Cliff Bleszinski talks Gears' competition, future and deeper narrative

GR: A lot has obviously been improved now in Gears 2 in terms of the cover and the story and the general vibrancy of the world. Which of the criticisms of the original game do you think were fairest and which did you want to address the most?

CB: The narrative being too simple's a valid one. People had concerns that there wasn't enough depth to the multiplayer, which we did address to some extent in regards to having Annex and King Of The Hill available. But we're shipping with a far greater stable of multiplayer game modes this time. You know some players wanted a larger co-op experience, and we wanted to give it to them but we didn't want to screw with the regular campaign too much. So we still kept it to Marcus and Dom, and decided to take what's fun about large player co-op and put it in its own mode and make it far more like an arcade-type experience.

GR: Yeah, we've had a lot of fun with that [Horde]today.

CB: Personally I think it's tremendously fun and I think that it speaks for itself. Maybe if we do a good job of it, some day a lot of games will have a Horde mode. [laughs] And that's cool, man.

But you know, it's not just about all the gameplay. It's about having the little story themes that resonate. It's having a box and a visual ID where you see all of these badass guys and choppers, but also having Marcus taking a second and reflecting on just what he's doing right there. Which is kind of what Mad World spoke to... Which is what is underneath the surface of this very visceral franchise.

GR: That balance of the viscerality and the personal seems to be coming through very nicely in part two.

CB: Some people only see the blood, or they only see the guns and the monsters. And you know, yeah okay, that's there and that's cool, but there's a little bit of heart there.

GR: Going back to the market, there are obviously a lot of shooters on the 360. The cover system was probably the last serious game-changing innovation we've seen in the genre. Do you think it's getting harder and harder to push the shooter forward now?

CB: No. I think there's always room for innovation. I'm a big fan of taking something that has been done before and putting a new twist on it. You know, Gears took... Yeah it's a shooter, it's a shooter. There've been shooters around since Space Invaders. Space Invaders was the original cover-shooter, right? But then to do the roadie-run and add in the active reload and all these things that make it its own... That's what makes it cool. So I think there's still plenty of room for innovation with shooters, with melee games. It's just a matter of being creative and finding what the right things are that are going to do it.

GR: A lot of people originally percieved Gears in terms of a trilogy. Now that you're finishing off part two, do you feel like you're at a halfway point and that there's going to be a definite end stage, or do you feel like you can keep running and running with this?

CB: We never said it would be a trilogy. That was some random Microsoft excecutive who got taken out of context. We'll take it on a game-by-game basis, man. You know, I have ideas on where the franchise could go. And Rod and Josh do. But we'll wait and see until we see the shipping and selling and review scores before we officially make a call.

GR: Have you got any ideas for a definite end to the story at any stage? Obviously we're not asking for spoiler details...

CB: It's hard to say, man. I mean this is very much a business. If Gears 2 does well and we're going to do a third, and then a third one were to do well, we'd always need ideas on where to go with it.

Final Fantasy's on like, twelve?

GR: Thirteen soon. Makes the title slightly ironic.

CB: You know man, I'm not Zoltar. I can't predict the future.

David Houghton
Long-time GR+ writer Dave has been gaming with immense dedication ever since he failed dismally at some '80s arcade racer on a childhood day at the seaside (due to being too small to reach the controls without help). These days he's an enigmatic blend of beard-stroking narrative discussion and hard-hitting Psycho Crushers.