By Joshua Madden
Editor’s Note: Our “Great Video Game” this week was selected after Carson S. Keith submitted a statement saying, “‘Gears of War’ is one of the greatest games I’ve ever played. The originality of the plot and overall gameplay experience is unmatched by the overrated, repetitive first person shoot ’em up, i.e. “Call of Duty” and others. Most games are only popular because of the online experience, but ‘Gears of War’ combines both a great campaign and online experience, maybe one the best campaign experiences of any game, in my opinion.”
Although I disagree with Keith’s note about the “Call of Duty” series — I’m a pretty big fan of “Call of Duty: Black Ops” and I have logged more hours on that than I’m proud to admit to — I have to agree that “Gears of War” is one of the greatest video games I’ve ever played.
“Gears of War,” released in 2006 for Xbox 360 and was later ported to Microsoft Windows, has been hailed as one of the greatest video games of all time. This is undoubtedly part of the reason it wound up in this segment. There can be no doubt that “Gears of War” is one of the greatest video games of all time — it’s certainly the most innovative game to be released on this generation of consoles.
I remember the first time I played “Gears of War” and found myself asking how the chainsaw worked. It seemed too cool to be real. First-person shooters had long ago integrated melee attacks into basic gameplay, but using chainsaws this frequently in a game was arguably new territory.
“I can chainsaw aliens,” I thought. “This is awesome.”
And awesome it was. And awesome it still is.
One of the coolest things about “Gears of War,” as Keith hints at, is the extremely high replay value. Between an awesome campaign with varying difficulties to keep everyone focused — from the most battle-hardened veteran to the most newly introduced player — as well as split-screen mode and online multiplayer. There is easily several months’ worth of content in this game, something that’s sadly all too rare with recent video games.
Another thing worth noting about “Gears of War” is the protagonist of the game, Marcus Finch. Finch, voiced by John DiMaggio (who is known for all sorts of voice roles on just about every cartoon released in the past decade, my favorite possibly being the Scotsman in “Samurai Jack”), is simply one of the coolest video game characters of all time. Slicing through aliens and saving entire planets while keeping his hat on, Finch makes it so no one can ever doubt how awesome he is.
Part of the reason Finch works so well as a character is because the plot of the game works so well. From the moment we meet Finch, we want to know more about him and where he is headed. There’s an iconoclastic element to the character that parallels that of someone like Hunter Thompson. We root for him to succeed even though we don’t always agree with everything he says or does. He’s the ultimate anti-hero, a Han Solo outside of the “Star Wars” universe.
“Gears of War” featured one of the most original storylines to come out in recent memory. Other than perhaps the “Halo” series and recent entries in the “Grand Theft Auto” series, it’s difficult to think of any video game series that has a storyline comparable in quality to that of the “Gears of War” series.
In the last “Great Video Game” column that I wrote, I chose “Halo: Combat Evolved” as one of the greatest video games of all time. “Halo” was the first console game on the Xbox to truly show what the Xbox could do and what people could expect from that generation of consoles.
In the same way, “Gears of War” was that game for the Xbox 360. It showed us all that the games for the Xbox 360 were going to be a step-up in quality and graphics from games on the original Xbox. Since the release of the sequel games, the “Gears of War” series has done nothing but continue to raise that bar for all of us who wish to continue chainsawing aliens into little pieces. As long as there is a “Gears of War” title being released, there will always be new thrills to have.
Do you know of a video game that you consider great? Submit your “Great Video Game” suggestions to us and, much like Keith, you might just find your submission here. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.