An Epic Review of Epic’s Newest
Everything had “weight”: the characters, the movements, the voices, the battles, and the cut scenes – it made you feel like everything you did was important. When you took cover behind a wall, it didn’t “let” you hide behind it, you took the cover and the cover be damned if it didn’t like it. It was a truly visceral experience.
That was, right up until the end of Act IV.
Act IV ends with Marcus Fenix and pals being chased from his father’s mansion by a 40-foot living tank. It’s awesome.
Act V starts with Marcus Fenix and pals hopping on a train that’s carrying a bomb into the heart of Locust land to blow them to itty bitty bits. It’s awes… WTF?
No, I didn’t leave anything out, that’s how it goes. The first thing I did was reload the previous chapter and played through the last part again, just to be sure I hadn’t missed something. I hadn’t. There was no mention of a bomb and certainly no reason for us to be getting on a train that carried one. No mention of the 40-foot Brumak who, by now, I was starting to feel sorry for leaving behind. Poor guy’s probably just misunderstood; I can’t imagine he got many dates in school, and now we’re leaving him out of the rest of the script? I don’t blame him for chasing after Marcus and pals. The big lug just wanted to toss around the ol’ pig skin guys… anyway, I digress.
So, after determining that Epic had just decided that skipping a whack of exposition was a good idea, I played through Act V. Completing the act took a little less time than opening the game’s packaging, but I have to admit, I wasn’t racing when I opened the box. Don’t get me wrong, the train was good fun, but the act was decidedly incomplete, and far too short.
When all was said and done, Gears of War amounted to an amazing experience, and one that I recommended to many people, and still recommend to this day. But, there were so many unanswered questions: Why Marcus? Why did you get on that bomb-y train? How did you even know it was there? What about poor Bill? The Brumak… his name is Bill now. What’s your story? Why are you so angry? Who hurt you? Do you need a hug? These questions burned within me, haunting my dreams and tormenting my waking hours; the Answers lost in the unfathomable depths of the space between Acts IV and V.
Lost, until now.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Answers have arrived, and their bearer goes by the name of Gears of War for Windows. But, more on the Answers in a minute! To do this new edition justice I must start at the beginning.
My first experience with this new edition was to put it simple terms, excellent.
If you get a chance to play a game on one of these:
(an HP Blackbird) hooked up to a 30” widescreen LCD monitor, you do it – you do it like your life depends on it.
I always liked the GoW multiplayer; it was the first multiplayer I truly enjoyed. So when I got to sit down with some MP action right off the bat, I was pretty excited. Everything was just as I had hoped. The control is still tight, and the action just a fast paced. Graphically, the detail is all still there – even more so when you crank that resolution up. And the atmosphere has not suffered in the transition from console to PC. Some ports just feel like cheap knock-offs on the new system, but not Gears. It’s a solid translation.
The new King of the Hill is a welcome addition to the multiplayer game modes, and it’s really a lot of fun. I also had a chance to try out the new maps, and each one is a good addition to the game – creative, detailed, gritty, Gears-worthy. Sadly, my multiplayer experience was short lived – an evening can pass so quickly. Fortunately, this led me to my second experience with the new edition: Single player campaign.
First off, I played almost the entire game with a wired 360 controller. I’m a mouse and keyboard guy through and through, but I just couldn’t quite get the hang of it with this game. I kept wanting to hit that A button to slam up against a crumbling wall, and the space bar just wasn’t cutting it. AND there’s no rumble in my keyboard! So, the controller won out.
As for the game itself, it was like coming back after a vacation: everything was where I left it and it felt like home. My grit was there in full force. My good buddies Marcus and pals were still ready to kick ass and take names. And it all still felt important. As I made my way through the game, however, I could feel that the guys had a secret they weren’t telling. Marcus, did you have a party while I was on vacation? The place looks the same, but something feels different. I’m keeping my eye on you. And it’s a good thing I did, because lo’ and behold, the boys did have a secret: Gears of War “The Lost Chapters.”
The campaign is the same, right up until the end of Act IV.
Act IV ends with Marcus Fenix and pals being chased from his father’s mansion by Bill, the 40-foot living tank. It’s still awesome.
Act V starts with Marcus Fenix and pals being chased by Bill, but now through the war-torn town of Timgad. Bill, apparently, is persistent in his desire for a little game of pickup, but the boys are having none of it. It’s awesome.
Epic has inserted all of the chapters and exposition necessary to fill the gaping hole that was the space between Acts IV and V. The new chapters feel like they should have been there from the start, and fit in seamlessly. We’re treated to some of the most action-packed battles of the game, and some great new environments. There’s a perfect mix of locales: indoor and outdoor, close quarters and wide open spaces. For those of you who played the original, there are also more COG tags to find. And the new cut scenes provide the answers to all of the questions that have tormented me for a year. I can’t reveal the Answers here (you’ll have to play it to get them!), but I will say one thing: Bill does not want a hug – he may need one – but he does not want one… don’t try… he’ll likely kill you.
Bill is also very upset that the boys don’t want to hang out with him, and in the end you’re forced to fight the 40-foot monstrosity that is Bill the Brumak. It’s a great fight, and I think everyone is going to really dig it. It’s just so BIG, in such a wide open space, you really the sense that you’re doing battle with the biggest kid on the block and there’s a really good chance he’s going to kick your ass. Fun times!
Once you’ve completed the new levels, the game picks up at the old start of Act V, with one more slight change: it all makes sense now. Now, I support Marcus’ decision to jump on the bomb-train – I love this plan! I’m excited to be a part of it!
And when it’s all said and done Gears of War for Windows amounts to an amazing, and now complete, experience, that I highly recommend. Thank you for taking the time to provide us with the Answers, Epic, it’s appreciated.
Achievements for the Masses: We’re looking at most of the same as for the Xbox 360 version, minus “A Series of Tubes,” but with an added “Not so Serious” for killing 10k people in any kind of match, and a secret one that you’ll pick up just playing through the campaign.
Level Editor: I wanted to touch on this for those creative-types out there. In case you’re unaware, the newest version of the Unreal Editor is included on the game disc, and you can now create your own multiplayer maps for Gears. It took some forum searching, however, to figure out how to access the editor. It requires creating a new shortcut to the game’s executable with a target that looks like this:
“X:\Path to game directory\Gears of War\Binaries\WarGame-G4WLive.exe” editor
Apparently the editor is built into the game’s main executable and just needs that “editor” switch to make it start up instead of the game. Neato!
In any case, the editor itself looks to be super full-featured and should allow users to create some great new maps. Myself, I’m a total gimp at that kinda stuff, and the editor scared the crap outta me, so I bolted. I’d rather take on Bill with a pen knife.