A Look Back At The Original Gears of War
I play the original Gears of War for my first time to understand why it is revered as a classic and whether this accolade is justified. Gears of War: Judgement has come out and the general consensus is that this is one to miss. Apparently it doesn’t stack up against the polished perfection of the previous entries. Well is this fair? Or has rose tinted nostalgia (for 2006) placed the first entry onto an unreasonable pedestal. I get to play with fresh eyes and find out.
Immediately I skip the training, “I am ready to kick some ass”. I should mention that I have played GoW 2 and GoW 3, so I am already familiar with the series. I enjoyed both, 2 more so than 3 this matches the general opinion that the series lost its way, gradually, sequel upon sequel. Yet the gaming community is a fickle bunch, they often choose the original in most series so it’s time to decide for myself, free from warped memory.
First impression, the graphics are pretty dated, though this was to be expected. Looking at a few of its 2006 contemporaries like Rainbow Six: Vegas or Oblivion it stacks up well. The game is brown and grey, it fits the aesthetic. Considering that this was a graphics showcase for the 360, it is interesting to see how far the same hardware can be pushed today.
This is Hard
I assumed that my previous Gears of War experience would mean playing on hardcore shouldn’t be a problem, but damn this game difficult! It is far less forgiving then the others. This is frustrating at first, but forces me to really use the famed cover mechanic. The AI is smarter too constantly flanking me. The shotgun is perhaps a tad OP in this game too, Boomers are suddenly a genuine threat to me that they weren’t before. It seems that difficulty forces you to adjust your strategy and hone your skills, something I hadn’t found myself doing since Dark Souls.
I like the environments, bulky stone doors with electronics, temple like buildings, columns to use as cover feel natural and make sense in Sera. Combat follows a set pattern of tight corridor shooting that opens out into large open areas with locusts popping out from each side. This is still the case in GoW 2 and GoW 3, but the corridors are tighter here, claustrophobic, every corner fraught with the potential of encounter.
So much of the core mechanics have remained unchanged for the sequels. The roadie run, the smooth snap and pop out cover, the lancer, chainsaw melee, the level design, satisfying active reload. Ah I the active reload, expanded on in the following iterations but is just as and refined and complete here. It is all so perfectly attuned already here, attention to detail was clearly always a focus point for Epic.
However there is a section early on that jarred with me. An emergence hole section which after dying many many times was only able to overcome by knowing exactly what was about to happen.
I don’t remember ever using the Hammer of Dawn weapon in the following campaign’s, every oportunity with it here is a joy. There are fewer weapons but also less of a distraction. I also like the characters more in this game, Cole’s introduction is great.
I still prefer Gears of War 2 (I do like to have more variety and colour in the environments) but this is still a great fun game, I can see why it made such an impact at the time. However it becomes difficult now to separate it from all the genre it birthed and all the cover based shooters that followed. The game simply feels too familiar, which in fact is a testament to how much they got right with this game, but is also why I won’t be picking up Gears of War: Judgement. A classic? Certainly. A must play? Probably not.