Horrible writing, an obsession with chest-high walls and enough forced depressive themes to make even My Chemical Romance scream in anti-happiness fashion.
Gentlemen and ladies, Gears of War.
Gears is one of the few franchises that I hate and want to murder while it’s asleep, but it’ll probably reflex with a forced emotional moment or lag out due to server disconnection (we’ll get to that). It’s all based around the idea that aliens from outer space (well, the planet’s core but shut up Sci-fi cliches) invading a planet and it’s all sad and heroic and we’re not going to make it and lets have ‘Mad World’ as the trailer music. Because obviously, that’s how you create a depressive utopia. Sarcasm aside, Gears tends to ignore central character development and just concentrate on its frowning animation or gravely voice acting. It feels way too forced to get into, you’re never a soldier in the fight, turning back the unfightable fight. I hate to compare to my most hated of franchises (Halo) but there’s never a sense of epic that saved Halo for all of its falling graces. Okay so you can’t exactly capture epic, but Gears does do some set pieces and environmental changes quite well, just please stop trying to make me cry or frown or get sad/mad. I’m not going to get angry just because you kill a character I didn’t care about or you wrote a line such as “We can’t make it! We’re going to die!”, or you even kick in a unnecessary horror element. It doesn’t scare or provoke any of my emotions.
Gameplay is fine, if slightly both awkward and casual. You’ll press A to Velcro yourself to a wall, peek out, wish for the music to stop swelling up with the same melodramatic melody you heard three minutes ago, and then start shooting things. There’s lots of things to shoot, but there’s also a gigantic puzzling element. By puzzling element I mean something that the developer showed off at one point and said they were ‘really excited about bringing a whole new genre into the Gears’ melting pot’, it turns out to last just one section. Oh and it involves shooting things, clever, clever Epic Games.
In fact, am I the only one who finds it ironic that Epic Games never actually make ‘epic games’, but rather linear and central with pathetic excuses for character development.
What we’re left with then is a hollowed out ball of visually depressive (but opposing to the actual story) but downright ‘illusion’ of a shooter. I never feel like I’m fluidly dashing around the battlefield, popping my clips and then chainsawing the guts out of the aliens from outer space. Three things there. Dashing in the first game involved the character hunching himself over, the camera too, and heavily breathing as he ran across the battlefield. They called it rodeo run, I called it “Marcus’ sex race”. In the second title, Marcus suddenly realizes he can move his limbs even while he is hunched over (gasp! A scientific breakthrough!) so now you can reload even while your thumb just sits on the A button probably growling at you in another universe.
Second thing. Reloading. While you’re reloading, you can take part in a comedy panel quiz show. The aim of the show is to stop your flicking thinger when it goes over the nice juicy white bits, or the bright bits for extra brownie points, otherwise your assault rifle will jam and you will be shot to death. That is unless you hide behind your mum. Yeah I went there. The whole mini-minigame comes across as a distraction, as new gamers will totally keep failing, pros will nail it and just laugh at how awesome they are and people like me will just pull a quizzical look. Reloading did not need reinventing, it did not need improving. Press square to reload. The end. Not press square to reload BUT only when it goes over the white bits. All the while you’re taking part in Epic’s little reloading experiment, the aliens are either shooting at you or the stereotypical black guy is telling you to “GET YOUR ARSE DOWN MARCUS!”
Third thing. Gore. There’s a whole lot of gore, some of it coupled with actual satisfaction and some of it just not needed. Case in point: I was defending a mansion in the first game (the Fenix estate), I took cover behind a small dresser as a galleon of aliens came up the stairs. One was just behind the dresser I was taking cover behind, standing right there with his juicy big yellow teeth. Almost in a comical fashion, I tapped the right shoulder button to fire my shotgun, Marcus popped out right there and in three seconds there was nothing left but red bits of alien. It was a nice reward for the player to see his true style rewarded in such a way. But if we go up with a lancer machine gun, the trademark weapon of the game, and hold down the B button. We can rev up a chainsaw. Pretty useless in a full frontal war with aliens with giant assault rifles. But we can chop aliens in half; in the sequel we can even have chainsaw duels with them. KEEP TAPPING B TO WIN. KEEP TAPPING B TO WIN. QUICKTIME EVENT. OUT OF NOWHERE. KEEP TAPPING B TO WIN.
Gears is not a bad game, it just has a lot of problems which keep it from being a great game. It’s a good one, I love the shooting most of the time and for all the excessive and dull “depressive” moments in the game, the characters still keep me through. What I really love about it, especially the sequel, is the level design. One minute I have to stay in the light so I don’t get eaten by night-bats, the next I’m on a speeding train trying to defeat a giant, blind alien. In Gears 2 you go from a generic urban setting to the insides of a giant worm. To say it’s disgusting would be an understatement, but there’s a level of detail found inside that just makes it all worthwhile.
Multiplayer is horrendous, especially in Gears 2, not because it’s bad; Horde is great offline or in Private matches. I just can’t get a game, maybe it’s the servers, maybe it’s my connection being too awesome or maybe it’s even ME being too awesome! I just can’t get into a public match with lag or disconnection. It had a lot of potential, but I just hop on to COD4 afterwards to make myself feel better.
If you want to sum the entire Gears franchise in 7 seconds, here you are: