Tech: Gears of War
Every "Gears of War" review nowadays mentions the memorable TV spot (featuring the "Donnie Darko" cover of "Mad World"). I think the ad is actually cooler than the game, personally:
"Gears of War" is a third-person shooter that was recently released for the PC (it came onto the Xbox 360 a year ago). It's certainly the most tactical game Epic's ever made, in the sense that while you're behind cover, you're essentially invincible to everything but a grenade, but if you're out of cover, you die ridiculously fast. This is exacerbated by fairly cheesy one-hit kills (the Boomshot, Longshot, and Torque Bow are all capable of ending your game with one unlucky strike) and the vulnerability of your character in close combat.
This all feeds into the main problem with the game - the repetitive battles. Since getting close to enemies is almost always suicide, you tend to stick to cover and just wail on enemies with the assault rifle until they drop. Epic still hasn't mastered the art of pacing; whereas the Half-Life series effortlessly interlaces battles with puzzles and narrative, "Gears" doesn't really have any puzzles and the narrative is about as flimsy as a Dixie cup. With such a wonderful-looking apocalyptic environment to mull around in, it's a shame that your methods of interacting with it begin and end with you using a concrete block as cover.
The production values of the game are staggering, which is probably why the game got so many high review scores initially. Even today, with the next-generation of shooters being released, "Gears" still holds its own in the graphical department. The orchestral soundtrack could've come straight out of a big-budget summer action movie, and the gruff voice acting (especially Gus "Cole Train" Cole) is almost laughably over-the-top.
I played the PC version, which has its own unique advantages and disadvantages compared to Xbox 360 experience. For one thing, being able to aim with a mouse makes the game much, much easier. There's also some new content involving the monstrous Brumak which mixes in well with what was already there for the 360, making me think that Epic was a bit hurried in making the original 360 release date, if you know what I mean.