The 'War' is over: Why gaming doesn't need another 'Gears of War'

Wednesday, 29 January 2014 12:00 PM Written by 

GearslogoMicrosoft announced this week that they purchased the “Gears of War” series from Epic Games. They plan on releasing another entry to the series for the Xbox One that will be developed by Vancouver-based video game studio Black Tusk Studios. What should’ve been momentous news left me disappointed.

Why the disappointment? The announcement of a new “Gears” game would’ve thrown me into a raving frenzy in 2007 through 2011. I thought about the timeline of the series during its tenure on the Xbox 360. Within the lifespan of the console, we witnessed “Gears of War’s” birth, life, and death.

 

Its birth occurred about a year after the 360’s release, creating one of the first truly next-gen experiences of that time. This was something fresh and new, something gamers hadn’t seen before. It was a grim and violent third-person shooter, but one that brought something unique to the genre. Plus it was packaged within a universe that spawned expanded stories through novels and graphic novels. This was a new property that was destined to be huge.

The series continued to grow with the inevitable sequel, “Gears of War 2.” This first follow-up built on the original by tightening gameplay and extending the story, but this sequel did more than that. It unleashed a revolution known as “Horde Mode.” It was evident that Horde Mode was going to be massive back when the game mode was just being previewed. Success required a combination of skill and good teamwork.  This was an idea of brilliance that would expand “Gears’” already popular online presence, while bringing a new idea that would be copied by other franchises ad nauseam.

“Gears 2” can be seen as the beginning of the series’ growing pains, however. The online arena suffered from crippling server problems. These issues caused frustration among “Gears” fans, but left room for improvement for “Gears 3.”

“Gears 3” was the golden year. This was the year where everything came together in perfect harmony. The story reached its climax, while giving us some surprises along the way. Horde Mode 2.0 brought improvement, making it even better than “Gears 2.” Epic Games provided the option for dedicated servers, making online play some of the smoothest available on a console. The third time was the charm. This is what “Gears 1” and “2” aspired to be, but ended up being essential groundwork for the final chapter. It was a fitting end for a legendary series.

Gears3

But it wasn’t the end. Epic Games moved forward with the help of People Can Fly, giving the series the prequel treatment with “Gears of War: Judgment.” During the development, series creator Cliff Bleszinski departed from Epic Games, as did People Can Fly’s Adrian Chmielarz. “Judgment” no longer followed the iconic Marcus, but focused on the supporting cast of Baird and Cole. The campaign was a rudimentary exercise of clearing area after area of Locusts without giving the player much of a story-driven reason to progress. The new OverRun mode was a decent take on tower defense, but failed to catch on like Horde before it. Too many changes to the competitive multiplayer modes prevented it from being popular among longtime fans.

“Gears of War: Judgment” was the series’ death. It came, grew, improved, reached its peak, and then deceased with a single game that suggested that the magic was no longer there.  

It is possible for series to span multiple consoles. 343 Studios took over the “Halo," making one of the strongest games in the series with “Halo 4.” They will continue to work on the series on the Xbox One. Naughty Dog will continue its hot streak with the “Uncharted” series that will span to the PS4. These are series that are going strong. We witnessed “Gears” fade with “Judgment.” The key talent isn’t there anymore to instill the passion into the project to make it what it was.

Birth, growth, life, and death; that’s what happened to “Gears of War,” and there’s nothing wrong with that. Video game series should be so lucky to have as prosperous of an existence as “Gears.” It’s one of the few series that defined the Xbox 360. Let it stay there.

What’s the best case scenario for a new “Gears” game? Let’s say Black Tusk hits a home run and creates a new “Gears” that rivals “Gears 3,” while making a ton of money in the process. That means Black Tusk will likely be bound to the series, having to eventually create “Gears 5” and “6” later in the XB1’s life. How boring. A young - and presumably talented - studio will be stuck in limbo, creating more games for a series whose best years are currently behind it.

Black Tusk was reportedly working on a new game before the “Gears” universe was thrust on it.

The Xbox One and PS4 have finally sparked the trend to move away from the repetitive sequel parade that took over gaming for the better part of the last decade. Arguably, the three most anticipated blockbuster games of this year are “Titanfall,” “Destiny,” and “Watch_Dogs,” which are all brand new IPs. These new consoles need their own “Gears of War.”  They need a new game that will fill that flagship role. They need a game that will give the console a new identity. Few games reach the furor that “Titanfall” has received in the months leading up to its release. It’s because new is exciting.

“New” is the new black. That’s what I want to see with the new consoles. I want to see new ideas, new characters, and new worlds. We already know the story of “Gears.” We played it from beginning to end, and loved nearly every installment more than the previous one. It’s time to let it go and let young talent create something new.

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