plot begins fourteen years after Emergence Day (E-Day), when the Locust Horde overran and killed many COG soldiers and civilians, declaring war against humanity.[5] Marcus Fenix, a former COG soldier, is reinstated into the military after spending four years in prison for abandoning his military post in order to make a vain attempt to save his father, Adam Fenix. Dominic "Dom" Santiago, Marcus' best friend and fellow COG, successfully extracts Fenix from the prison, and takes him to meet Delta Squad.[6] The group seeks to obtain the "resonator", a device that will map "The Hollow", the underground caverns which the Locust inhabit[6][7] and later deploy the "Lightmass Bomb", which will destroy the heart of the Locust forces inside the Hollow. Fenix and his allies recover the device, but suffer multiple casualties in the process including Anthony Carmine and Squad leader Kim. Amidst the chaos, Fenix leads the remaining soldiers through the ruins of Ephyra to claim a "Junker" APC, drive to a mining facility, and finally into the planet's depths.[5][6]

Delta Squad successfully detonates the resonator, but the device fails to map enough of the tunnel network. Fortunately, they discover a larger map of the network that originates from Fenix's old home, specifically his father's laboratory.[6] The group ventures to the Fenix estate at East Barricade Academy, where Fenix originally attempted to rescue his father. When they arrive, Delta encounters heavy Locust resistance. After collecting the data, the group fights their way past Locust forces and boards a train carrying the Lightmass Bomb. Fenix and Santiago battle their way through the train, and defeat General RAAM, before finally uploading the data. Fully activated, the Lightmass Bomb launches into the Hollow, and eradicates the Locust tunnel networks.[6] In the game's final sequence, Hoffman delivers a victory speech as the tunnels collapse and explode, whereupon the voice of the Locust Queen promises that the Locust will continue to fight onward, despite their losses.

Development[edit]

In an interview with Cliff Bleszinski, lead developer for Epic Games, he cites three games that were the primary influences in the game's design including the third person perspective from Resident Evil 4 and the tactical-cover system from Kill Switch;[8] Bleszinski also cited Bionic Commando's influence on the cover system, equating the actions of moving from cover to cover as similar to the action of swinging from platform to platform in the latter game. These design choices reflect themselves in the gameplay, as Gears of War focuses mainly on squad team-based and cover-dependent tactics with limited weapons rather than brute force. The game also includes a content filter, which will turn off the blood and gore, and the usage of profanity. The total cost of development was $10 million, according to Epic's Mark Rein, and only 20 to 30 people were involved with the development at any time.[9] However, these figures don't include the proprietary Unreal Engine 3.[9]

Gears of War lead designer Cliff Bleszinski said he hoped for the game to expand into graphic novels and eventually film.[10] On November 21, 2006, Microsoft Corporate VP of Global Marketing and Interactive Entertainment Business Jeff Bell stated Gears of War is the first in a trilogy, through sequences on E-Day and the battle of Jacinto Plateau, as well as information on Adam Fenix and his research.[11] Epic Games Vice President Mark Rein posted a message on the official Gears of War Internet forums, stating "It's not over until it is not fun anymore", and, in his view, Gears of War may become the next Halo series in terms of popularity.[12]

The ending to Gears of War heavily suggested a sequel, and at the 2007 Game Developers Conference, Bleszinkski confirmed that Epic Games did "intend to do a sequel" to Gears of War.[13] The game's sequel, Gears of War 2 was officially confirmed on February 20, 2008,[14] and was released at midnight on November 7, 2008.[14]

On January 27, 2014 Microsoft announced that they have acquired all rights to the franchise from Epic Games and Canadian studio Black Tusk is developing the next Gears of War game.[15]

PC version[edit]

System requirements
Minimum Recommended
Microsoft Windows
Operating system Windows XP with Service Pack 3 or Windows Vista
CPU Intel Pentium 4 2.4 GHz or AMD Athlon XP 2 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo or AMD Athlon X2
Memory 2 GB RAM 2 GB RAM
Hard drive 12 GB of free hard disk space
Graphics hardware NVIDIA GeForce 6600 or ATi Radeon X700 NVIDIA GeForce 7600 or ATi Radeon X1900
Sound hardware DirectX Compatible
Network Internet or LAN connection required for multiplayer

News of the franchise's future has emerged multiple times since the game's release. PC Gamer accidentally released an image in its 2006 holiday issue where Gears of War can be seen in a Games for Windows display, which led to suspicion that Gears of War would be released for the PC;[16] however, the image was later stated to be a mock-up.[17] Possible leaked pictures were released on February 13, 2007, leading to more suspicion of Gears on the PC. In an interview with Xbox fan site TeamXbox, Mark Rein stated that the game would eventually come to the PC; Epic was not currently ready to release it on that format, but the upcoming release of Unreal Tournament 3 was "helping (Epic) get optimization on the PC".[18]

On July 11, 2007 at the E3 conference, it was revealed that Gears of War would indeed be released for Windows.[1][19] New features include three new multi-player maps,[4] an extension of five new single-player chapters to act five which describes events of Delta Squad escaping a giant Brumak between acts four and five[4] (which Mark Rein claims is "about 20 percent extra" over the existing Xbox 360 content),[20] new game modes, a game editor, and Games for Windows – Live support integrated into Unreal Engine 3. When asked about bringing the additional content to the Xbox 360 version, Mark Rein of Epic Games stated that "it is unlikely we will bring that content to 360". He then states, "Unfortunately the version it's built on is not really compatible with the 360 and so it would involve a massive patch, a patch larger than all five we've done so far, to Gears of War to do that."[21] Additionally, the PC and Xbox 360 versions will not allow for cross-platform play; Cliff Bleszinski stated that "while this feature does add value, it just wasn't that desired nor worth the extra months of design and development time. We want Gears of War to be out this holiday on PC."[4] This news angered many owners of Gears of War on the Xbox 360 due to the game no longer living up to its "Exclusively for the Xbox 360" title and not receiving the additional content.[22] Mark Rein noted that despite their original label of the game as an Xbox 360 exclusive, Microsoft allowed them to develop the game as part of the Games for Windows moniker, as has been done previously with Halo 2.[23]

A patch was released on November 28 to fix performance issues and also the Games for Windows - Live update issue.[24] The patch was only released for American and Western European versions of the game; legitimate purchasers of the Eastern European and Russian versions were informed that "the game would continue to function without the patch" and never issued a corresponding version.[25]

A Mac OS X version was confirmed by Mark Rein at the end of E3, on the Game Head television program on July 14, 2007, along with Unreal Tournament 3, but no release time frame was specified, and As of July 2011, nothing more has been mentioned. The version has probably been silently cancelled due to the low sales of the PC version and fears of piracy.[26]

Digital certificate issue[edit]

In early 2009, an issue with a digital certificate, used to sign certain game-critical files as part of the Anti-Cheat mechanism, which expired on January 28, 2009, rendered the game unplayable without a temporary workaround of resetting the system clock to before the certificate expired.[citation needed] Initial information from sources led people to believe the issue was related to DRM within the game.[27] Epic later acknowledged the problem, claiming it was not in relation to a form of DRM but instead to a form of Anti-Cheat, and notified end users that they "[were] working with Microsoft to get it resolved."[28][29] This issue was corrected as of February 6, 2009 with a downloadable patch.[30]

Soundtrack[edit]

Gears of War - The Soundtrack
Soundtrack album
Released July 31, 2007
Genre Video game soundtrack
Length 69:08
Label Sumthing Else Music Works
Producer Kevin Riepl

Gears of War - The Soundtrack is the soundtrack of video game music from the game. It was released on July 31, 2007 by Sumthing Else Music Works.[31] The music was composed by Kevin Riepl who has previously worked with Epic Games on soundtracks for Unreal Tournament 2003 and Unreal Championship.[32] The title track was written and performed by thrash metal band Megadeth, with an instrumental version of the song being used for the soundtrack; a revised version with lyrics was featured on the band's 2007 album United Abominations.

Track listing[edit]

Marketing[edit]

At the game's release, Epic Games released a Limited Collectors Edition. Some of the notable differences are a steel case instead of the regular plastic case and an extra disc which contains artworks of environments and stages including Locust that never made it to the game,and extra content and behind footage of the making of Gears of War. The disc also contains a time-lapse on the creation of the "Emergence" mural. The game's disc and case has a different cover and instead features the Omen background. Another of the Collector's Edition extras is a book titled Destroyed Beauty which illustrates the game's back-story and includes concepts, sketches, and descriptions of the game's characters. The Collector's Edition also includes the same instruction manual and 48-hour Xbox Live Gold trial as the regular game does.[33]

Downloadable content[edit]

Epic Games began working on new content for Gears of War in August 2006. The updates would remain free according to Epic Games president Mike Capps.[34] The first of these updates was released over Xbox Live on January 9, 2007,[35] with two new maps released the following day on January 10, 2007. The two maps reflected background scenes from the game's storyline, known as Raven Down and Old Bones, which depict Gears fighting Locust amidst the crash site of a King Raven chopper and a museum.[36] Another update was released for Gears of War on January 22, 2007,[37] which, according to Epic Games' Marc Rein, is said to fix some compatibility issues with the release of Gears of War in Japan, and that no game play or functionality features were changed.[38]

On April 9, 2007, Epic Games released their third update, containing a new game mode titled Annex, which requires teams to capture and hold certain areas of each map, as well as additional gameplay tweaks and fixing up some glitches, bugs and exploits. The update was free of charge.[citation needed]

Epic Games initially said that four new maps would be released in conjunction with the third patch. However, due to disagreements between Microsoft and Epic Games, Epic decided instead to "put these maps on sale at a reasonable price then make them free a few months later," according to Mark Rein of Epic Games.[39] The map pack, titled "Hidden Fronts", was released on Xbox Live Marketplace on May 3, 2007, and included the maps Bullet Marsh, Garden, Process, and Subway.[40] Free downloads of these maps were made available on September 3, 2007, four months after their initial release.[citation needed]

A fourth update on June 14, 2007 added 250 additional Achievement points (bringing the total possible achievement points to 1250), in eight Achievements related to Annex mode and the maps from Hidden Fronts. Additionally, the update includes improvement of roadie run to keep the player from sticking to cover areas, and a patch to prevent the Annex clock from counting during connection errors. Other "housekeeping" issues were also addressed.[41]

Reception[edit]

Critical reception[edit]

Reception
Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings 94% (360)[59]
87% (PC)[60]
Metacritic 94/100 (360)[61]
87/100 (PC)[62]
MobyGames 95% (X360)[63]
86% (PC)[64]
Review scores
Publication Score
1UP.com A+ (360)[42]
B- (PC)[43]
Eurogamer 8/10 (360)[44]
9/10 (PC)[45]
Game Informer 9.5/10 (360)[47]
GamePro 4.75/5 (360)[46]
GamesRadar 10/10 (360)[56]
GameSpot 9.6/10 (360)[48]
9.0/10 (PC)[49]
GameSpy 5/5 (360)[50]
4.5/5 (PC)[51]
GameTrailers 9.1/10 (360)[52]
8.8/10 (PC)[53]
IGN 9.4/10 (360)[54] 8.7/10 (PC)[55]
Official Xbox Magazine 10/10 (360)[57]

Upon its release, Gears of War received universal critical acclaim from critics, maintaining an average review score of 93.97% at GameRankings (second highest-ranked game of 2006), and an average score of 94/100 at Metacritic.

Most reviewers praised the game for its visuals, presentation and sound. IGN's review of the game called it "the most gorgeous looking game on the Xbox 360" and that "the sound design is worthy of awards."[54] Gamer.tv gave the game 5/5 praising the "Well designed maps" and "Great cover gameplay mechanics" and praised Epic games for the inclusion of co-op play.[citation needed]

While the game received high praise, reviewers did point out that Gears of War did not offer anything significantly new in its core gameplay. Eurogamer's review of the game states: "let's not pretend that we're wallowing in the future of entertainment. What we have here is an extremely competent action game that's as polished and refined as it could be, and is therefore very enjoyable. But if Epic had applied the same widescreen scope and ambition to the gameplay as it did to the engine we'd be much more excited than we are."[44] The game's story was noted for not being very deep, as GameSpot's review states "The lack of exposition feels like a missed opportunity to make the characters and the setting even more compelling."[48]

The PC release of the game received similar praise as the 360 version, with reviewers noting various differences between the two versions. IGN commented that "The mouse and keyboard allow for more precise control, and the graphics have been improved as well;"[55] however, 1UP stated that "the control scheme's a very central obstacle" to the game.[43] GameSpot noted that the additional chapter felt out of place as "it changes things up a bit in ways that betray the difficulty progression of the game."[49] Hyper's Cam Shea commends the game for its "visual, solid gameplay, killer multiplayer and reload mechanics". However, he criticised it for "potential frustration, pointless squad commands and chainsaw mechanics".[65]

The Lancer weapon was later featured in an Electronic Gaming Monthly article that discusses its practicality and historical precedents. Keirsey criticized this weapon by noting that real "chain saws are heavy." He noted that "medieval bludgeoning weapons are the closest" historical precedents.[66]

Awards[edit]

Leading up to the game's release, Gears of War was one of the most anticipated games of 2006.[67] The game premiered during the 2005 E3 show, and won, among others,[68] several "Best 360 Game" awards, including from IGN,[69] 1UP,[70] and Gamespy.[71] The game continued to win several awards at following 2006 E3 show prior to the game's release.[72] These included the Game Critics Awards for "Best Console Game" and "Best Action Game",[73] IGN's "Best 360 Action Game", "Best 360 Multiplayer Game", and "Best Overall Multiplayer Experience",[74] and Gamespy's "Best Console Multiplayer", "Best Action Game", and "Xbox 360 Game of Show".[75]

Upon release, Gears of War received numerous awards from many publications. IGN named Gears of War as the "Xbox 360 Game of the Year" among other awards.[76] GameSpot named the game its "Game of the Year" as well as "Best Xbox 360 Game", among other accolades.[77] Official Xbox Magazine named their game as their "Xbox 360 Game of the Year".[citation needed] G4 TV during the 2007 G-Phoria awards, named Gears of War its "Game of the Year" in addition to other awards.[78]

Gears of War won several awards at the 2007 Interactive Achievement Awards at the D.I.C.E. Summit, including "Overall Game of the Year", "Console Game of the Year", and "Action/Adventure Game of the Year", and "Outstanding Achievements" in Animation, Art Direction, Visual Engineering, and Online Gameplay.[79] The game received the awards of "Ultimate Game of the Year" and "Xbox Game of the Year" at the 2007 Golden Joystick Awards.[80]

In addition, the characters within the game received additional awards. GameSpot gave their 2006 "Best New Character(s)" award to the Delta Squad of Gears of War.[77] G4 TV named Marcus Fenix the "Best New Character" and gave Lester Speight's performance for "Augustus ‘Cole Train’ Cole" the award for "Best Voiceover". The game was given the Interactive Achievement Award for "Outstanding Character Performance - Male" for its voicework.[79] The Berserkers were named as Official Xbox Magazine's "Enemy of the Year".[citation needed]

Guinness World Records awarded Gears of War with 5 world records in the Guinness World Records: Gamer's Edition 2008. These records include, "First Console Game to Use the Unreal 3 Engine", "Fastest Selling Original Xbox 360 Game", and "First Music Single to Top the Chart After Promoting a Video Game" for the Gary Jules version of "Mad World", which was originally released in 2003, but topped the download charts in November 2006 after it was used as background music during the TV commercial for Gears of War.[81]

Sales[edit]

According to Microsoft Studios Vice President Sammy B, Gears of War preorder sales were second only to Halo 2 in the studio's history.[82] Gears of War was also the first Xbox or Xbox 360 game to sell out and reach the top ten charts in Japan.[83]

Gears of War has achieved major success since its release. On November 7, 2006—the day that it was released—it became the most popular game on the Xbox Live service, until the release of Halo 3, overtaking Halo 2 which had held the spot since its launch in November 2004.[84] Gears was the second most-played game on the Xbox Live service throughout 2007.[85] By January 19, 2007, just ten weeks after its debut, over three million units of the game had been sold.[86] As of November 7, 2008, the game has sold 5.88 million copies worldwide.[87]

Film adaptation[edit]

New Line Cinema has tried to get a film adaptation off the ground with director Len Wiseman attached and a $100 million budget. However, the project has been stuck in development hell, with Wiseman eventually leaving the project. As of April 2010, New Line were looking for a new director and has allegedly lowered the budget.[88]

References[edit]

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