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Changing Gears: Xbox 360's smartest, sharpest cover shooters

Getting a lock on locking to cover

There's a right way and a wrong way to borrow from a competitor, as EA and Zynga are even now debating. The wrong way is to warp over all the best bits without bothering to work out where they fit in, as though designing the game around what it says on the box. The right way is to break what you're borrowing down and build it back up again, per the new game's creative trajectory.

Much of 18th century English literature is founded on this principle - those chaps certainly knew their Homer and Aristotle - and so, thankfully, are a large number of third-person shooters, often branded "Gears clones" by reviewers and readers.

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We've already considered Xbox 360's finest rip-offs, but I thought the topic needed another knock in light of Inversion's second-hand idiocy and Dead Space's midlife dalliance with killing from cover. Here are four specimens that tread on Epic's toes without tripping over. Note: I am, of course, aware that Gears didn't invent cover-shooting, but it's undoubtedly the game that perfected and popularised the idea. Any comments thread rants to the contrary will be poked with a stick.

1. Vanquish
When it stays put, Vanquish is a game after Epic's heart - four-way D-pad weapon select, shoulder view, precision aim, the works. But Vanquish very rarely stays put. By the time you've rolled the "r" in "rip-off", it'll be across the room, jet-blasting through an Iron Giant's legs like a rockstar with fire extinguishers tucked into his socks. And by the time you've framed the final "f", it'll have slung a grenade at an Imperial Walker-a-Like, sniper-shot that grenade in mid-air to kill the driver, then flipped to the cockpit and turned the vehicle's guns on a convenient cluster of oil drums, cue hysterical burbles from the score gauge.

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This is very much Japan's smartest, toughest answer to the ubiquity of certain Western design archetypes. Where Resident Evil 5 and Quantum Theory tamely incorporate cover-locking like orphans accepting a hand-out, Platinum's effort flays the idea raw and subordinates it to the developer's own sense of fun. It's an impossible thing, a shooter that thinks it's a third-person beat 'em up. If only they'd made it a bit longer, and tried their hands at multiplayer.

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