At the pre-E3 Microsoft Press Conference, we got some hands-on time with Gears of War, the eagerly anticipated third-person shooter for the Xbox 360. The live game looked as good as the video clips presented earlier in the week, and the buzz surrounding it makes it one of the standout games of the show.
Despite the massive artillery, huge explosions, and overall sense of kinetic energy, Gears of War actually plays out fairly slowly and deliberately, compared to other fast-paced shooters. Borrowing the over-the-shoulder view that many games are using as a first-person/third-person hybrid, much of the gameplay we saw involved dashing from one bit of cover to the next, popping your head out to fire off a few rounds before ducking back behind some rubble.
There's some nonsensical postapocalyptic story behind the whole thing, but that didn't figure too prominently into the hands-on multiplayer demo we played today via Xbox Live. The controls were tight, the graphics were great, and we got a great visceral feel of combat (not that we've ever been close to anything more dangerous than an irate cabbie).
One complaint: using the Xbox controller's "A" button for dashing, crouching, and other movement options left us in a few tough spots, like when we were running across the street and kept inadvertently couching down behind wrecked cars. Look for Gears of War this fall, exclusively on the Xbox 360.