While the Xbox 360 has been on the market for a little more than a year now, it appears that it now has its “killer app” in Gears of War. Beyond that, though, Epic Games might have created a game that truly feels like the “next-generation” is here and now.
Sure, a lot of the launch-window titles looked fine and played well, however, there was something missing from all of the games that gave me the feeling that this was nothing to get too excited about. A good example of this problem is Perfect Dark Zero, a game that I actually enjoyed quite a bit.
The problem was that the only noticeable improvements over current-generation consoles were the graphics. There was nothing inherently remarkable about the game play design, sound or story. The game just looked better than anything on current-generation consoles.
The game, in retrospect, was a pretty standard shooter that just did a lot of things well, and that’s why I liked it. The launch and the subsequent games were plagued by this problem. The only games I feel came even close to the level of immersion that Gears had are Call of Duty 2 and Condemned. Both combined a great visual style with some fantastic audio that really drove the game play.
But in Call of Duty 2’s case, the impact of the sound of those guns firing and the soldiers screaming was somewhat deadened by familiar setting.
With Gears of War, Epic managed to create a title that was completely immersive while you were playing it. It wasn’t just about how great the game looked. (Don’t get me wrong, Gears is the best looking game from a technical standpoint to date.)
Rather, Gears of War has tremendous sound effects, memorable characters, great controls, inspired character design and an intriguing (albeit disgusting underdeveloped) story. For example, the great design and look of the Berserker, along with the fantastic use of her sound effects when she attacks literally had me screaming. I was screaming because I could see the effort on the main character, Marcus Fenix’s face as I leaped or ran out of her way. I knew if I screwed up, I was dead.
The first time I went toe-to-toe with the Berserker is easily one of the most memorable game play experiences I’ve had in a video game. The game has a ton of these experiences where you are completely engulfed by the game play and it is the only thing you are thinking about.
And isn’t that what the next-generation of games should promise? A fabulous looking, immersive game play experience. 2007 looks to be a fantastic year for Xbox 360 owners, with exclusives like Halo 3, BioShock, Mass Effect, Blue Dragon and so on coming out.
We can only hope that developers continue to create not only great looking games, but also great sounding games that help keep us totally engaged in our game play experience!