GearsofwarLets turn the clock back to 2006. It was one year into the Xbox 360’s life cycle, and consumers were either stabbing and shooting each other in order to get their hands on the newly released PS3, or lining up for hours to get their hands on a Wii. Meanwhile, Xbox 360 gamers were still waiting the proverbial ‘killer app’ for the system. While games like Oblivion, Fight Night Round 3, and Saints Row did a good job or keeping players tied over, many of them were just higher resolution versions of games on the original Xbox. What gamers really wanted was Halo 3. Meanwhile, Epic had something brand new up its sleeve. Making use of the brand new Unreal 3 graphics engine, a lifelike alternate world, and unique gameplay features, Gears of War was unleashed on the scene, and it redefined the rules of the shooter genre.

Gears of War takes place on the planet Sera, a world similar to our own. Its people have been at war with each other for years, until one day when a new menace, the locust horde, emerges from under the planet’s surface. On Emergence day, as it’s called, humanity bands together in order to combat the creatures. Players take control of Marcus Fenix (and his friend Dominic Santiago if playing in co-op), a war veteran who was arrested when he disobeyed orders in order to save his father on Emergence Day. After being pardoned, he joins the war effort against the horde. He meets many allies and dangerous enemies along the way while fighting for survival.

In Gears of War, cover is the name of the game. If you approach the game like a run-and-gun firefight, you won’t last long. You’ll have to pick your shots carefully and plan out your strategy. Thankfully, the game is still fast paced and intense. The game’s levels progress from one firefight to another, and you’ll be swarmed with enemies. You’ll have some cool weaponry to help you out though. The grenades are huge and are thrown using a cord, similar to a hammer toss. The standard issue rifle has a chainsaw bayonet attached to it, making melee kills incredibly satisfying. The most impressive of these weapons is the Hammer of Dawn, a portable satellite device which calls down a powerful laser blast, but it can only be used in outside areas with clear skies. You’ll need the weapons too, as you’ll face all kinds of enemies, from small, bug like creatures to huge towering monsters.

The team-based multiplayer is a blast to play as well, second only to Halo in terms of Xbox Live popularity. Epic has even supported the game with downloadable content, mainly new map packs. A sequel was released last fall, so many fans of Gears have most likely played through it already. For those who have yet to experience Gears of War, now is a good time to do so. Its graphics set the standard for Unreal Engine 3 powered games, and its gameplay sets a new standard for the shooter genre.