Gears of War

Content review for this game:
Pertaining to the ESRB rating.

Content sum up: Even though there is an option to turn off blood and gibbing during combat, the blood/gore is still present in cutscenes, and there's still a considerable amount of static blood smeared and bloodied bodies scattered throughout; it's filled with intensely violent gameplay and disturbing enemies verging on horrific; and packed with language (including over four dozen uses of sh*t)—it simply isn't appropriate for younger teens, even with the "Extreme Content" filter enabled. So, I recommend this game for ages 17+.

Blood and gore: The blood effects spurt in a thick, jelly-like consistency and in heavy amounts when you or an enemy is shot. Blood does linger, splatters onto walls, floors and the screen (when you or an enemy is shot close up); gathers in puddles; and there is static blood splattered on walls and floors throughout. Bodies do linger, and you see many heavily bloodied, dismembered and overall disfigured human (some Locust) bodies throughout. There is gibbing, meaning when you shoot enemies with the shotgun, revolver, sniper rifle, turret or throw a frag grenade, enemy bodies will explode into large, bloody chunks (heads will split in half—squishing sounds on impact included—and explode in detail when shot by a sniper rifle, as the enemy stand frozen in their last living position; heavy amounts of blood gushing from their necks), with the remaining dismembered limbs, torsos and body parts lingering in detail.

Additionally, a main weapon has a chainsaw attached to the end, and if used, it will sever the enemy diagonally through their torsos (showing entrails, flesh and bone), as heavy amounts of blood spurt out and splatter onto the screen—their dismembered bodies (which you can then kick around, as blood smears about) linger, grotesque details of their innards visible—and when they're down but not dead, you can finish them by stomping on their head, resulting in a crushed, bloody mess. However, all can be disabled by going into "Options," "Game," and then turning "Extreme content" from "on" to "off". The blood will then be substituted for sparks, and gibbing will be completely disabled in all offline and online modes—but only for combat; pre-existing blood on floors/walls and the many bloodied bodies will stay, as will—the somewhat less prevalent—blood and gore in the main campaign's cutscenes.

Specific scenes of blood & gore:

  • After you explore the outside of your cell, you kick open a metal door to the exterior of the building, revealing two bloody and mutilated human corpses hanging in chains from the ceiling. It appears that most of their skin has rotted off, showing the upper layer of muscle, entrails and bone underneath--one has been severed through the waist, with its torso and legs hanging separately.
  • When you locate one of your lost squads, you find all three of the men on the ground; dead, heavily bloodied and ripped apart. The first is nearly severed through the waist; the second is lying in parts all over the street; and the third has part of its skull (grotesque detail; flesh, brain, etc.) and arm missing.
  • After wiping out a wave of the Locust, the team takes a breather. One of the side characters then starts to complain about how his gun has been jamming, and proceeds to demonstrate while saying, "See?!" However, he does this while slowly getting up, which ends up being a bad idea, as he's immediately shot in the head by an enemy sniper, resulting in a moderate amount of blood splatter (although there isn't gratuitous detail; he's wearing a helmet) and his death.
  • A brief scene shows two Locust Boomers walking down a narrow hallway. The camera then zooms in on a mouse that is promptly (but slowly) crushed by one of the Boomer's giant feet, resulting in a very detailed, bloody and gory mess.
  • After teaming up with one of your teams in a ruined square, the Locusts start their attack by taking down your only means of escape: a helicopter. They proceed to attack en masse, with many bloody, gory and slow-motion camera shots, as you and the team take many of them down. The camera then focuses on the Locust General—a hulking version of the average Locust soldiers. He slowly approaches your team leader, picks him up by the head and punches him in the face, causing some moderate blood splatter. The General takes out his sword, and (in slow-mo) sticks it through the man, resulting in squishing sounds and heavy blood splatter, as the General then casually tosses the body aside.
  • While taking refuge in a ruin, the remaining team hears a Berserker (a rabid, blind and hulking behemoth of a Locust) nearby. One of the side characters starts to panic, and in trying to get away from the creature, he turns the corner, only to run right into it instead; you then see his and the Berserker's silhouette from around the corner, as it rips him apart—apparent in his screams of pain, and clouds of his blood splattering heavily onto the nearby floors and walls.
  • At nightfall, you come upon two fellow humans standing under a light. They tell you to stay there and that they'll come over to meet you. However, the light abruptly blows out, prompting a lurking group of Kryll (light-sensitive legions of killer bat-like Locusts) to attack, as you watch the men get ripped apart from a distance, with a huge cloud of their blood enveloping their surrounding area.
  • After you get out of your vehicle—in a gameplay sequence—and start a shootout with the enemy Locust, you see a fellow human get his head shot off, in detail.
  • A control room in a ruined factory contains several mutilated human bodies (and their many parts) scattered about the area, with blood smeared heavily on floors and walls like paint, while you briefly see Wretches (small, hump-backed and ape-like Locusts that run on all fours) feed wildly on two of the corpses.
  • Soon after, you find a human survivor, who then guides you through the ruined facility. You come upon a room with a floor made of mismatched, badly placed and rotting wood; underneath this floor is a pit of dead human bodies and live Lambent—exploding—Wretches. When your escort starts to traverse this floor, he falls through, resulting in disturbing noises, and his death—watch your step.
  • After sliding down an underground stream, you see two dead, dismembered and shredded human bodies bleeding out into the stream, staining it red with blood.
  • You later see two Locust Drones dragging a helmeted human solider towards the Locust General. When they reach him, the General aims his gun at the soldier's head and shoots point blank, resulting in a heavy amount of blood splatter.
  • As you walk through a later area, you see the aftermath of a battle, with a few dead and injured human soldiers scattered about—one of these injured soldiers coughs up heavy amounts of his blood while he's hunched over on the floor.
  • In a later battlefield, you see—in grotesque detail—what's left of fellow human soldier's heads stuck to pikes, with groups of flies buzzing around their heads.
  • Later on, in an isolated area, you see the lower half of a human body hanging by it's ankles from the ceiling of a bathroom stall, with its upper half submerged in the toilet and its blood smeared and splattered all over the stall like paint.
  • After killing the last boss, the camera shows his death from several different angles, with his blood splattering heavily as he falls dead in slow-motion.

Intense violence: After colonizing the planet Sera, the humans found a powerful medium that could be used as a power source, liquid Imulsion. This soon caused wars between rival factions, and after a bloody seventy-nine years, the humans formed a "Coalition of Ordered Governments" to keep the peace. Shortly after, an unknown enemy, the Locusts, emerged from underground and destroyed most of the human population. Fast forward fourteen-years after Emergence day, as Dominic Santiago frees the wrongfully accused Marcus Fenix from his abandoned and dilapidated prison. Marcus learns that the Locust have recently stepped up their attacks, and because of this, prisoners have been pardoned to fight; he's to team up with fellow COG soldiers to help them recover the resonator. This device is said to be able to map the entirety of the Locusts' underground tunnel network, and if this, in fact, turns out to be true, you'll then fight your way to the heart of these tunnels, deploy the "Lightmass bomb" and destroy the Locust for good. Now to find that resonator...

After Dom breaks you out and gives you your gear, there's the choice to do some basic training or get straight into the action; after you escape the prison and evac via helicopter, you'll start your real mission. The base gameplay consists of navigating through the vast, ruined environments, as you combat hordes of Locust, by vaulting over, sprinting to and taking cover with the many random objects (downed cement pillars, crates, burned out cars, etc.), while using your varied arsenal to pop out from behind cover and shoot, or grenades to close up enemy emergence holes. You'll hold the area against Locust onslaughts as Jack (your cloaked, hovering robot) cuts open sealed doors; flank, take out and then use enemy Troika turrets in order to cover your team and dispatch enemy waves; kick open doors, press buttons and turn valves to activate elevators and open gates; down enemy mini-bosses with the Hammer of Dawn; and, in one sequence—for a change of pace—cut down legions of enemy Kryll with a UV gun, as you roll down a ruined highway with your hulking vehicle.

Your enemy consist of the Locusts—which closely resemble Orcs from the Lord of the Rings—their many types; Drones, Boomers (huge Locust equipped with Boomshot grenade launchers), and Theron guards (smarter, faster versions of Drones, often equipped with the deadly Torque bow). And their more mindless lackeys; Wretches (small ape-like, hunch-backed Locust), Berserkers (hulking, blind, nearly invincible Locust), Kryll (legions of bat-like, flesh eaters), Seeders (giant, ant-like creatures that shoot out Nemacyst; gooey, organic projectiles that explode on impact), Reavers (flying squid-like creatures the Locust fly) and Corpsers (similar to Seeders; giant insect-like Locust). You'll be combating them with the Lancer assault rifle (a chainsaw equipped at the end), Snub pistol, Longshot sniper rifle, Boomshot grenade launcher, Boltak revolver, Hammerburst assault rifle (an enemy weapon equivalent to the Lancer), Gnasher shotgun, Hammer of Dawn (a powerful satellite-guided laser), Torque Bow (shoots exploding arrow-like bolts) and Bolo frag grenades.

The combat system is relatively slow-paced, but in turn, utterly chaotic and very violent, and consists of you using your varied arsenal to tear through the hundreds of enemy Locusts; Troika turrets to (literally) blow them to pieces; your chainsaw to sever them in half; grenades, the Boomshot and nearby explosive objects to take out all close-by Locusts (causing their bodies—parts—dust and debris to fly); the Torque Bow to impale them with large bolts, which then explode on impact; the Hammer of Dawn to incinerate enemies with a giant laser from the sky; and the butt of your weapons to attack—or hit and pin grenades to—them in close quarters.

When shot, enemy Locust will grunt in deep, grizzled tones, gurgle and then fly back and fall in contorted positions, either dying immediately or crawling around on their knees awaiting revival from their allies, only to be shortly stomped to death by you; but as they are hideous, mindless monsters, it isn't too impacting—there's not much sympathy to be had. Coupled with their monstrosity; overwhelming odds (your three to four against dozens upon dozens); the environments' semi-destrucable nature (wood breaks away; glass shatters; bullets imbed, melt, and then smolder in floors and walls; grenades kick up clouds of dust and debris as they scorch the ground, etc.); and their equally destroyed facades (what remains of the cities are completely overturned, ripped apart and ruined; grime, dirt, debris and tons of rubble litter the areas), it gives the overall combat a tense, gritty and hostile feel.

And although you and your team are muscular, gun-totting men with massive chips on your shoulders—making you feel more empowered than the average survival/horror "victim"—the Locust can definitely hold their own, and since the environments are usually wide open, and for the fact that enemies can burrow from underground, you're never sure where they'll come from next. You'll at first hear a low, distant rumbling, with the enemy then abruptly piling out of their emergence holes, grunting threats and taunts in deep, gravelly voices, as they put heavy fire on your position. Enemies will often shoot from deadly Troika turrets at the other end of the area, as waves of them take cover, close in and flank you, and later enemies will either snipe you or use the Torque bow to shoot you from afar (which almost always kill you in one hit).

Enemy encounters only get worse the further you get in, with the more powerful enemies being introduced and mixed with the lesser; Wretches (and later "Lambent" Wretches, which explode when killed—don't get close) open their hideous mouths and let out blood-curdling howls as they come from all around, dropping from ceilings, walls, and rushing you in droves, as they tear viciously with their claws (often as you deal with other enemies from a distance; Wretches flush you out); Boomers are huge, (thankfully) lumbering Locust, who use the one-hit Boomshot grenade launchers as they bellow, "Boom!" and take dozens more shots to down than an average Drone; Kryll are encountered at nightfall, and if you step into the darkness, they'll fly from nowhere, and in legions, enveloping and shredding you to pieces—causing instant death; and worst of all, Berserkers; hulking, blind quarterback-like Locust that hunt with only their sense of smell and sound. If you tip them off on your position, they'll immediately rush you with their huge bodies, killing you in one hit.

Because of the above enemies, the gameplay is an intensely suspenseful, non-stop, heart-pumping thrill-ride—often verging on horrific; you'll navigate tiny, cramped corridors as huge Berserkers crash abruptly from behind walls, and because of their tough hide, you'll have to lure them outside and use the Hammer of Dawn by dodging their rush at the last minute, as to let them crash open thick metal doors or break support beams to glass sunroofs (time limit included); you'll run through the streets at night, shooting open concealed propane tanks for light, as deadly legions of Kryll lash out in the darkness, while you run for cover; you'll navigate through a dark, Lambent Wretch-filled factory; ride a mine cart while Locust fire at you from all directions and Wretches drop from above; take the fight to the Locust's turf, through labyrinths of underground tunnels and wide open caverns; and fight a giant Corpser boss as you slowly back it into a pool of Imulsion, all the while Wretches close you in.

And since you can't take more than a few hits from most enemies, if you don't take adequate cover from their fire in time, a small, red skulled emblem will begin to gradually solidify in the middle of the screen, getting clearer the closer you get to death, as the screen fades and sound muffles all around. Your team is vulnerable to the same enemy fire, and when downed, they will fall and hunch helplessly to the floor as they bleed out, calling to be revived, forcing you to make it through enemy fire, or else lose their support. And as some of your cover is destructible, you're not always safe (or really ever for that matter); it's you and your three teammates against (dauntingly) the entire Locust horde—you're always on the offense.

The cutscenes contain a few huge, chaotic explosions—usually involving fiery allied helicopter crashes; there are frequently intense, often horrific situations involving the main characters; and a couple of main and side characters do die. When it comes to what age group this is appropriate for, even though there is an option to turn off blood and gibbing during combat, the blood and gore is still present in cutscenes, and there is still a considerable amount of static blood smeared and bloodied bodies scattered throughout the environments; it's filled with intensely violent gameplay and disturbing enemies verging on horrific; and packed with language (including over four dozen uses of sh*t)--it simply isn't appropriate for younger teens, even with the "Extreme Content" filter enabled, and is just more suited to older teens and adults.

Strong language: There are over four (close to five) dozen uses of sh*t, over a dozen uses of hell, d*mn, and a**, under a dozen uses of a**hole, three or under uses of God d*mn, p*ss, and the f-word, and one use of bastard, blow ( as in, "blow me"), b*tch, SoB, d*ck and God in the main script--but if you turn off the "Extreme content" it will remove all f-words; there is no option to turn off remaining language. Other than the main script, if you fail to reload (which could happen often, depending on your motor skills), your character will either say, "D*mn it!" or "Sh*t!" every time it jams; allies will often say things like, "D*mn it, they're tough!" after you revive them; and will infrequently say things like, "Eat sh*t and die!," "Back in your hole b*tch!," and "Sup B*thes?!," while engaged in firefights with the Locust.

Content re-review posted: 04/21/09
Original review date: 09/20/08

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