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Gears of War - hands-on

You begin the level at a drawbridge (apparently based on London Bridge) that shorts out, meaning you and the team have to get power to the sector, just as hordes of Locust enemies descend on the area - including the Brumak - kicking off a manic shootout that eventually splits the four-man COG team in two, taking you and partner Dom into the grim nether-regions below the structure. The Brumak is a dominating presence throughout the levels, so even though you don't get to take it on until the fifth chapter, the hefty beast will never be too far away, trying to smash its way down through the girders of the bridge to your position below, or cutting off your escape route with collapsing concrete. The new sections have some memorable set-pieces, including our personal favourite - a shootout in an old theatre overrun with sniping enemies in the balcony, scuttling Wretches on the stairs, and an insect-like behemoth Seeder in the main stalls.



After a further series of intense firefights with the Locust, you and your team eventually come face-to-face - well, face-to-ankle - with the Brumak, the frightening Rancor-like monster, loaded with multiple gun/rocket launcher installations and controlled by a grunt atop its head. We won't reveal any spoilers here how you see off the lumbering piece of alien filth, but suffice to say that taking the Brumak down was an immensely satisfying boss battle.

Gears looks fantastic on PC - crisp, hi-res visuals with great scalability, from mid-range cards to DirectX 10-compatible behemoths that'll run 1920 x 1200 pixel resolutions and above, for life-like facial animation, smooth movement (caught in the Epic mo-cap studio just around the corner) and beautiful-but-war-torn architecture of a civilisation torn to shreds by a brutal alien invasion.

Epic have also succeeded in making the transition from controller pad to mouse/keyboard really smooth too, giving you the option of traditional keyboard mapping, with the space bar used for the action button for going into cover and running, or using a nifty double-tap Advanced mode - hit W twice quickly and hold down, for example, and Marcus will run forward using that trademark over-the-shoulder "war reporter" shaky-cam. After a few minutes of the latter combined with mouse-look, we're confident you'll never need that Xbox 360 pad for Windows. Although the dynamic context-sensitive on-screen prompts will cleverly change from mapped keys to buttons automatically if you do prefer to plug one in. You big girl.

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