Gears of War, or simply Gears if you want to be casual and affectionate with your bleak and uber-violent insectoid carnage, is a bit of a popular game. Just a little bit popular, mind.
OK, I under-exaggerated a little. It’s tremendously popular – so well known and much-loved that Microsoft wasn’t content to just let it make a massive success of its console system. Oh no, Microsoft had to port it to the PC and let it try and make a success of its new Games for Windows brand too.
That’s fine; all well and good, but it does raise some questions. Is there any new content in the PC version, does the game have any control issues which may make it preferable to play it on the Xbox 360 and, most importantly, is there any cross-platform multiplayer?
When you get right down to it; is Gears PC better than the original or just a half-assed port with issues up the wazoo? Let’s find out.
Grins of Thor
OK, so there isn’t much to say about Gears of War which the vast majority of you won’t already know. Even those of you who haven’t played the game on Xbox 360 will be pretty much familiar with the story, characters and use of Gary Jules’ Mad World in the advertising campaign. Still, just in case you’ve been sat under a rock for the last few year I’ll offer a quick recap.
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It’s the future. Fourteen years before the game starts Emergence Day occurs and the human race is almost obliterated. Freaky aliens called The Locust Horde erupt from the ground and start laying waste to the earth, troops literally popping out of the ground under every major city.
Unable to muster forces fast enough, but unwilling to sacrifice ground, the humans use huge laser cannons (in space, naturally) to destroy the cities, killing many of the Horde but slaughtering many of their own. The humans retreat to the mountains, afforded some subterranean protection by the thick rock.
A decade and a bit passes and, as the game starts, Earth is almost out of soldiers. Only the diseased, crippled and insane remain. Players then take the role of prison inmate Marcus Fenix, a soldier charged with dereliction of duty, who is given command of a squad of men and tasked with making the Horde regret ever setting foot on (or under) earth.
The premise itself isn’t exactly original – one man tasked with saving the world from an insectoid alien enemy was old even before the massively influential Starship Troopers was written.
However, what has always made Gears stand out as a great title has been the way that the gameplay and story are a single, cohesive item. The story trickles out in the middle of fight scenes as the soldiers yell to each other. The stylised violence of the gameplay is omnipresent.
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While the initial premise isn’t crotch-twistingly interesting, the story soon takes on a life of its own as players form friendships with their squad. The violence is so up-close and in-your-face that a sense of brothership quickly builds even in the singleplayer campaign.
That the plot has been essentially untouched in the PC version of the game is a fantastic thing – it would have been very easy for Epic or Microsoft to try and add in extra plotlines or a ‘directors cut’ in order to add appeal. Frankly though, the story needed to be left alone. It’s deliciously streamlined and perfectly bite-sized as it is.
True, new content has been added, but it doesn’t make a massive impact to the overall plot. I suppose it’s time we had a look at the specifics of the gameplay though, so flip the page and let’s get on with it.