Is Gears of War Relevant Enough For Next Gen?
I was admittedly slightly conflicted when I sat down to type this piece. Gears of War was the game that sold the Xbox 360 to me. Its bleak adverts that invaded the television-sphere back in 2006 made me sit up, take notice, and think that the game looked pretty damn good. And so I bought an Xbox 360 and picked up Gears of War with the system…and oh my days was I impressed.
‘LOOK AT THE LIGHTING!!’ I cried when I first booted up the game, my father scrambling to take a peek at this fancy new tech. Everything about the first Gears of War was beautiful, even with its darker colour scheme. The popping-out-of-cover combat wasn’t anything new but it was easily the most well-rounded incarnation of it. As for the art style, it was curiously familiar yet with a dark future twist. Gears of War was an excellent experience that also benefited from great co-op, decent multiplayer, and how it made good use of the Xbox 360. It was certainly a hit. Then Gears of War 2 happened.
Gears 2 was everything you’d expect of a sequel: bigger, louder, bloodier, and more bold. The co-op felt more well-rounded, as did the campaign on the whole. The multiplayer had its issues, but it was great fun when it worked. Gears 2 was a success both in terms of quality and sales. Heck, it even spawned the Cliffy B character. The fanbase was firmly established after the release of Gears 2, and after some fairly decent DLC, attentions turned to the next step in the franchise.
The third Gears title was marketed as the big climax of an ongoing war; the conclusion of the story of Marcus Fenix and all of those side-plots not many people really remembered. While the game offered the familiar Gears experience, people came to question whether the franchise was starting to run out of steam. Away from all the silly marketing gimmicks and wars amongst the fans over the sawn-off shotgun, Gears 3 was a success which left the franchise ending on something of a high note. But of course, making money in most forms of entertainment results in more of the same thing, which is where we get to Gears of War: Judgment.
Judgment represented a key point in the Gears franchise. While past games had divided the player base in terms of which weapon was lame and which map sucked, Judgement simply divided its players based on its mechanics. The ease in which players died in Judgement‘s multiplayer was a big turn off for many players, thus reducing the game’s active community. Critically, Judgement did not meet the same success as past titles, nor did the sales match up to past entries in the franchise. A so-so campaign that felt more like DLC left Judgement feeling more like a full-priced expansion as opposed to a game that existed in its own right. The real tragedy, arguably, was the fact developer People Can Fly was utterly wasted by being restrained to the Gears license.
With Judgement being far from the success it hoped to be, this makes one wonder: is Gears of War relevant enough to be one of the Xbox One’s flagship franchises? The motor-marketing mouth of Cliffy B is no longer at the helm, the fans have been split thanks to Judgement, and the new boys (Titanfall) seem to be taking up all the hype. Where would that leave Gears of War if it was to return?
What could a new Gears of War really offer to entice people over to the Xbox One? Is there any way for the franchise to regain its spark after the disappointing Judgement? It remains to be seen, but a sneaking suspicion of mine is that perhaps, at least for a few years, Gears of War should take a break until there’s a place in the market for it once again.