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Xbox One Exclusive Showcase Hands On Event

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TiX were kindly invited to a special private showcase in London for hands on time with the Xbox One and its Launch line up and have a close up look at the titles Xbox fans will get to experience in just a few weeks on November 22nd. What follows is my first impressions with some of the titles I was able to get time with at the event.

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Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag has been well received since it’s release on October 29th and was Number 1 in the UK chart ahead of Battlefield 4 last week. Currently playing it on Xbox 360, I was keen to see what differences I could see between that and the Xbox One Version. The main difference that was immediate, was the visuals. Much sharper, crisp and colourful on screen, ACIV on Xbox One is a gorgeous game to look at. The demo allowed me to visit a port town and the level of detail on Edward’s player model on his clothing in contrast to the level of detail on the town’s buildings really stood out. The game is beautiful on Xbox 360, but on next gen Xbox One

One of the aspects to ACIV I really wanted to see on Xbox One, was when you took the action to the open seas, and for me, this is where the Xbox One version really stands out. The water effects of the sea are astounding in their detail of the waves and the colours. There were more ships on screen and after engaging 3 ships in a battle, the sound of the cannons and ships being damaged was as rewarding as it is on the 360. But then, one of the cooler moments of being at sea, which is a memorable moment, was the impending approach of a storm. At sea, storms can occur randomly but once they begin you are in for a rocky time. I could see the dark clouds and the lightening from the distance as I attempted to navigate towards the storm to experience its full fury on the Xbox One and I was not disappointed. What was new about the next gen version was the way the rain splashes on screen, for an added effect letting you know you are in the middle of a dangerous situation. Fighting with the storm winds to keep the ship on course is a breathtaking experience on either generation of Xbox but with the enhanced visuals and sound of Xbox One, it is going to be a real gaming moment for those who have been patiently waiting to play ACIV Black Flag on Xbox One, and its a wait that is going to be worth it for this game.

 

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Next up was Ryse: Son of Rome, the first true next gen title for the Xbox One. Sitting down to play the demo it was clear to see just why Ryse was selected as a launch title for the Xbox One. Visually, I have never seen such detail on player models and a game world like in Ryse. The level of visual detail on the Roman armour alone is staggering, you can see in the animation each plate of the armour move with the player movement. The animation is a mix of mo-cap movements for the combat and laser scans of the actors faces and combined you get one of the most life like onscreen player models you will find in any game.

Moving to the action, and its a familiar take on combat with a feel much like the fighting in the Batman Arkham series. A combination of three buttons, A for defensive blocking, X for stricking and Y to push your opponent away all work together to form a very fluid and intelligent fight system which can lead to large combo’s against multiple attackers. You can’t lock on to an enemy, but the AI will work out the closest enemy who is about to attack you so when you press A to block, you will turn to face the closest enemy who is leading in to attack. The Enemy AI will also reflect the types of enemy around you, with standard types supporting a heavier combat type in the same battle so learning to assess and pick out which enemy to take out first will be crucial to surviving the encounter as well as building up high number combo chains.

Do enough damage to an enemy and you will trigger the chance to carry out an execution. Executions are a quick time event where the enemy will glow a a shade of colour to correspond to which button the player must press to complete the execution, blue for X and yellow for Y. Complete the necessary button presses and the execution is even more brutal but failing to time the button presses and you will still execute the enemy  in a satisfying way but trigger the execution correctly and its a compelling side to the combat that will both encourage and reward your growing skill with the combat system.

First impressions of Ryse: Son of Rome is that it is a solid example of the power of Xbox One and next generation gaming. Visually I have not seen a game like it. The fluidity of the action sequences to cutscenes and back to the action is impressive to say the least. The combat is smooth and easy to pick up and after a few enemy encounters you will feel like a true Roman soldier defending the Empire in a true cinematic experience that is a blend of the Spartacus TV series and the film Gladiator, with the action very Spartacus and the story telling and tone very much like Gladiator. This is a perfect game to showcase gameplay on the Xbox One.

 

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Next on the showcase for me was Capcom’s Dead Rising 3. As a fan of the series I was really interested to see how the series would make the leap to next generation on Xbox One. Set ten years after the events of Dead Rising 2, the newest main character, Nick Ramos is struggling to survive the Zombie masses in the city of Los Perdidos. Right from the start of the demo it was clear just what Xbox One has brought to the series. The sheer vast number of Zombies on screen was amazing and is quite an awe inspiring sight to see on screen for the first time. The combat system remains the same and I was soon picking up traditional planks of good and a trusty handbag as I threw myself into the first crowd of Zombies.

What is new about Dead Rising 3 is the updated customisable weapon system the series is known for. In Dead Rising 2, players had to find a work bench to craft the weapons depending on which design plans had been unlocked or discovered. For Dead Rising 3, due to the main character Nick being a mechanic all weapon building can now be done on the move as long as you have the components required to build or combine the weapons, you can make it, even in the middle of a fight. Such a change to the system really opens up the combat side to the game where finding components no longer means you have to carry them around until you can find a workbench to craft that weapon.

Nick’s skills are not limited to just making WMDs to use in combat, oh no. His mechanic skills also come into play when it comes to vehicles. Dead Rising 3 allows you to combine different vehicles, like weapons as long as you have unlocked the right design, to build new deadly vehicles to use to travel around or just to go Zombie Stomping. I was able combine a Harley Davidson with a steam roller, to create something rather similar to the Brute Cycle in HALO 3. Ploughing into the nearest crowd of Zombies my screen was full of the PP Scores I was accumulating from crushing the Zombies too slow to move out of the way, and then with a quick press of X, I was blasting flames of fire as well as crushing the Zombies to a most satisfying gentle drive down the road.

It was also in the use of vehicles that Xbox One’s Kinect system came into play. Zombies will instinctively climb on your vehicle to try and pull you out to feast on you. Dead Rising has an ingenious way for the player to defend against this by the use of gesture recognition with Kinect. Simply pushing the controller forward will enable you to push any Zombie away from you and its a very satisfying feeling to see the Zombie falling off your vehicle as you continue to crush your way through the Zombies.

As I drove down the streets I saw the icon on my mini map directing me towards a safe house, which will be dotted around the city to give the player a rest bite from all the Zombie slaying.  Inside you will find a weapon locker which will contain all the weapons you have unlocked according to the plans you have unlocked as well as a clothing wardrobe which will hold any items you have discovered during gameplay. The demo showcased again with all options unlocked and the sheer volume of options to customise Nick’s appearance is staggering. From full outfits to selectable items for head, top and lower half and for feet. For me, I went for a pink cowboy boot, kilt, cowgirl top and a Blanka from Streetfighter head mask, and yes, it was quite disturbing to resume Zombie slaying in such an outfit!

Before I left the Safehouse, I did visit the weapon locker and pick up what is known as a super combo weapon. Made by combining other custom made weapons, these “suits” are very extravagant visually and so powerful as a weapon. My Choice was a Dragon style suits weapon with mask and flame thrower arm gauntlets with bladed fists. Jumping straight into battle, I was able to rain down fire on all in front of me and when in close, able to grapple enemies and go all stabby with my blades. So impressive and with so many options, it will take multiple play throughs to discover all the weapon and appearance options the game will have for the player.

Much like Ryse: Son of Rome, Dead Rising 3 is a great launch title to show off the capabilities of the Xbox One, the amount of on screen content in the game world is stunning to experience and fans of Dead Rising will be in for a real treat when this launches along side the Xbox One on November 22nd.

 

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With just a few weeks till the Xbox One finally launches in the UK, this showcase was a brilliant chance for an up close look at the launch line up and it is strong. Each title shows off the strengths of Xbox One and will give an instant Next Generation gaming experience and compliment the console. I was very impressed with Ryse: Son of Rome and could easily of spent hours lost in the game. This was my first real hands on time with the Xbox One. The new controller felt good and responsive, the launch titles above are all very strong to kick start the next generation of Xbox. The next three weeks will no doubt be torture for those with pre-orders for Xbox One and its games but the wait will be worth it.

Want to say huge thanks to to the Xbox One team for inviting TiX along and was also a huge honour and priviledge to finally meet the great Graeme Boyd (@Aceybongos) and the Batgirl to his Batman Terrie Chilvers (@Cowfishdreams) doing a stella job representing the best and the brightest of the UK Xbox Community.

Hands On – XCOM Enemy Within

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On Tuesday October 1st, TiX was kindly invited to a secret location in London to have special hands on time with new XCOM experience, Enemy Within.

XCOM Enemy Within is the latest title in the XCOM series for Xbox 360 and follows on from Enemy Unknown released back in October 2012. Unlike the PC version which sees Enemy Within purchasable as a DLC pack for Enemy Unknown, Xbox 360 players will need to purchase the new Commander Edition, which is a re-release of Enemy Unknown but will come with the Slingshot, Elite and Second Wave content packs and Enemy Within expansion pack included.

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Enemy Within brings the following new features which are shown off in the War Machine trailer above:

  • New Soldier Abilities: Research a new alien technology to advance the capabilities of your operatives:
  • Gene Mods: Construct the Genetics Lab to physically enhance your operatives’ abilities including augmentations to the chest, brain, eyes, skin, and legs.
  • MECs: Build the Cybernetics Lab to enable the construction of the new Mechanized Exoskeletal Cybersuit, or MEC. The new MEC Trooper class has specialized abilities and each suit can be upgraded with new weapons including the flamethrower and grenade launcher.
  • New Weapons and Equipment: Give your operatives an extra tactical edge with new projects from your engineering team and the Foundry.
  • New Enemy Threats: Adopt new tactics to counter the threats from two new alien classes including the Mechtoid.
  • New Strategic Resource:  A valuable new alien resource, known as MELD, has been released onto the landscape providing access to new research and upgrades.
  • New Tactical Challenges and Maps: New tactical challenges are introduced across an additional 47 maps.
  • New Multiplayer maps, units, and abilities: Create your custom squad from a wider array of options and dominate your opponent in intense, one-on-one, turn-based matches.

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The demo used for the hands on introduced us to a new enemy for the XCOM forces to contend with alongside fighting the alien invasion threat. This new enemy is called Exalt, a human rogue element who seek to capture Alien technology for their own purposes which immediately put them at odds with XCOM.

Exalt as an enemy faction can create Cells in countries which will undermine XCOM’s security levels and increase the threat warning for that region. For XCOM, you as the player can create covert agents with the sole purpose of infiltrating these cells, gaining information on them and lead to missions available via scanning from Mission Control.

The playable mission was to place a covert agent in one of Exalt’s cells, wait for him to gather information and then launch a mission to extract the agent. Agents can be chosen and customised as per any XCOM soldier, with particular skills and weapon loadouts designed for covert agents which will aid them during the extraction.

Squad selection is as it was with Unknown so names, appearance, skills and weapon loadouts all customisable. I picked a squad that I would normally have picked for a mission in XCOM, some long range snipers, up close and personal soliders and prepared to go extract my Agent.

Set in a woodland area, I positioned my squad in cover and slowly made my way towards the agents location. As well as having the task of protecting the Agent for extraction, the added task of defending an Encoder from being hacked by enemy forces made the mission even more of a strategic challenge. It was not too long before I encountered the first Exalt enemy soldiers on the battlefield.

What struck me right away was how aggressive the AI was with this new enemy. As the turns completed, they moved into attack position very quickly to my position on the map and moved towards the Encoder faster then I manged to move my squad forward. Clearly my normal play style of slowing moving forward to take down the enemy using my snipers and overwatch would not be as effective as it normally would be for this particular new enemy.

I tried to match the Exalt forces move for move, positioning my squad to keep them covered whilst protecting my Covert Agent but I made the mistake of having my squad too close together, even in cover. I also failed to check the area for the positions of Exalt agents outside my Squads line of site, which with the new aggressive AI proved costly. A Single rocket from the enemy and I lost 2 squad members with two others dangerously close to requiring only a single shot to put them down. The cover they were in was also destroyed, and in one single bad strategic  judgement call by me, the mission was in jeopardy of failure.

The Encoder was soon hacked by Exalt and my only option was to retreat with the agent back to the extract point and escape with my tail between my legs. But the Exalt forces were relentless, as I made my way to the exit point, more of their forces closed in and after a few turns of I had to sacrifice my final squad members so I could extract the Agent. Mission failed, XCOM 0 – Exalt 1.

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XCOM Commander Edition is the most complete XCOM experience you can have on the Xbox 360. From  Enemy Unknown and its content packs to Enemy Within and all the new options and enemies you will face, it will appeal to veteran XCOM players and new players alike. The way in which I was so utterly destroyed whilst playing the extraction mission demo was completely down to my own failings, and its refreshing to see a turn based strategy game with an AI that will punish you for making mistakes. I am very eager to try out the the new augment abilities for soldiers from genetic modifications to cybernetic implants to take the fight to the new Alien classes and types.

The Enemy Within expansion takes XCOM to another level and will add so much gameplay to an already impressive game series in XCOM and you are getting so much content in the Commander Edition which makes it worthwhile purchasing again for some or new for others.

XCOM Commander Edition – Enemy Within is released November 12th in US and Canada and 15th here in UK and Europe.

GAME Kingston Allows Gamers Early Hands-On of Rugby Challenge 2: The Lions Tour Edition

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From Wednesday May 22nd, the GAME store in Kingston will be giving rugby fans the opportunity to get their hands on the upcoming Rugby Challenge 2: The Lions Tour Edition weeks ahead of its worldwide release. From 2 – 5pm next week, the new rugby title developed by Sidhe (due for worldwide release on 13th June) will be available to play ahead of release.

Gamers heading to Kingston’s GAME store can expect refined and expanded gameplay, as well as a range of new features including quick taps, quick lineouts, mauls from lineouts, interceptions, contesting ball at the breakdown, removing players from the ruck and number 8 scrum pickups.

Rugby Challenge 2: The Lions Tour Edition boasts a variety of modes to play in, single player and multiplayer, as well as over 110 teams and 50 stadia, with official team, competition and special licenses. It will be released on 13th June. GAME Kingston can be found in the Bentalls Centre, Kingston Upon Thames, Surrey, KT1 1TP

Gears of War: Judgment OverRun Demo Hands-On

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So it’s been a little while since the last instalment in the Gears of War series. Epic have passed the helm unto Bulletstorm devs, People Can Fly. People Can Fly are most notable for Painkiller, Bulletstorm, and the PC port of Gears of War. So they are no stranger to making a popular game. But the question is, can they take this well loved, legendary multiplayer game and be equally as good?

Yes, they can also be a bit better if you ask me.

The game mode that you will get to play in this early access demo is known as OverRun. OverRun is something of a mixture of Annex and Beast Mode from the older Gears games. It’s like Annex in that you have to take a point, only now you have to destroy the point or protect it. It’s like Beast Mode in that the Locust must destroy fortified barriers while taking on the Cog forces to make it to their attack points. So let’s get to the nitty gritty. It’s the Locust versus the Cog in an all-out 5 vs. 5 war. As the Locust, you must attempt to break through barriers to make it to a number of emergence hole plugs, once you destroy one, a new area of the map opens and you then go on to the next E-hole.  After freeing two emergence holes, you can then attack a generator, destroy this and you win. You can upgrade to more powerful Locust by earning points through smashing fortifications and killing enemies, you then spend these points on the upgrades. The Cog must stop the Locust at all costs. The only way to do this is to stop the Locust breaking through the fortifications and getting to the emergence holes and the generator. If you successfully hold the Locust off for ten minutes, the Hammer of Dawn goes online, and the Cog win the battle. After a go of one team, you move on to the other for the next round. The team with the quickest win-time, are the victors for the entire match.

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Moving onto the classes, this is the most prevalent update to the Gears series as it completely changes the way that you play. Let’s start off with the defender, The Cog forces.

The role of the Engineer is played by the self-professed, extremely handsome, Damon Baird. The smooth mechanic starts each round off armed to the teeth with a very familiar Gnasher Shotgun, and a very unfamiliar Blowtorch. The Engineer is an extremely vital part of the team as he uses the Blowtorch to repair fortifications that have been damaged by the Locust. His special ability is the use of a turret gun that he can initially throw much like a grenade. He needs to be used as a battery character. Getting in the attackers’ faces from the get-go so that you can stop them from getting through the initial fortifications by holding your position with turrets and repairs. Unfortunately you cannot repair the emergence holes or the generators, but it would be way to easy that way.

The Soldier is played by the insanely popular fan-favourite, Augustus Cole (THE COLE-TRAIN BABY!). The ex-thrashball star starts off each round with the Mark II Lancer Assault Rifle, and the Booshka. Don’t worry; I wasn’t going to ignore that. The Booshka is a new (or old) weapon to the series. It is a single shot grenade launcher that seems to fire some kind of emulsion. It doesn’t explode on impact but is still extremely useful. The soldier’s special ability is an ammo-box. Does exactly what it says on the tin, supplies team-mates and yourself with some much needed ammo. The soldier is a medium-ranged character whose role is simply to back up his squad and supply them with their much needed ammunition. It runs out quickly in OverRun, it’s extremely necessary.

The Scout is a new character named Garron Paduk. His loadout is the Snub Pistol, and the new answer to the sniper rifle, the Markza. As I said the Markza is most comparable to the old Longshot. However, the differences are that the Markza is a semi-automatic rifle and has a lot less stopping power than the Longshot. There is a blade on the front of the weapon that makes for a stronger melee attack. The scout’s special ability the Beacon Grenade. It is a grenade that emits a pulse that tracks targets and highlights them your team, even through walls. The scout’s job is hanging back, picking off team-mates and revealing enemies. The scout moves a lot quicker than any of the other classes and can reach higher ground that no-one else can. The scout appears to be very useful, but is also the one member of the squad that I feel you could do without. However, get a great scout, and you can completely negate that statement.

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The medic is the new female character, Sofia Hendrik. I believe that the medic will be the character that most people will flock to. The fact that she rolls out with the extremely familiar setup of a Lancer and a Sawed Off Shotgun will make sure that veteran players will take to her like a hand to a glove. The fact that her special ability is a new Stim-Grenade that not only heals her team-mates, but also heals herself is one of the most advantageous aspect of the mode. Oh, she can also revive herself. She will most definitely be a brand new favourite amongst the Gears faithful.  She will be the only character that will be effective at both medium and short-range. Being able to heal herself in the blink of an eye with the new hip-throw grenade option is extremely enticing, and extremely annoying if you’re on the Locust’s side.

Now the Locusts go up in tiers, we’ve been through this before in Beast Mode, and your operations will happen exactly as they did before. You start with the tier 1 Locust that cost no points until you earn enough points to procure the more powerful Locust by smashing and killing. Let’s run through tier 1 from weakest to strongest.

The Ticker is by far the weakest Locust. It dies in one hit which means that if there is a turret anywhere, you may as well have not played. However, the Ticker can also be the most useful. It’s melee attack is one of the most damaging on enemy barriers out of all the tier 1 Locust. The self-destruct feature is also one of the easiest ways to kill enemies. The Ticker’s special ability is the dash. It makes it near impossible for enemies to hit it, and if you time it right, you can even dodge turrets with it. Sure the Ticker is bullet fodder, but it is one of the best ways of earning points so that you can use the better Locust.

Next up is the Wretch. There’s not much to say about the Wretch. There are only two ways the Wretch can be useful. If the enemy team has a good scout up on a high ledge, the Wretch is the only Locust that can reach that height. The other use is distraction, use the scream to stun your enemies so that a better Locust can come and claim the kill. Just to clarify, the Wretch can melee, jump, and scream.

The Grenadier is an all-round type Locust. It starts off with a Gnasher and a Lancer. So again, anyone familiar with the Gears franchise may flock to this big ugly fella. His special ability is the frag grenade, which now sticks to enemies on the impact of a throw. So, up close, far away, he’s got it covered. A definite keeper in your arsenal. One big change in the Grenadier is that he now has a much slower sprint, moving from cover to cover will be key as his speed is a huge problem. This problem can be counteracted by riding the super-fast Bloodmount, however. The Grenadier is a much recommended character for OverRun mode.

The Kantus is unique in that it only starts with one weapon, The Hammerburst. The fact that it only has a Hammerburst is a compromise to the fact that the Kantus is basically the Locust’s resident medic. It may seem unfair that the Cog medic is fully kitted out with everything that she might need and the Kantus isn’t, but bear in mind that the Kantus is tier 1, and is meant to be a downgrade from the truly useful Locust.

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Now to the really important Locust, tier 2.

The first in the tier 2 Locust upgrades at the cost of $1500, is the brand new addition to Judgment, the Rager. The Rager is merely a Locust drone, with a dark side. He starts the match with a brand new weapon known as the Breechshot. The Breechshot is a bolt-action rifle, it’s essentially a Longshot without the zoomed scope. When I tell you that this weapon was created to combat the Markza, you know it means business. Oh, right, it was also made to hunt Brumak. Think about that for a moment. Remember I said the Rager has a dark side? Well, the Rager has the ability to…well, rage. Its special ability is to transform into an unstoppable beast. Kind of a smaller version of a Beserker. Once you’ve done this, you can charge at people and beat them to death with your nasty claws.

Next up at $2400 is the Serapede. We all know the Serapede from Gears of War 3, and there is only one change. The Serapede can now rear itself up and spit acid at your foes. This means that you can reach scouts up in high places. Other than that, it still has the electric pincers and is still killed by being shot in the buttocks.

For $3500 is the Mauler.  The Mauler is one of the toughest Locust to kill and truly takes some teamwork to take down. The explosive mace that he swings does some of the highest damage in the game, and the shield protects from any oncoming bullets. The Mauler can now spin the shield which reflects the bullets back to the enemy. Spinning the shield will also rip your foes to shreds like fruit in a blender if they dare come near you.

At $5000, you may think that the Corpser is a bit too much. But the price matches the product I’m afraid. The Corpser has a lot of health and is only prone to taking damage on one part of its body. It can burrow underground and regain health. The burrowing means that you can pass right under barriers. When you emerge from your burrowing technique, anyone in the vicinity immediately explodes from the force. The Corpser also has the highest damage along with the Mauler.  It’s basically a living tank, and well worth earning all those points for.

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Aside from the influential aesthetic changes, the gameplay itself is very familiar, but very different at the same time. Slight changes like a new control scheme are definitely more suited to players of Call of Duty and Battlefield. You now press Y to change weapons rather than the D-Pad. It makes sense as each character class is gifted only two weapons and one special skill. Grenades are now thrown as you press the button rather than the old method of swinging the grenade and getting the perfect aim. This makes for a much quicker reaction than it has before and is a lot more useful now that grenades stick on the impact of a throw. Movement is a lot smoother in the animation and you have a lot more control over the 360 degree rolling mechanism. The smoother animations are never more evident in the way you can jump off of a ledge now. It seems silly to mention something as trivial as this, but getting off of a ledge isn’t something you interact with anymore, you just jump off with ease and without interruption. As I said, there aren’t many changes from the core gameplay of the Gears of old, but the subtle changes have made a massive improvement to the gameplay.

I have to let you know, this game is different, real different. Gears of War Judgment has taken the balls to wall “best gun wins” style of multiplayer, and switched it up to a class-based, strategic, team shooter. I started off playing horribly, but then once I plugged the headset in and was able to coordinate with my teammates, I was engaged in a plethora of “army talk” and team induced victory. Each class compliments the other if you can just plan it out. Soldiers and medics attack while scouts and engineers hold. This genius addition has made an already excellent game series, fantastic.

Sceptics beware, I had an absolute blast playing OverRun, and this is just a snippet of what the game has to offer. I for one and chomping at the bit to get my hands on the full game.

I implore you, download the demo on March 19th, fall in love with Gears of War all over again.