The suspense is very well handled and the ambient sounds are all a part of this. The change in music as you move into an area of conflict also help to get the heart racing and there are several times when my heart has been pounding as I move from room to room trying to clear a building.
However, for heart-pounding moments you really need to play the online multiplayer. Saturday evening saw my first foray in the world of Gears of War multiplayer games along with some friends. And what an experience it was!
From the team based Execution (where you can keep yourself alive by rhythmically pressing the A button when you get shot), through Warzone (where once you're dead you're dead), to protect the leader in Assassination (where the goal is to kill the opposite team's leader) there is plenty of variety. The multiplayer maps themselves are just sublime. Most of the maps start the two teams at opposite ends of the map with a natural bottleneck in the centre. This leads to some quite intense battles taking place.
Each round starts with a five-minute time limit. Whilst I was concerned that this might be far too short to even complete a round, you often come face-to-face with the enemy within 20 seconds and the battles can then be over very quickly. All players start with the same weapons, which allows for quite even game play.
What makes the difference with these battles is the use of tactics. By working as a team (and 2 vs. 2 really highlights this) you are far more likely to be able to successfully beat your opposition. The other very attractive feature of the multiplayer is that there are no respawns within any of the game modes. At first this seemed like quite an omission. However, when you consider that Epic wanted to encourage the use of cover throughout the game, and to deter the run-and-gun strategy, this now makes perfect sense.
Someone who wants to run-and-gun through a level will soon find that they are cut down, and are out of the game. This now leaves their team one man down, and with a maximum of four players on a team, this can be all it takes to swing a game one way or the other.