I decided recently that I ought to actually make use of the Xbox 360 that's been sitting in the corner of my spare room gathering dust for the last twelve months, so I asked Santa if he'd kindly bring me Gears of War and Oblivion for Christmas.
Gears of War really hammered something home that I've been thinking for a long time - games these days are often just way too short.
Perhaps the younger generation of gamers don't mind this, as they might not be used to anything else, but I'm afraid I'm a bit old-school when it comes to games. I've been playing them since I was about five or six, and spent most of my younger years waiting for Commodore 64 games to load (that computer was awesome), before progressing onto other platforms (Megadrive, PC, Gamecube, Xbox and Xbox 360 + various Gameboys).
Let me put it into some sort of context. A Commodore 64 game would cost me about £3.99, and would last me months. That's right, months. Some of them were extremely hard and I never completed them (I'm still rankled by only achieving 99% completion rate on Batman). The same was true of many PC games in the early-to-mid nineties (Syndicate Wars was one tough mother). Yet these days you can breeze through some games in a few hours.
Gears of War only took me about 10 hours to finish on casual mode. Sure, I was playing it on the easiest setting but for a game that cost the better part of fifty quid when it came out, I think that's a pretty poor return. Perhaps it's more about the online experience these days, which is all well and good, but some longevity in single player mode would be nice.
As for Gears of War itself, I have to say I was rather underwhelmed by it. The visuals and sound were teh secks (as you'd expect), and the gameplay was solid (the 'cover' aspect really works and totally makes the game) but it all just felt a bit flat. Maybe it's because I've played Halo 3, and to be honest any shooter comes off badly when compared to that Behemoth of the genre. But Gears of War frustrated me because it could have been so much more.
For example, we learn early on that the player character was in jail for four years after a trial that was a complete sham. Yet this is never developed upon, and this chance for plot development ends up being totally wasted. Another gripe is that there are some really cool monsters - but we don't see nearly enough of them. Halo 3 had epic confrontations coming out of its ass, but Gears seems to shy away from them - another missed opportunity.
Still, it was a decent experience and as I said from a visual point of view it's wonderful.