In this third-person shooter, you must make judicious use of all available cover in order to succeed without being wiped out very quickly. When under cover you can shoot from behind it either by poking your head out to have a look at what you're shooting, or you can blind- fire (meaning that you can just poke your gun out without having to look, which is safer but lacks the accuracy of viewed firing). You can also roll to one side or the other to hopefully get to the next bit of cover quicker, if you are on one side of a door you can quickly spin to the other side, or you can jump over your cover (if it's low enough). There is even an option to run lower and more quickly towards the next bit of cover (provided that it's not too far away), which can be advisable if you are in the open too long as being lower and quicker makes you harder to hit.
You have a multitude of weapons at your disposal, most of which have limited ammunition (which can be picked up if it's lying on the ground, or you can top up a lot of weapons for which you do not have full ammo). There are various kinds of pistols and other handguns, although really these are only advisable if you don't have a bigger gun to use. Bigger guns come in a variety of sorts, with possibly the most well-known one being the Lancer, which has the much-talked-about chainsaw bayonet for close-quarters combat. Whereas with some of the other weapons you can strike with the butt of the gun, with the chainsaw bayonet you can rev it up and enjoy something of a guilty pleasure as your character swings the blade into the foe, ripping its skin apart and sending dark red blood jetting upwards, even spraying your screen! (Don't worry, you can still see through it and it does quickly fade). There is quite a bit of gore in GOW, but by far the chainsaw bayonet is among the goriest imagery in the game.
Other bigger guns include (but are not limited to) the shotgun and the sniper rifle, although its chamber can only accommodate one bullet, so you have to reload after every shot.
Reloading presents an extra facet which, when mastered, will allow quicker reloading and more powerful shots. When you start to reload a reload bar appears, with a meter running from left to right; when it reaches the right of the bar your gun will be reloaded. However, if you can stop the meter when it's within a small marked section of the bar which is about a third of the way across you will gain the aforementioned quicker reload and the accompanying benefits.
Also available are frag grenades, although you can only have up to four of these. When you use these you can either just throw them or you can aim using an on-screen arc that shows where your grenade will bounce and where it will explode.
There are also some other more powerful weapons, which I won't give away, but these should understandably be saved for the more troublesome foes.
When you take a hit you start to see a red cog appear on the screen; the more complete it is the closer you are to dying, so get under cover quickly! If it turns into a fully intact cog with a skull in the middle the screen goes bright red and you are dead (unless you're in multiplayer mode, where another player can go up to you and revive you).
Graphics are dark and moody, sometimes genuinely scary and very gory. There are bits later on where a small swarm of creatures known as Kryll will kill anyone who strays into shadowy areas for too long. Sound is equally cool, although some of the dialogue has voices that aren't quite up to the same standard.
Gameplay is simple enough to pick up, and all the various actions are well thought-out, with one button being a context-sensitive button, where your character might flick a switch, kick open a door or turn a valve. Before too long you will be ducking under cover and taking pot- shots at the foes like a seasoned COG war veteran.
If I did have one minor complaint, the scenes in rocky sections (e.g. caves) seem too artificial, almost as if they had been designed to contain cover (I know they have, but it still seems artificial). In the building-related scenes the cover is justified and logical (e.g. church pews in churches, fountains outside, pillars, bits of broken walls, windows etc), but when you see conveniently-placed rocky outcroppings to hide behind it somehow detracts slightly from the immersive experience that GOW otherwise offers. Another complaint involves the grenades in multiplayer mode; some details of the aiming arc can be off-screen if playing using two-player split-screen, which can make them harder to use than normal.
However, GOW stands out as a brilliant game in its own right, and is probably the main reason for investing in an XBox 360, especially in multiplayer mode.