NEWS - Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Gamers Will Turn To Xbox 360 To Buy Gears of War

The Locust Horde has finally arrived. "Gears of War," the long-awaited Xbox 360 title from Epic Games, ships Tuesday, meaning it will arrive in specialty video game shops either later Tuesday or Wednesday. The official kickoff, dubbed Emergence Day, is Sunday when all major retailers should have "Gears of War" in stock. The game, rated M for Mature, is billed as a third-person tactical action-horror game. "Gears of War" covers 36 hours in the life of Marcus Fenix, a war hero with a past, as he and a few squadmates battle the alien Locust Horde that has burst through the surface of planet Sera. The game is a sight to see, with Epic conjuring up dark images of a world ravaged by war. Fenix and the other soldiers are battle-scarred veterans with oversized armour and guns. The Locust come in all sizes and shapes, dealing in death in a variety of nasty ways. Microsoft is releasing "Gears" just ahead of the debut of the PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii, hoping a hit title will help solidify its position in the next-generation console sweepstakes. Jason Anderson, head of marketing for Xbox Canada, says "Gears" has already done wonders for the 360. Microsoft polled customers who were first in line last November when the 360 was released. Asked why they wanted a 360, the No. 1 answer was "Halo 3" - which is not expected out until 2007. The No. 2 answer was "Gears of War." "If we fast-forward a year or two from now, we're going to be talking about 'Gears of War' as being one of the pre-eminent franchises in all of video gaming," said Anderson. "Gears" is expected to become an instant online hit on Xbox Live, where teams of up to four can take each other on as either COG soldiers or Locust Horde. Anderson believes "Gears of War" will join "Halo 2," Tom Clancy's "Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter" and "Call of Duty 2" as the Cadillacs of Xbox games in terms of online play. "I think they'll be the next one to really harness the power of (Xbox) Live," he said. The game cost about US$10 million to make, Epic vice-president Mark Rein told the recent London Games Summit. The price would have been higher, however, had Epic not had its own game engine - the Unreal 3 - to use. The production team was small - about 20 to 30 - by industry standards and the project took about two years. Canadians played their part in the creation of "Gears." Rein is from Toronto and four other Canucks worked on the project: producer Rod Fergusson of Ottawa, engine programmer Dave Burke of Charlottetown, and level designers Dave Ewing of Walkerton, Ont., and Warren Marshall of Hamilton. Epic is best known for the "Unreal" games - taking them over after an early partnership with Toronto developer James Schmalz and his Digital Extremes studio - and the Unreal 3 engine, which has become the engine of choice among game designers these days.


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