The Ryan Lambie Column: 10 best Gears of War moments

To prepare yourself for the Gears of War sequel, why not join Ryan in recapping all that was good about the first one...?

The original Gears Of War

It was a Spinal Tap moment. In February this year, bemused audience members of the San Francisco GDC expo were treated to possibly the most ill-advised publicity stunt in the history of games advertising: Epic supremo Cliff Bleszinski hacking his way through a paper screen with a plastic chainsaw bayonet in his hands and a bizarre grin on his face. ‘Whassup guys?’ he intoned in toe-curling fashion. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, have a look on YouTube – it’s a cringeworthy moment. So cringeworthy that it’s easy to forget that the whole debacle was supposed to be announcing the sequel to Gears of War.

But whatever you make of Bleszinski’s marketing tactics, there’s no denying that Gears of War 2 is one of the most eagerly awaited games of 2008, and with good reason: the original, while hardly flawless, was a brilliant game, and gave Xbox 360 owners at least one reason to feel very smug indeed – unless, of course, you were German.

I was in a Chinese restaurant the other day chatting to a friend about the original Gears, and it occurred to us then just how many neat moments there are in the game. In eager anticipation of the imminent sequel therefore, here’s my own personal top ten:

1. The Chainsaw Bayonet Chainsaw melee weapons have been a video game staple since Texas Chainsaw Massacre on the Atari 2600 or the legendary Splatterhouse, but Bleszinksi’s idea of combining it with your standard-issue machine gun was a masterstroke. The gratuitously gory mess it made when you used it against a Locust made it a genuine grin-inducing moment.

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2. The Hammer of Dawn The game’s biggest weapon, the Hammer of Dawn was a satellite controlled laser that was capable of awesome destruction. Sadly, it could only be used in some very specific outdoor locations (usually against Seeders or Berzerkers), though there were occasions where you could use it to kill a Locust foot soldier hiding in a gun emplacement – the very definition of using a hammer to crack a walnut.

3. The first encounter with the Wretches It was one of GoW‘s most memorable scripted events: as your droid set to work cutting open a locked door, the camera tilts up to reveal a horde of loathsome Wretches running across the ceiling. It was a scene straight out of Aliens, as you and your team struggled to fend off the tenacious critters as they attacked from all sides. The Wretches may have been a distracting annoyance as the game wore on (particularly the exploding Lambent ones), but this first encounter was superbly realised.

4. The first appearance of the Berzerker It was fifteen feet tall, blind, and could smell you from a mile away. Its charging bulk could knock walls to powder and smash comrades to bloody giblets. Pant filling.

5. The Theron Guards They were big, they fired exploding arrows and lurked behind furniture hissing ‘humanssss’. The Theron were scary, and a nightmare to kill on the higher difficulty levels.

6. Sticky grenades Actually lobbing a grenade so that it killed anything was one of GoW‘s more fiddly tasks – but at least there was the possibility of pulling off this little exploit to make up for it: with a bit of practise, you could sneak up behind an enemy and attach a grenade to them, leaving them to explode in a mist of pink vapour.

7. The Kryll The light-sensitive, bat-like Kryll may have been an unashamed rip off of Patrick Tatopoulos’s creatures from Pitch Black, but they did make for some truly memorable scenes: trying to keep within the protective glow of a burning car as it rolls down a darkened street, or using a lamp to protect your comrade as he ran from building to building. In any case, incorrect timing left skeletons picked clean in an instant.

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8. The Corpser boss battle It may have been deceptively easy to beat, but the face-off against this giant arachnid in Act 3 still sticks in the mind – mainly thanks to some excellent character animation. The encounter was spoilt only by the distracting inclusion of yet more Wretches, which I suspect were thrown into the mix at the last minute just to make things more challenging.

9. General RAAM killing Lieutenant Kim It’s a plot development straight out of an eighties kung-fu film, but for a game as wilfully macho as Gears, it makes perfect sense – and serves as an appropriate introduction to the Locust head honcho, as he stabs the lieutenant with a particularly ugly looking sword.

10. The train One of my favourite locations appears in GoW‘s final act: battling your way forward, carriage by carriage, as the enemy throws all kinds of horribleness at you – Lambent Wretches, a Berzerker, Theron Guards, and finally the big boss himself, General RAAM – it was a great moment in a game packed full of them. Let’s just hope GoW 2 really will be ‘bigger, better and more bad-ass’ than its predecessor, as Mr B claims.

 

Ryan writes his gaming column every week at Den Of Geek. Last week’s is here.

 

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