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Post-Apocalyptic World: A Bipartisan Learning Tool?

It's almost like a video game. Big monster boss Donald Rumsfeld is gone and so are many Republicans that the Democrats hated such as Rick Santorum. But there are many more Republicans to come, and they will constantly make it known that liberal values are the values of evil, that liberals are like the awful communists of old. And W. will try to make it look like the elephants still have a mandate, as he did in his recent press conference with the statement, "To our enemies, do not be joyful. Do not confuse the workings of our democracy with a lack of will." Will the new Congress be just as contentious as the old Congress? Will W. be conciliatory at all? If they're all locked up and can't decide because of their warring ways, I don't say let them eat cake. I say let them play GEARS OF WAR.

This is the big one for Microsoft. Since there's no new Halo to be released in the near future, Gears Of War is the biggest game Microsoft will release this year. Mammoth in scope and beautiful to behold, the third person shooter is expected to sell well over a million copies by Christmas.

But beautiful-looking games have been clunkers in the past. Is Gears worth the high price of $60? At a recent Microsoft event in Manhattan, the first thing I did was to try the online multiplayer portion of the game. I wasn't any good at multiplayer, probably because I generally don't like shooters all that much. Still, I can tell when a game is a step forward, and Gears is just that. You won't get any clues to where your opponents are in multiplayer. That's part of what makes it thrilling. Also, Gears feels more real than most shooters. The vibration mechanism makes the controller shake with each shot fired, as if a gun were being held in your hands. At one point, you'll have to cross train tracks to shoot. But one critic at the event moved so slowly, he was killed by the oncoming train. Not only do you have to look out for online opponents, but oncoming traffic too.

Not a morning person.
Not a morning person.

Details

Gears Of War
Publisher: Microsoft
Developer: Epic
Platform: Xbox 360

  • Check out reviews of all the latest and greatest games (updated every week), along with past faves in NYC Guide.
  • When I played the single player story mode, I was even more impressed. Sure, your cartoon-y characters are oversized, as if everyone was cut from the mold of The Thing from The Fantastic Four comic books. And, sure, the script isn't all that well written, although it does give you a feeling of excitement. I do love the voice of the main character who's been trapped in a cell for years, Marcus Fenix. (Get it? Marcus is like a phoenix rising from the ashes.) He is a big-voiced but brooding tough guy, like Sawyer from the TV show Lost.

    From the first moment in Gears, you feel terror and horror. You're trapped in a cage-like prison cell with monsters on the top bars trying to get you. When a fellow soldier frees you, you have the choice of going right into battle or training for the missions ahead. Even during training, Gears is not that simple to play—you'll jump at the fearsome sights you see. The music is often foreboding, like Mike Oldfield's "Tubular Bells" from the original Exorcist. At its best, Gears Of War is a kind of terrifying Indiana Jones adventure, a scary roller coaster ride that also happens to be a pretty darn challenging shooter.

    As you play, you'll learn that the whole planet has been taken over by ugly monsters who've come from some forgotten realm under the earth. Members of the Locust Horde also look like The Thing, if The Thing married an ugly slug, that is. Spidery monsters, awesome in size as they fill the screen and dwarf you, are even more difficult to slay than the members of the Locust Horde.

    Overall, this post-apocalyptic world is made up of teamwork with your fellow soldiers. After all, you can't fight these miscreants alone. And you do need help. It's the artificial intelligence programmed in the game code that bedeviled me and makes the game ever more challenging as I proceeded. That Locust Horde is very smart and canny. If you don't keep moving, and if you don't take the proper cover, and if you don't shoot to protect yourself, you will not survive. Finally, Gears is all about the cliché that most every adventure game is about: the goal is to save the world. Much of the time, and despite a weak-ish script, the makers of the game have twisted that cliché enough to make you believe saving the world is actually a new idea in games. Hillary Clinton. George W. Bush. John McCain. Nancy Pelosi. Here are the controllers. Now play. And make nice.

  • Check out reviews of all the latest and greatest games (updated every week), along with past faves in NYC Guide.
  • Marvel Ultimate Alliance
    Publisher: Activision
    Developer: Raven

    When I was a kid, Marvel and DC Comics were bastions of dreams. Not only were the superheroes amazing and like friends, so were the people who made the comics. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby were larger than life, and when they'd write something in the letter columns of the comics, I'd hang on every word. Later, I read that Lee and Kirby didn't like each other much, and that Kirby didn't get all the money he deserved from Lee and Marvel. Marvel changed the world of superheroes, but it didn't transform one eternal maxim: money changes everything.

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