Halo 3? No hurry! Rendered in heart-pounding high-def and surround, Gears of War (Microsoft, Xbox 360, Rated M) skyrockets the bar for future generations of sci-fi shooters. You're Marcus Fenix, former war hero imprisoned for treason, now set free to fight the Locust Horde - a nightmarish race of bloodthirsty beasts. While you're saving mankind, you'll marvel at the game's graphics. In the post-apocalyptic setting, gusts of dust blow through city streets strewn with chunks of destroyed buildings. Characters are so finely detailed that you can see the scars on Fenix's face. And in a downpour, rainwater runs fluidly over every surface, leaving behind a glistening wet film - a scene that's truly a graphical achievement.
The Dolby Digital 5.1-channel sound (complete with atmospheric cues and cinematic score) is equally awesome.
Your subwoofer will get a good workout every time you use the Hammer of Dawn. Fix this weapon's reticle on an enemy, and an orbiting satellite locks onto your target to unleash a devastating energy beam.
Despite linear levels and limited multiplayer modes, this game's reference-quality presentation and over-the-top action might do more than just tide you over until the next Halo. It might even take that franchise's place as the definitive show-off disc.
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