Gears of War Extended
Gears of War isn't the most widely used platform of choice for modders at the moment, with Unreal Tournament 3 taking most of UE3's limelight. But GoW isn't without its scene and there's a nice handful of SP levels available for you to to take a blast through if you're looking for more cover based action. Each level/map has been marked on its quality in the departments Gameplay, Art and Design, Sound and are marked out of 5:
1 = Utter Cack
2 = Meh, Not without its charm
3 = Standard/Average
4 = Good Stuff!
5 = Excellent
Author - NewPCGamer
Gameplay - 3/5
First up we have Rubble, a pretty simple level where you need to guide the big fella Gus to a waiting APC on the other side of the Map. As soon as you enter the main section Emergence Holes open up everywhere and the Locust Horde start flooding in, starting with your standard groups and gradually increasing in difficulty. Although it isn't insanley difficult, the open ended nature of the map means there are few cover spots which the Locust don't have several means of accessing. There are plenty of objects to hide behind though (perhaps too much, it certainley dilutes the intensity) so you've a decent amount of strategic options, and Gus proves a surprisingly effective counterpart (I never found the NPC AI to be all that helpful on GoW for some reason). Once you're done in the courtyard you're moved indoors and play in more confined areas. On the whole the gameplay flows quite nicely though it never elevates to a truly exciting status, with areas such as the first encounter with Boomers (where 3 of them literally stand still allowing you to shoot them easily) that just scream unoriginality, which when coupled with the absence of savepoints means that if you die you'll likely not have the enthusiasm to try it again. That said the pace generally stays quite consistent, and fans of GoW's Gameplay will likely enjoy what it has to offer.
Art and Design - 3/5
The level likes to focus on the more openended styles of gameplay, with large levels populated with plenty of areas for you to find cover which (as previously mentioned) does effect the tensity of the map. That said, thanks to the size of the different areas it's never too easy and there are plenty of routes the Locust Horde can use to get at you. Although the design supports the gameplay well enough, it never really extends beyond this as little effort has been made to really create a swallowing atmosphere. What made Gears of War effective was it's portayal of Marcus Fenix and co being in the midst of a desperate struggle, but this never really pulls through in Rubble. You never feel as if you're in the middle of a an area which once supported life and has now been torn into a warzone, rather just a pretty straightforward setup with a few artistic assets thrown in at the last minute. The lighting is extremely flat throughout and in general there is little depth to the map to really give it any atmosphere, but it's never detrimental to the actual gameplay.
Sound - 3/5
The sound is generally similar to the art and design in that although the basics are there, it never really extends any further. The dialogue between Gus and Marcus is a nice touch but feels thrown together, the lines of dialogue appearing to have been picked somewhat at random. The Gears soundtrack sits behind the carnage nicely while you gun the living hell out of everything that moves, so things never really calm down to the point that you notice the lack of environmental ambience.
Overall - 9 / 15 - A fun blast but nothing more
You can download Rubble here.
Author - Zackis
Gameplay - 4/5
Square is simple, small, but furiously intense. Your team are dead and you have to make your way back to the NPC, so you stock up on ammo and make your way to the main square. You can see the NPC awaiting you on the other side, but moments later there are emergence holes popping up everywhere and you find yourself under heavy fire. Cover is in short supply, and the lack of the Lancer gun means that you're really going to have to pull off some accurate headshots with the Pistol or wait until the Locust come close and take them out with the Shotgun. It's not the easiest of the maps reviewed here, and the fact that Gears of War isn't particularly stellar in the close combat department means that unless you're a big fan of the style of gameplay, you'll likely get bored (well, annoyed) pretty quickly. However for the rest of us, it's a nice all be it short blastfest.
Art and Design - 2/5
The map is generally quite sparse, with only a few areas of cover resulting in an unimaginative and at times frustrating setup. The lack of cover means you're far too often left waiting for the Locust to come close, and if you try running through the open sections you'll likely find yourself gunned to pieces quite quickly. Overall the map feels thrown together,with little if any time dedicated to the use of artistic assets, though the use of lighting does add a little much-needed depth.
Sound - 3/5
As with most of the other reviewed maps there is nothing especially notable about the sound in Square. There is one surprising touch however, with the use of Gary Jules cover of 'Mad World' (which appeared on the main Gears of War Trailer) starting just moments into the carnage. Having such a sombre and melancholy song played over the utter carnage again adds some much needed depth to an otherwise very straight forward affair. Just pray you can survive long enough to hear the song through to the end.
Overall - 9 / 15 - Simple, best suited to diehard fans of the gameplay
You can download Square here.
Namtar and Nergal
Author - Thaur
Gameplay - 4/5
Each of these maps have been built by the same Author and are very similar in both quality and style. They both boast a strong combination of Art, Design and Sound with levels are reminiscent of the midpart of the original Gears of War, inparticular the large industrial level and underground tunnels. You proceed through a variety of underground caverns and chambers, often facing large numbers of the Locust Horde. The timing and location of many of the Spawns and Emergence holes means you'll really need to stay on your toes if you're going to survive, as you'll often have 6 Locust at anyone time approaching you. Gears of War fans should download these maps immediately as the gameplay is addictive, well paced, varied and comes with some well timed surprises, but as is the case with all these maps, the lack of savepoints means that die once and you'll likely not be bothered to fight through the same fights again just to reach the same point. Fun, well built and with a smart use of cosmetics, Namtar and Nergal are the must downloads of this selection.
Art and Design - 4/5
For the most part the art and design supports the levels nicely, and unlike the other maps you feel a genuine sense of atmosphere with these. The lighting is well judged and the use of artistic elements adds a real sense of history, creating maps which achieve a strong balance between Design and pure cosmetics. A nice little touch is added with the odd cutscene here and there, giving the feeling that there is indeed a narrative behind the gameplay. The only significant complaint I have is that the positioning of some of the coverable items is poor. Although most of the time the coverables support the gameplay nicely, giving you good vantage points and opening plenty of strategic possibilities, there are the few exceptions where you simpley cannot see your enemies, your sight been obstructed by other objects or the cover itself.
Sound - 4/5
The artistic assets aren't the only thing to help convey atmoshpere in Namtar and Nergal, with ambient effects doing their part two. Both the effects and music tie in with in-game events very well, helping to add suspense and tension where it's really needed.
Overall - 12 / 15 - Well built, Solid and with some soul
Author - Far
Gameplay - 4/5
Locust wars is a pure test of endurance and skill. This map is more of a bot match than a conventional mission setup, with Locusts appearing in waves which you must dispose of. As each group of Locust are killed a new batch descend upon you, growing in both number and difficulty. If you're a big fan of the GoW gameplay and don't really care for story then you'll lap this up, as there's plenty to gun your way through. However if you're more interested in stories, varied pacing and narrative exposition then I really wouldn't reccomend it as it's very much a straightforward excuse for violence... kind of like Football/Soccer in England.
Art and Design - 4/5
As there's no story to speak of, the art and design have no other purpose than to just support the gameplay. You're not going to spend any time exploring back alleys or admiring the use of different static meshes, you've got plenty of Locust to be killing so all that matters is that the design supports this, and for the most part it does so nicely. The map is mostly set outdoors, but with different sized areas and varied use of coverables to break things up a little bit never gets too samey.
Sound - 3/5
There's little to be said about the sound. It does what it needs to and the music certainley helps convey the spirit of this style of gameplay, but beyond that there's nothing else.
Overall - 11 / 15 - Carnage, not for the faint hearted
There are a few more maps knocking around on the internet and there are far more in the Multiplayer Category, but there's plenty here to keep you busy and some nice examples of level design. If you're interested in Gears of War modding or just seeing more Maps, then check out the official forums at Epic Games.