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Joystiq hands-on: Gears of War (PC)


Gears of War for PC is, surprisingly, a lot like Gears of War on Xbox 360. In fact, when playing with an Xbox 360 controller, it feels exactly the same.

Of course, we stopped that nonsense and moved to a computer that had a traditional keyboard and mouse set-up. Would we be able to run and gun, take cover and blind-fire like we were able to on the Xbox 360? The answer is yes -- but it will take some time to get used to. Gone is the ability to "press A for everything." Rather, the game uses controls similar to Unreal Tournament 2004. Double tapping a directional button will trigger the appropriate animation, such as running, dodging and taking cover. For example, double tap W to jump forward. If a wall is in front of you, Marcus will cling to the wall and automatically take cover, as in the Xbox 360 version. Once in cover mode, spacebar will perform a context-sensitive action, as indicated by the icon on screen. It doesn't have the same fluidity of a controller, but for WASD fans, this is a perfect solution, as nothing is lost in the translation. Heck, even the "look at cool stuff" button returns as well (this time, mapped to Q).

Using a mouse to aim is liberating, and will allow you to quickly look around the environment, something we're not accustomed to with Gears of War's usually claustrophobic camera. With the mouse, you'll be able to blind-fire at will with a click of the left click button. However, if you want to go in to precision aim mode, you'll have to hold the right-click button. It's a slight change in mentality to use the right-click so often, but the added accuracy of a mouse makes it infinitely easier to pull off the gory, satisfying head shots that Gears of Wars fans love. Will the mouse aim make the game easier? It appears as though it will.

The build we played at DigitalLife showed some glitches that we hope are corrected in the final build. For example, rubble could be seen floating in the air when we faced the Berserker for the first time. An enemy clipped through a wall, and got stuck. A Boomer simply stood still as we launched dozens of bullets into its skull from behind. But, these are glitches to be expected of a game still in development.

What concerns us are the cutscenes. The game is insanely beautiful -- dare we say, noticeably better than its Xbox 360 counterpart. However, for some reason, the framerate drops significantly during cutscenes. Once again, we're sure Epic will fix this before the game's release, but it's worth mentioning. Beyond the cutscenes, the increase in resolution, the improved textures, and the eye-popping character models make Gears of War look incredible. Again. But, we didn't expect anything less from Epic.

'Re-Emergence Day' comes later this year.

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