Spending a little more time with this version of the game, it's clear that Cliff and his team have done a great job balancing it for the PC. Put in the hands of less discerning developers it would have been all too easy to lose the essence of the Gears of War gameplay; one must only look at Bioshock to see how a console and PC version of the same game can feel very different to play.
In that case it mattered little but for Gears any noticeable difference would have been a problem, so calling this version "familiar" is something akin to the ultimate compliment.
Obviously, though, there are differences, you're using a keyboard and mouse after all, but you gain no definitive advantage from using them, which was the real concern. By default the left mouse button is your primary fire button, with the right button reserved for the zoomed aiming mode that's so essential to combat in Gears of War.
The role of the A button is taken up by the Spacebar, which allows you to sprint and hop in and out of cover. Switching weapons has changed slightly too, with the weapon selection moved to the left of the screen as a list that can be scrolled or selected using the number keys.
Cliff was at pains to point out, however, that you can still use an Xbox 360 controller, which is actually quite an attractive feature – especially if coming from playing the Xbox 360 version. Doubtless the majority of PC gamers will use keyboard and mouse, as is their want, but the option is there, and it's well executed too with the tool tips automatically detecting which input you're using when playing. Indeed, as if to highlight how well balanced this PC version of the game is, there was very little discernable disadvantage to using the controller and, in some instances, the familiarity of knowing which button was Melee and so on, actually proved an advantage.
Of course, with this being the brave new world of DX10, Gears of War fully supports the latest gaming standard under Vista. However, given the current state of things it should come as no surprise to hear that the game still supports XP and the DX9 code path as well. A little surreptitious snooping revealed that the demo units were running XP, with 2GB RAM, an 8800 GTS and, somewhat surprisingly, a 3.4GHz Pentium D. As a result there was no DX10 to be had, so we'll just have to wait for the full game to get a taste of the differences in image quality and performance.
All the same, with the game running at 1,920 x 1,080 the game looks stunning. It did back when it was released on the Xbox 360, and time has nothing to dent this impression. Hell, the game wasn't even running at full detail and it still looked superb. CliffyB even went as far as to suggest that this was ''"the way the game was meant to be seen"'' due to the higher resolution textures a PC can handle, which says everything about how good the game looks.
In the final product the game will purportedly support up to 1920 x 1200, which makes it ideal for running on a 24in LCD, though those enjoying the wonders 2560 x 1600 on a 30in won't be so pleased. It's also worth noting that, in this version, the game was by no means perfectly smooth, with some frame rate issues. However, without knowing the state of the code being used one can't draw too many conclusions.
Overall, I went away feeling that the only thing likely to hold Gears of War on PC back was simply the plethora of other games to enjoy in the near future. What with Bioshock, Halo 3, Half-Life 2 Episode Two, Portal, Team Fortress 2 (also known as collectively as The Orange Box), Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, Crysis, World in Conflict to name just a tiny selection, does a PC version of a year old Xbox 360 game have enough clout make its mark?
I wouldn't like to guess, but regardless Gears of War PC is looking to be an excellent conversion of an already excellent game, which is probably all you need to know. Moreover, with the PC version providing new chapters, more story, another major boss battle in the form of the Brumak, more multiplayer options and an editor, there are still plenty of reasons to consider it, even if you've played it on the Xbox 360.