•Special effects. After an opening that invokes the camera work of the Lord of the Rings films plus some standard warm-up battles, Gears drops heroes Marcus & Co. into an over-the-top shoot-'em-up chase scene involving giant rolling personnel carriers. Oh, and you must fight off Godzilla-sized "Brumak" monsters and mortar rounds, too.
Survive that, and players enter a pitch-black Alien-esque hunt for a wave of tickers, chittering armadillo-sized living land mines. "We set out to make it feel like you are manipulating and playing a triple-A summer Hollywood blockbuster experience," says Cliff Bleszinski. "You feel as if you are in the middle of this sci-fi war."
•Extra features. The two-player co-operative version of the game goes beyond the single-player story line. And a five-player "Horde" mode, says Bleszinski, is "almost like a modern throwback to the classic arcade days with Robotron. … There's wave after wave of Locust coming after you that get increasingly difficult, and you and your four buddies basically put your back up against each other and see how far you can survive. It's very addictive."
•Critics say. Rating on Metacritic.com, 96. "Graphically and visually this is one of the most amazing games you are going to see," says Electronic Gaming Monthly's Greg Ford. "You can just tell it has insane production values."
•Big-screen potential. A film is already in the pipeline; Wanted co-writer Chris Morgan is working on a screenplay, with Len Wiseman (Live Free or Die Hard) set to direct. A new paperback, Gears of War: Aspho Fields, was released last week. "It's extremely exciting right now to see creatively how something can be made initially as a video game and then can transcend that," Bleszinski says.