Gears of War - hands-on

On to multiplayer, and it was here that we had a thorough thrash of the aforementioned new King of the Hill mode on the three brand new maps specially created for Gears on PC by People Can Fly, the Polish developers responsible for the Stakegun-powered shooter Painkiller. They are: Courtyard, a city park with some great high areas to use the awesome Hammer of Dawn orbital laser weapon; Gold Rush, an industrial level set on an emulsion drilling platform at the bottom of a massive crater; and Sanctuary, a very gothic "non-denominational religious building," with atmospheric, creepy lighting.

"King of the Hill is sort of a spin-off from Annex, where you're taking over territory, but instead of it constantly changing, there's only one bit of territory per round and one team member has to be in that circle to score points," said Fergusson.

"Also you play 'execution rules,' so if you snipe someone in the circle from afar, and he goes down injured, he's still in there getting points! You have to move in there and finish him off." This, combined with the fact that Epic have also added instant breaks, so that any opposing team member making a suicide run into the circle can drain it to a neutral status immediately, means you get some hectic, thrilling and very funny matches that can be won or lost right up until the final few nail-biting seconds.

Multiplayer is locked into Games For Windows Live, but before you begin to ready those fingers for forum flaming, it'll be completely free to play. All you have to do is sign up for the Silver package, and the Gears of War multiplayer modes are also compatible with Windows XP as well as Vista - no one will miss out as with the Halo 2 and Shadowrun debacles.

All of the new maps are fantastic with King of the Hill four versus four, but Fergusson assured that every multiplayer map featured in Gears of War PC (that include the additional Map Packs 1 & 2) are compatible with other modes - and of course, you'll be able to play with a friend through the entire single-player missions cooperatively. Gears of War will also ship with an editor, although don't expect to completely overhaul the game with a new mod, as the utility has been tailored for creating your own multiplayer maps - the PC-from-the-ground-up title Unreal Tournament III is Epic's flagship mod-maker.

Epic have looked to have created an excellent PC version of Gears, complete with new single-player content, new maps, better mouse/keyboard control and free integrated Games For Windows Live co-op and multiplayer across as many different PC configurations as possible. As Epic gear up for development on the game's inevitable sequel, it's great to know that PC owners will finally get to play this killer series, and face-off against the Brumak beast - a fight that Xbox players can only wet dream about.