Xbox 360 Preview

Gears of War

Arron gets all excited about Epic's next-gen opus...

X05 has been and gone, and there were certainly some superb titles on show. Clearly Project Gotham Racing 3 and Perfect Dark Zero have stolen much of the limelight in recent months, but there has also been a title lurking in the shadows, one that was shown at E3 and has had the jaws of gamers touching the floor for some time. That title of course, is Gears of War.

Developed by Epic Games, and set to be published by Microsoft Game Studios, Gears of War is a third-person tactical action game, with elements of the best survival horror titles thrown-in for good measure. Taking the role of Marcus Fenix, a war hero disgraced for disobeying orders to save his father, Marcus Fenix is going to lead his fire team into battle to fight for the future of mankind. But who is Marcus battling, and why?

Set in the near future and based on the planet Sera, a new source of power has been revealed and escalating battles have been taking place for nearly eight-decades between nations, while a new breed of enemy has been evolving below. Whilst on the surface, the battles between nations had been constant, now the "Locust Horde" are about to surface, and plan to bring absolute carnage and destruction to mankind. Once surfaced, an epic battle that lasted for twenty-four hours saw which one-quarter of the human race wiped out, leaving those remaining desperate for a solution, a solution that would not only destroy the Horde, but destroy Sera. Using chemical and orbital-beam weapons, humanity wiped the infested cities, leaving 90% of Sera a wasteland, a wasteland with few remaining Hordes, but that few still threatened mankind. Humans won that battle, and in true sci-fi flick style named it "Emergence Day". Gears of War

The only way Marcus could redeem himself in some way, then, is to lead his fire team in to destroy the remaining Locust Horde... the game begins.

Gears of War promises gamers an epic storyline, massive worlds, and memorable characters; more importantly said epic story will apparently "play out like an intense and unsettling Hollywood blockbuster action film." To reach the intensity of a tinsel-town blockbuster, Gears of War is based around the Unreal Engine 3, which pushes high-definition visuals to new levels, bringing-out the smallest details in the largest battles. Characters come to life with the physics-integrated animation system, and are expected to act intelligently to events that are happening around them; and from what we've seen so far, this is 100% true.

Gears of War is set to feature several modes, one of which struck us as particularly exciting: a full Co-op campaign. As well as covering all game modes, levels and scenarios are even being made available for Co-op play, something which will come as a welcome addition to Xbox Live fans. Gamers who are on Live will be able to experience Gears of War to the full, it would seem, and we're promised individualized matchmaking, player statistics, player achievements, customizable games, as well as personal profiles. A mouth-watering prospect, if Epic can pull it out of the bag before Halo 3.

On the battlefield, players will have to develop their skills to survive the lethal Horde; from using cover 'creatively' (by this we mean destroying the environment such as pillars and then ducking amid the rubble) or the already battered ruins of a previous battle, to suppressing the enemy and using the rest of the fire team to move forward to take out the remaining foes, offering a more strategical approach. All this can be co-ordinated via the headset, making Gears of War an intensely immersive experience. However, The Locust Horde come in all sizes, from armed grunts to big, creepier beasts known as the 'Black Locust'. Apparently, these monsters can easily destroy houses, even pulling them up whole from their foundations. A terrifying prospect. Gears of War

Gears of War is without question a promising title. Although games such as Project Gotham Racing 3 and Perfect Dark Zero are also sure to get the Xbox 360 off to a flying start, it could indeed prove crucial in attracting gamers with the second-wave of releases. Without Halo 3 being mentioned, then, Gears of War is fulfilling an important role, and Microsoft could have another killer IP commencing in collusion with Epic, all being well. For those of you who haven't seen the trailers yet, then: "Remember, humans were not destined to create, they ultimately did what they do best... destroy." We'll keep you posted on this as the winter months creep under our doors and begin to cloud our windscreens.

E3 Trailer