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Where Should Microsoft Take Gears of War?
Earlier this week, Microsoft made a big splash by purchasing the rights to Gears of War from series creator Epic. Developer Black Tusk Studios, formerly known as Microsoft Vancouver, is now in charge of developing this massively popular third person shooter. In light of this news, the writers here at Leviathyn share their thoughts on where the series should go from here, now that Epic is no longer in control.
Blake Anglin – News Editor
The Gears of War series is what brought me into the last console generation. The original Gears was the first title I played on Xbox 360, and I was blown away by the graphics, gunplay, campaign and, most of all, the online multiplayer. With later installments, I was captivated by the addition of Horde mode, which I have poured hundreds of hours into.
I am very excited to see what Black Tusk Studios can do with the franchise. While I enjoyed Judgment, I felt like it got away a bit from what the franchise did best. Even with the addition of People Can Fly, I think series fatigue may have set in with Epic, so a fresh start is probably best. Hopefully, we will see a return to a more measured, tense campaign with awesome set pieces and killer bosses. Fighting the first Corpser, or the underground lake boss, and avoiding the Kryll–those are the moments I remember most from the series. I could barely tell you what happened in Judgment, although I did love the idea of the declassified missions.
And for the love of God bring Horde mode back. Overrun was fun and all, but a large section of the Gears fanbase plays it specifically for Horde, and it made no sense to alienate that audience. I’m open to trying new things, but not at the expense of a mode I already know and love.
I also think it’s time to move on from Marcus and Co. I love the fellas, but let us experience different areas of the Gears fiction. Fans of the series will know that the Pendulum Wars are ripe for mining, but what about letting us step into the shoes of the Locust? Regardless, we don’t need to tread old ground.
Marc Capellupo – Microsoft Writer
4 is a deadly number in the entertainment industry. The general public is willing to forgive a trilogy, but by the fourth iteration of a hit movie or game, people begin to cry “cash-in,” movies go straight to DVD, and a majority exclaim a disinterested “They’re still making those?” Producers and developers even try to establish their title above the number, dropping it entirely in favor of a semicolon and a catchy subtitle. The fourth installment is rarely bad per se, but often lacks the magic and draw of the original hit. Look no further than the Gears of War series itself, with its most recent fourth addition that flew largely under the radar. One would then assume that 5 is a death sentence, and the new upcoming Gears title doomed before it’s even released.
And I would agree with you, were it not for Microsoft’s brilliant handling of the Halo franchise. When Microsoft bought the rights to Halo and tasked 343 Industries with creating the next installment of the beloved series, everyone had their doubts as to whether they would be able to create a logical successor to Bungie’s masterpieces. Halo 4 not only delivered in spades but offered a new take on the classic franchise, one that I believe can stand proud among Bungie’s iconic trilogy. The Gears of War franchise is in a very similar situation, having been bought up by Microsoft and given off to a developer that doesn’t even have a comparable track record yet. But I don’t doubt Microsoft’s dedication to making quality titles for its fanbase. With a magnitude of gamers still unsure which next-gen console to jump to, Microsoft knows that this may be their best shot at drawing those still sitting on the fence to the Xbox One.
Jason Kwon – Microsoft Editor
One of my favorite things about the Gears of War franchise is how Epic didn’t whore the series out. There weren’t a multitude of spinoffs, side games, or prequels. Other than the somewhat forgettable Gears of War: Judgment, Epic has played this gritty futuristic third person shooter pretty straightforward, with a fantastic trilogy that wraps the overall story arc very nicely.
But now with Microsoft purchasing the rights and Black Tusk Studios taking up developer duties, this may all change. Regardless of how many games or spinoffs that are churned out, my one singular hope is that they stay far away as possible from Delta Squad and the narrative surrounding that group. I believe the original trilogy did an excellent job at telling the story of Marcus Fenix and his crew, and Black Tusk Studios shouldn’t try to tinker with that plotline. Personally, I want to see a Gears of War game take place in the far flung future that depicts how the world of Sera is coping decades after the Locust invasion. This could also serve as an excuse for the developers to add more crazy new guns, as I thought that there were a disappointingly small number of new weapons in Gears of War 2 and 3.
I also hope that the gameplay takes some steps forward both mechanically and creatively. Sure, the “stop and pop” was revolutionary in the first Gears of War, and by the third game, Epic had refined it to a degree that almost no other cover based third person shooter even came close to. Even now, 2011’s Gears of War 3 still may be considered the pinnacle of the genre. But hopefully Black Tusk Studios puts its own unique stamp on the series by changing the ebb and flow that we’ve come to expect from the Gears of War series.
Christopher Mrkvicka – Microsoft Writer
For me, the appeal of the Gears of War series always revolved around the campaign and the interaction between the different squad members. Having been in the military, and served in a combat zone, I found the characters to be over the top, but also easy to relate with. The narrative might not be the best, and the story related dialogue in the first game is downright dreadful, but there was always a degree of personality to the characters in the game and how they interacted with one another. It turned what could easily be viewed as the epitome of a meat head gaming experience into a nuanced look at the camaraderie of soldiers in combat and the sacrifices made for something greater than themselves.
That said, I think that the story of Delta Squad has come to an end. Given the massive destruction that civilization has witnessed in the series, I just can’t see them continuing on with the same cast of characters. There is nothing left to fight at the present time, and there just aren’t enough people remaining for a new war to erupt. They could move the series back in time to the Pendulum Wars, but I think they would lose the interest of players who know where that road leads. The only viable option is to set the next games in the future. Let the actions of Delta Squad be remembered in the lore, but let society rebuild and have a new threat emerge. This is how Microsoft can deliver the most compelling gaming experience, and it will give them freedom to create new machines of war. If they do this, I will be more than willing to jump back into the series.
Andrew Whipple – Site Manager
Thanks to the original Gears of War, there hasn’t been such an engrossing, tactical and innovative competitive multiplayer component to a game since Halo 2 hit back in 2004. Unlike most adrenaline-infused shooters, Gears brought a completely different play-style and mentality to contemporary video game design and did it well. Unfortunately, as the series stretched on, Gears took on the insipid mainstream approach we see in most successful franchises. What do I mean? One must only look to Gears of War: Judgment to understand.
I’d love to see the series move toward the root of what made it initially great: slow, methodical combat that rewards those who utilize the team and plan tactically. MOBAs like League of Legends and DOTA 2 are known for their required team coordination and harsh learning curve, and millions of people play them every single day. Judgment fully embraced the standard Team Deathmatch formula we see in every other game, even releasing without Gears‘ staple modes: Warzone and Execution. Instead of copying the masses, stand up and innovate or at least go back to what made the series great. You don’t always have to add seventeen new weapons and eleven modes to get people excited again.
Oh yeah, and stop forcing females into non-essential roles. It’s contrived, unexciting and… stupid.