Never thought I would have said that.
You see, I have Gears of War 1 and 2, but they were bought for my boys to play, because I never really had much interest in the series. I tried them out, but just didn't like them. Shooting games centered around cover fire usually don't mix well with my play style, as I'm not patient enough to sit and wait, usually just rushing in Leroy Jenkins style. And with the Gears of War games, that's something you simply can't get away with safely.
I never even touched Gears of War 3, so leading up to the release of Judgment, I was pretty uninterested. Especially with it being a prequel, I saw no reason why I would need to know the back story of a story I knew nothing about in the first place.
With this crazy blog project, however, I am learning to broaden my horizons and try out games that usually wouldn't interest me. And again, Redbox and Gamefly have been instrumental in aiding me in this quest, making it easier to justify spending a couple of bucks to try out a game I'm pretty confident I wouldn't want to buy but am at least interested in playing. Which leads me to GoW:J.
First thing I noticed, which I may have noticed before but certainly didn't remember, was how bulky everyone looks in this universe. It's almost as if everyone is taking a daily dose of steroids. Just an observation, nothing that actually changes how I feel about the game.
So I started it up, and I decided that in order to maximize how much game play I got in with the game, and to optimize the likelihood of enjoying it and decreasing the chances of frustrations that come with playing an unfamiliar style of game, I chose to play on Easy mode. This isn't something I normally do, as I do enjoy challenging myself when playing games, but hey, there are exceptions to every rule, right?
Getting past the opening cut scene, which meant nothing to me, and getting into the game play, I instantly realized how clunky and heavy the game is. Remember when I talked about how Master Chief felt to me when I went back and played the old Halo games in my Week of Halo? Well, this game makes Chief feel like a gazelle prancing through the badlands. Seriously, I felt like I was accidentally activating some special slow-motion superpower that I didn't know about.
Once I eventually got to some action, the pace picked up quickly. As noted before, I'm not a big fan of the cover-fire shooting experience, so while I joined in the reindeer games every now and then, I was able to run around (and I use that term very loosely) and just wreck shop efficiently without taking too much damage. I chalk that up to the easy mode for sure.
Despite feeling like a slug drudging through mud covered in molasses in a pit of quicksand, I actually enjoyed the combat. I felt like I was doing serious damage, and each kill was refreshing and rewarding. Unlike games like Halo where unless you have the skull turned on to make each grunt head shot a confetti explosion, the kills are just to get rid of the wave of enemies. In this game, however, I felt like each kill was brutal, vicious and destructive, as it each one meant something special. Once I started executing wounded enemies with the chainsaw attachment on my rifle, I instantly realized why this series is popular. It just feels right.
I do think that the size of the enemies played a major factor as well, as most of them are your size or bigger. The little bugs that just run around and explode just felt like distractions, but killing the equally-in-steroid-use-to-me-and-my-squad enemies was a small victory each and every time.
The various types of weaponry was nice and refreshing also, as no matter how many bullets I pumped into my foes, I never felt in danger of either running out of ammo or not being near fallen weapons to pick up. Each gun felt different, yet familiar, and the targeting system was pretty much dead on accuracy wise. Even the variety of grenades and explosives to toss was well done, and the targeting system for tossing them was spot on. Better yet, the enemies didn't all jump out of the way at once when I tossed a frag grenade into a group, as alien shrapnel flew across the screen instead upon explosion.
In each section of each level, there are also points called Declassified missions, which upon activating if you so choose, handicap you and your team in some way, ranging from adding in a timer to complete the mission to limiting your vision to cutting your ammo in half. Each Declassified mission is completely optional, but if you do try them out, they boost your score which is helpful when going after that 3-star ranking in each mission. The coolest part, however, was that when you activate a Declassified, it incorporates a story plot to your campaign in a subtle yet creative way. Well done, indeed.
I didn't play any of the multiplayer, because well, I just don't care too. I just wanted to see if this was a game I could learn to appreciate for what it is. And while it is an Xbox 360 game, which I'm not entirely thrilled about to begin with, I really did enjoy what I played. But...
I don't think I will play any more of it. It's just not something I want to sink time into, personally. However, I do completely understand why there is a strong fan base for this series, and why Microsoft continues to hang their hats on this (along with Halo) as console exclusives. It's very good for what it is, and fans of the previous God of War games should be thrilled to play this game. It is a bro shooter at its very core, and it is done well.
As long as you don't mind moving at a snail's pace that's trying to drag a tortoise uphill in the middle of a blizzard while using a dial-up modem for mapquest.com.
You know - SLOW.