Gears of War: one of Xbox’s biggest and best franchises, and one of three franchises that’s almost always name-dropped by people who state why they’re uninterested in Xbox. Say what you will about it, but there’s no denying it was one of the defining franchises of the last gaming generation, and it’s looking like (despite Epic’s departure from the series) it will continue to have a strong presence in this generation as well. This week sees the release of Gears of War: Ultimate Edition, but instead of spending $40 I probably don’t have, I’ll be celebrating by playing the original Gears on my Xbox One, terrible checkpoints and all (that said, the backwards compatibility is still a bit shaky if anyone’s wondering).
It’s kind of surprising that a series this bloody and gory is as popular as it is, but that’s probably down to how Gears is so much more than just blood and gore. It’s a mainstream series that’s somehow remained distinct, with simple but finely tuned gameplay that can manage to be punishingly difficult, characters that have surprising amounts of depth, and a universe that at times is the textbook definition of Hauntingly Beautiful. Actually, when put like that, it’s not so surprising... Anyway, that’s probably why I have quite a few memorable moments with the series, both in iconic campaign moments, and horde matches I was more than glad to have participated in.
I’ve almost played every game in the series; I’m working my way through the first game, I did what I could with Judgment, and I’m looking for a way to get my hands on Gears 2. Which leaves Gears 3, the first game I got into, and you could say the only “real” Gears game I’ve completed start to finish, and with a healthy amount of time spent into multiplayer matches and Horde Mode. Weirdly though, I bought the game over a month after it first came out, and for most of 2011 I was one of those people who thought “what’s so special about OH MY GOD, WHAT’S HE DOING WITH THAT CHAINSAW???” I bought my Xbox 360 specifically just to play Forza Motorsport 3, and I got my copy of Halo 3 because it was cheap. Gears of War though? That took an actual demo for my to take interest in it, and said demo was released for who knows what reason over a month after the game. Well, as it turned out... you know that feeling you get when you’re playing through a really well designed game, a game where you can just pick it up and instantly have fun with it? That was what happened in that demo. The streamlined cover system and controls, the near perfect mix of good aesthetics and graphics, and combat that was never boring. The gore was a bit of a turnoff for me for a few days, but after continuous exposure to it, you do get used to it (if that sounds disturbing, don’t worry; the game maintains its sense of humanity in the face of an apocalypse, and it’s NOTHING compared to what Bethesda showed off with Doom at this year’s E3 conference. Now THAT was borderline disturbed...). A few days later, I got Gears of War 3, and I’ve been a fan since.
All of my favorite moments from the series are (unsurprisingly) from Gears 3, but weirdly they’re all from Act 1, Chapters 3 through 6. They’re the bits in the first act where Cole and Baird are scavenging in Hanover for supplies, and in half an act there’s a truly emotional moment, and a perfect moment that demonstrates the series’s sense of “even in the face of danger” humor. I’ll just post them below, so you can actually get the idea(s) of what I’m talking about.
See? Even in the post-apocalypse, there are some great moments. Well, at least ones that are better written than those in Gears 1, anyway...
I don’t know how many of the people I played with remember this, but my favorite moment from this series hands down remains my first TAY game night, where we somehow managed to scrap together six guys to go into Horde Mode with (ah, back when everyone had 360s... before the PS4, Xbox One, Wii U rift...). I had just got into TAY, and despite my sloppy first article the guys where more than inviting, waaay and more than competent with playing a difficult game. We were great at it: me on a turret, us making sure we managed our resources so that we could last longer, and our “you can’t write this shit” moment with the Lambent Berserker boss. That was a great night... so great, it inspired me to write my second TAY article, and one I remain proud of over a year later. My first game night, and still my best game night. And still the reason I try to find time to play with you guys. Well... the guys that show up.
Anyhow, those are the reasons I love the series, and they’re why I’m looking forward to Gears 4. As always, provide your own thoughts (or better yet, your best moments with the Gears franchise) in the comments below, and now if you’ll excuse me, my lancer has a thirst that can only be quenched one way...