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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Now Playing: Gears of War Multiplayer

While watching X-Play in the fall of 2006, I managed to catch the promotional trailer for Gears Of War during a commercial break. By now, I think any gamer (and most non-gamers out there) have watched this incredible piece of advertising, featuring the Gary Jules remake of Mad World. Although I'm not the biggest FPS fan out there, this ad wore me down and I picked up Gears Of War in late December.

Having recently used a code for one free month of Xbox Live Gold, I decided to pop in Gears Of War again and give the multi-player games a try. Having only played a few short sessions of Gears Of War in the past week, I'm already considering becoming a full-blown Xbox Live Gold member and join the crowds of people playing GOW online.

I've got a few semi-valid reasons for having not jumped into the multi-player aspects of Gears Of War and, more generally, into the Xbox Live Gold online gaming:

  1. I have a family and, as such, certain demands on my time. If I'm playing something online and my son wakes up from his nap crying, I need to drop my controller and get my lazy ass upstairs to take care of my boy. It's not fair to my wife for me to constantly value my time more highly than hers, so I can't ask her to watch our son while I curb-stomp my way to another achievement.

  2. I really, really don't like chatting while I'm playing games online. I hated the chat function when I used to play online golf back in the late 90s, resorting to the occasional "vg" or "thx" when absolutely necessary. With the somewhat-recent advent of voice chat, I find myself even more hesitant to play online. Although I realize that voice chat makes it much easier to coordinate the on-screen action, I really hate having to plug my headphones in and start speaking with people I don't know.

  3. I've never been a big fan of playing with or against people I don't know. Since I'm competitive, I'll try my best to play well - though I'm not going to feel bad if I step in someone's line of fire thus preventing my team from winning the match. I don't like trash-talk and I don't like mindless chit-chat either: when I'm playing online, I'm there to play. In the very first ranked match that I played online, I was treated to a constant stream of swearing and a few N-bombs as well. Honestly, is it really necessary to swear and make racist comments to play online?

That being said, I enjoyed my time playing online. Gears Of War is a great game and, though I contributed just north of 10% of the kills that my four-man squad picked on its way to a 16-2 victory in some death-match game, I had a great time. As it stands, I've played online three times in the past week: twice in a co-op campaign game and once in a 4-on-4 ranked match.

Game #1: Hosted co-op campaign, Act V (Casual Difficulty)
Having never played Gears online, I figured having a friend (Asdjazz) help me finish off my single player campaign would be a good introduction to GOW's multi-player modes. I'd just finished off Act IV a month ago and was anxious to finish off the game's campaign on Casual difficulty.

At first, Asdjazz died a couple times as he tried to remember exactly how Act V worked. I wanted to tell him that not getting shot up was a good start, but he figured it out on his own before I could say anything. From that point on, Dom was the man and Asdjazz was the puppet master. Basically, I stayed close, kept my head low, and kept shooting until General RAAM was dead with multiple rounds to the head.

As an aside, the story took a major leap between Act IV and Act V. I honestly couldn't tell you what we were doing throughout Act V and I'm not too sure how we abruptly arrived at the end of the game. Still, winning is winning and Gears Of War finally gave me the happy ending that Dead Rising failed to deliver.

I'm hoping to tackle Hardcore difficulty with Asdjazz in co-op mode before my free month of Xbox Live expires. I'd like to play as Dom in order to take care of the Domination and I Can't Quit You Dom achievements.

Game #2: Ranked Match, 4-on-4 deathmatch

In my mind, I pictured Gears Of War ranked matches to be an exercise in slow, methodical, precise tactical combat. Instead, it was an 8-player chainsaw orgy filled with quick kills, inappropriate language, and lots of fun. As I mentioned earlier, I could do without the constant swearing and racist comments (I should look into muting others' chat) but it was an otherwise pleasant experience.

The game was a 4-on-4 deathmatch game. When one team knocked out all players on the other team, a win was scored. The first team to 16 wins would win the match.

It took me 4 games before I managed to pick up my first kill: an up-close shotgun blast to the head of my COG opponent's crazy display of dive rolling. All but three of my 8 kills came with the shotgun; I also managed to pick up a couple curb-stomps and one chainsaw kill.

In the future, I'm hoping to do a little better. I think it'll still be a while before I pick up the Don't Hate the Player (awarded for finishing a match with the most points), but I'll have fun building up my not-so-mad skillz.

Game #3: Joined co-op campaign, Act I: Knock Knock (Hardcore Difficulty)

I honestly feel bad for the guy hosting the game I joined. There he was, playing away, taking care of business when suddenly, I take over Dom and proceed to stink up the joint. I joined the game late in Act I as we found ourselves pinned down by a Troika gun. Although I managed to take out the gunner, I soon found myself bleeding out and in need of saving. Thankfully, my co-op partner helped me back up and we quickly proceeded to the next chapter of Act I - "Knock Knock".

Having played through the game once, I knew the strategy that I wanted to use to take out the Locust and get through the chapter. Unfortunately, I ran out of bullets and bled out when I was flanked by a baddie...

After I died, the co-op game's host shut the game down, no doubt in an effort to get himself a better co-op partner. Will he rue the day he dared cross Klopzi360? No, not really - I don't mind getting booted.

Although I'm still working on finishing up Dead Rising and NHL 07, I'm going to try and play Gears Of War once or twice a week. This game is just too good to put aside and the multi-player has only made me appreciate the game even more.

If you're ever looking for a mediocre Gears co-op partner, feel free to add me to your friend list and I'll look you up next time I'm online (generally, most nights between 9:30 PM and 11:30 PM EST).


Having trouble finding all those COG tags? Are those Berserkers tearing you to shreds? Getting RAAM's by the good General? Why not check out Brady Games' Gears of War Signature Series Guide?

Still having troubles? Why not check out some great online guides from GameSpot, IGN, and GamePressure.com?