I finished Gears of War some time ago, and I've been meaning to post some thoughts on it.
First and last, it's a great game -- fully deserving of all of those Game of the Year Awards its been getting.
Is it perfect? No (what game is?), but it's the best package of what it does (by a long shot), and far better for my money and preferences than a now-gen game like Fight Night Round 3 (10 out of 10? Whatever).
Again, it's not perfect. It's pretty close, and does some things spot on.
Take the look, for example. Epic hit the nail on the head with their whole "destroyed beauty" motiff. The buildings are gorgeous, and I'm genuinely saddened at their brokenness.
And the vibe? A sense of a war that is ongoing, without hope, costly, and brutal? Gears, despite it's Sci-Fi clothes, does this better than most (if not all) WWII shooters.
And, honestly, I'm great with the length of the game. There have been complaints about it's shortness, but I think it's good.
And firefights are intense, can be taken from a few angles, and aren't boring or overly repeatable (except for one sniper level, where the snipers always showed up in the same place; WTF? Why not have 5 possible sniper positions, and randomize the 3 snipers; like a "real" war?).
What I thought needs some work is the story. It was decent (and the writer, Susan O'Connor, is honestly pretty impressive), but I think this was a slightly more graceful truncation of the story than what we all got in Halo 2. I think we'll get to see the whole vision on game 2 or 3, but I think that vision could have been pushed more in the first game.
Also, Gears is not prefectly balanced. It's pretty good, but there are some insane levels that do not match the levels before. And the final boss level is tough, but I'd heard horror stories about finishing it out on the hardcore setting than it actually played out (And when I complained about it taking me 8 times to play through before completing it, Cliff Bleszinski told me, "Well, he IS the last boss after all. He's gotta be a smidge tough, eh?").
But the dark wretches that explode when they die inside a closed-in level like the train? Whatever. I dislike cheap deaths.
And I really like the whole "stop-and-pop" gameplay (as opposed to "run-and-gun"), but the cover mechanic in Gears needs some work. I do not like getting stuck against something while running, or not being able to move out from cover cleanly. Rogue Trooper has dedicated context buttons for finding/breaking from cover and blind firing, and I actually like that implementation better than Gears (I know, I know, but check it out then get back with me, then let's have a mature discussion).
UPDATED: An auto-update was released for the game April 9, 2007, and the getting stuck while do the "roadie run" has been seriously massaged. I need to play it more, but seems to make a positive difference so far.
And I'm honestly surprised how buggy Gears of War is. Knocking a Locust to his knees, then have him slide and flip while crouched unmoving, like some 2D cutout, or bullet tracing feeling like it's calculated on where it was fired, rather than where it hits, etc. (Unreal Engine 3 issue?). Minor, but there are some gripe lists out there in the Internet ether. And the previous patch (at least on paper), seems multiplayer focused; but the upcoming patch is a black box.
The other minor quibble I have is the language. Understand, I don't mind language. But the language in Gears feels forced, non-organic, and yanks me out of the moment. It's like part of the premise was "Let's make an R-rated movie, but make it a game", and that premise led the horse. Feels disjoint.
But it's easier to talk about the stuff that doesn't work than the stuff that does, if for no other reason that -- from a usability perspective -- the better the stuff works, the more unoticeable it is.
Again, this is a great game. Easily a 9 out of 10 (I'm a leader of men so don't do decimals). Buy it, play it, understand that it's for mature audiences, and enjoy it.
And check out my previous blurb.