Why The Next Gears Of War Will Be Terrible
Hooray! Gears of War is coming back for the Xbox One, to the delight of people that haven’t bothered to play Vanquish everywhere.
It’s being developed by Black Tusk (not the metal band) and coincidentally, they just had a job posting on Microsoft’s site. This one actually. For a lead writer.
Look at that. ‘We are looking for a seasoned storyteller who can help us bring Microsoft’s next big IP to life. This individual will help us develop the characters, story arc, emotional tone, pacing, dialogue, and flavour.’
Emotional tone? Urgh. How about no?
It says ‘new IP’ but given last week’s revelation, it doesn’t take a detective to put two and two together. If it’s not the new Gears though, then it’s at least a good indication of the kind of games they want to make at Black Tusk, Gears Of War now being one of them.
Now please don’t see this as a big old dissing of Gears in general.
The first one was a cracking little game, one that didn’t outstay its welcome. The second one was fun too, even if it was starting to get a bit tiresome and bloated.
The less said about Gears 3 the better obviously, and Gears Of War: Judgement shouldn’t really have existed (it should have been Bulletstorm 2).
They do their job. Linear, third person shooters that have you firing away at walking bin bags full of corned beef with pea shooters.
So why are they continuing to try and make this stuff serious?
The people behind Gears of War really tried to give it clout. How else do you explain some of the franchise’s hammier moments, like Dom blowing his emaciated, catatonic wife’s brains out?
Then there’s Dom’s death itself, soundtracked by Gary Jules’ Mad World, probably the only time a Christmas number one has played over someone getting immolated in a truck. He has his little breakdown beard too, because nothing says ennui more than a beard.
Points for effort probably, but when you’d spent the rest of the time chainsawing beasties in half and decapitating things with ceaseless enthusiasm, you just wonder, ‘why bother?’
On the other hand, could you imagine Letters from Iwo Jima ending with the Cole Train rap?
The franchise creator Cliffy B said he wanted to see future games in the series become more serious, and more like Christopher Nolan’s (staggeringly overrated) Batman series. Terrific idea. Let’s make a series about people built like Ultimate Warrior blowing chunks out of mutants even more po-faced.
Plenty of games can do serious and ‘emotional’ well.
There are countless indie games that do smart things with narrative for instance. Then there’s Silent Hill 2, and the savagely underrate Shattered Memories.
Gears of War is none of these. Gears of War is Michael Bay at his dumbest accidentally setting off all the squibs at the same time.
The best videogames know they are videogames, and don’t try and convince you they’re anything more by trying and failing to give them cinematic storylines.
Resident Evil 4? You’re a secret agent with a cool jacket, a 90s boyband haircut and an inexplicable fear of women going up against Rasputin, Predator, and a little man in a Tricorn hat. Nothing more needed. Doom? Hell invades, you shoot them with guns.
Making Gears of War even more serious would be like giving John Matrix from Commando emotional depth, deeply regretting killing Sully first etc. It’s not going to happen. Why bother? You wouldn’t have Slayer come out and make an album of love songs and self-doubt would you?
People largely buy Gears of War because they want a gory, nonsense shooter to let off some steam (Bennett). They buy Gears of War to infuriate people online by one-shotting them with big, daft shotguns.
The sooner the people behind it abandon all hopes of making an emotionally resonant storyline and embrace its inherent stupidity, the better.
Would you rather have a Gears of War with a botched attempt at a ‘deep’ story, or one with Army of Two-style high fives and air guitar taunts?
Honestly, the thought of pretending to jam along with an invisible guitar in the face of a ravenous, genocidal death horde appeals greatly.