E3 06: Gears of War in motion

While attending Microsoft’s pre-E3 conference, we were treated to a demo of Gears of War, the staggeringly attractive 360 shooter. It’s odds-on to become the most exciting game of the year for Microsoft’s next-gen hardware - just take a look at these new screens to check the game’s impressive form for yourself.

Set on a ruined, alien-infested Earth, Gears of War is an all-out bullet-buffet. The heavy focus on combat stresses rigorous use of cover, with enemies constantly pouring fire into your general direction. You can dive into cover, hunker down and move about, lean out to blast off a few shots, or leap over obstacles to charge into new cover positions. Brilliantly, you can also blind-fire, holding your weapon out and just blasting away without risking your neck with careful aiming.

Gears of War has a very Resident Evil 4-style camera, although Marcus Phoenix - the none-more-ripped star - is far more maneuverable than Resident Evil’s Leon Kennedy. The “over the shoulder” view gives the game an intense, filmic quality, and serious levels of heart-endangering atmosphere. The game also calls to mind another GamesRadar favorite, Namco’s kill switch, which also had a no-holds-barred, unabashed obsession with non-stop action.

This proud focus on action, the constant cover-to-cover rush and never-ending barrage of bullets is a breathless experience. And the game is brutal. Thick streams of the red stuff gush all over the place, especially once Marcus gets in close and uses his rifle’s chainsaw-bayonet to chew an alien’s face off. We’re a bit concerned, though, that the aliens seemed irritatingly resistant to a chestful of hot lead - they might be bulging, burly brutes, but when we drill someone with a clip of hollow points, we expect them to go down and stay down.

We’re a bit excited about Gears of War, as you might have noticed, but unfortunately Microsoft is being excessively coy about a launch date. The official line is that the game will splash down on “Emergence Day 2006.” But, beyond possibly being a reference to 360’s original launch date, that’s not that helpful. But with E3 kicking off in a matter of hours, we’ll be first on the scene to dig up new info on this stunning 360 title. Stay tuned.

May 11, 2006