Gears of more?
Okay, so that heading doesn't strictly make any grammatical sense, but you get the point. Microsoft has bought the Gears of War franchise from Epic, lock, stock, and oversized, chainsaw-equipped, smoking barrel. Microsoft's newest studio, Black Tusk, is going to be making the series from now on, and has its first Gears of War game already in some manner of pre-production. But where can and should Gears go next?
The story of Delta seems to be over, and from a gameplay perspective too, it feels like the series has gone as far as it can in its current iteration. Microsoft is already talking--in vague terms, naturally--about a next-gen refresh, but what are the possibilities? I reckon the possibilities are contained within the following pages. Click on and consider how possible they are.
1. The straight sequel
The simplest, most obvious option, but perhaps actually the trickiest one to pull off. You see the current Gears of War series ends on a note of resolute conclusion. By the final scenes of Gears 3, all of the Locust are completely and utterly dead via genetically programmed genocide, and the vast majority of Seras human race have gone the way of paisley shirts too, either by bullet or bloody cough. A few are left, but theyre just sitting around wondering what to do next. Theres not much there to build a follow-up with.
Yes, you could shoehorn in a new threatprobably one of alien origina la Halo 4, but its unlikely that would be convincing. Master Chief is a galaxy-trotting, Jolly Green Giant space marine. It makes sense for him to run into new extraterrestrial threats. The war-ravaged people of Sera? Not so much. Even for the crapsack world of Gears of War, thatd would be taking the piss to a drastic degree. Much more likely is
2. The prequel trilogy
This one is currently the frontrunner, as far as Im concerned. It makes more sense on every level, and Epic was laying the narrative groundwork for it years before it handed the series to Microsoft. 79 years war between human factions before the Locust even turn up? The existing series complete inability to answer any of the questions it raises regarding the Locusts origins? No way is any of that a coincidence.
Put 8:1 odds on next-gen Gears being a Pendulum Wars trilogy, detailing the mid-to-end days of humanitys nigh-apocalyptic in-fighting, with heavy foreshadowing of the Locust invasion during parts two and three.
3. The radical reboot
Certainly not impossible, this one. And certainly not a bad idea either. Its too soon for a DmC-style reimagining of the existing series set-up and characters, but a BioShock Infinite-style sequel--ie. One which takes the core values and themes of the series and transposes them to a different setting and scenario--could be a very exciting direction to take.
Imagine the gritty, bleak, desperate vibe of the first two games reworked with a new set of characters fighting against a different threat in a different end-of-days situation. The oppressive, personal nature of Gears and Gears 2 was one of the series strongest and most attractive features, but was lost as it spiraled into ever-more bloated, blockbuster territory. A full refresh with a clean slate could be exactly what the series needs to remain vital for a new generation. And besides, the approach would allow the Xbox Ones hardware to really shine and surprise, by way of the visual impact afforded by a whole new aesthetic. Speaking of a new aesthetic, theres always the possibility of
4. The gritter version
Speaking to IGN in November 2013, the VP of Microsoft Game Studios, Phil Spencer, discussed the future of Gears. Mentioning the possibility of stepping back a little in order to work out how to expand the universe, he also mused that it might be time to Maybe make it more gritty. Those are mostly encouraging thoughts, implying a definite dash of the creative bravery required to properly freshen up the series, as well as a reluctance to retread old ground. But a grittier Gears of War? A gritter version of the series that brought us chainsaw bayonets? How on Earth would that even be possible?
The only way we can imagine adding extra grit to Gears of War would be by including chainsaw bayonets with extra, tiny chainsaws as their teeth, and having the entire game play out on a planet paved with the skulls of orphans. In Hell. And rendered entirely in black and white. And no-one has any skin, and your lead character is screaming constantly. Or, you know, maybe theyll just put more hip hop on the soundtrack.
5. The indie version
And segueing nicely into the left-field options, what if Microsoft decided to make up for some of the indie cred lost to Sony over recent months--not to mention via the barrage of disgruntled indie dev vocalising over the last couple of years, and the many criticisms that its Xbox Live Indie Games section was a ghetto--by showing its commitment to risky, grassroots game development by way of its biggest, megabudget, triple-A franchise?
Of course, the game wouldnt actually have to be made by an indie developer. It would just have to give the impression that it had. By all means, Black Tusk can continue development of the whole project, just as long as they make sure to play on that indie vibe and aesthetic thats so popular at the moment. Thus, the new Gears of War would be rendered entirely in 16-bit sprites, feature an ambient score comprising mellow strings and Hipster electronica, and while superficially a game about visceral monster-murder, would actually be a subtle allegory for paternal responsibility and general feelings of regret. It would cost $80 million to develop.
6. The David Cage version
Feeling the pressure to shed its gun-shooter-box image in the face of Sonys increasingly experimental, artistic first-party output, Microsoft poaches one of Sonys (non-literal) big guns and hires Quantic Dream in a consultationary role. Hey, Beyond; Two Souls met mixed reviews, so its probably time for the studio to mix things up a bit. And besides, Beyond has that faux-cover-shooter bit where it looks like a cover-shooter, but you cant actually do anything apart from press a button to watch a cartoon of a girl shooting a man from behind cover. Basically, its a perfect fit for everyone. Gears of Wars trailers have always made the series out to be an emotional epic, so who better to deliver on that than David Cage?
Okay, so the only emotion would be sadness, and the game would consist of one, eight-hour cutscene, the playing of which would require you to hold down the right trigger for its duration--let go and it plays anyway, but you get slightly different dialogue--but thats exactly the evolution the series needs, right? Narrative future of video games, yeah?
7. The free-to-play version
Spurred on by the success of the sort-of-free-to-play-but-not-really-but-you-dont-really-get-a-full-game-when-you-buy-it-and-where-the-hell-are-the-fatalities-anyway success of Killer Instinct, Microsoft decides that its time to test the F2P waters proper, before a thousand games called World of something-or-other rush in and steal its thunder. And before Epic drops the inevitable attempt at a F2P Unreal Tournament 4.
Free-to-play Gears of War isnt pay-to-win. Free-to-play games are never pay-to-win. Any free-to-play dev will tell you that. But if you run out of ammo during the campaign, you need to wait six hours for a supply drop or pay 5.99 for an instant top-up. Thats what active reload means now. RB links directly to the Xbox Live storefront. And there are no ammo crates in the game. Multiplayer sold separately.
8. The Team Ico version
Because someone might as well do something with The Last Guardian. Black Tusk straps a howitzer array to Tricos back and lets you ride him into battle as the last guardian of whatever country, planet or species the boy in the trailers belongs to. Hes guarding it against Locust. Thats what the title means now.
Probably not the game anyone was expecting, or even necessarily wanting, but hey, at least itd be out, right? No? You people need to stop complaining and be grateful for what you get. Honestly, this is worse than the Bayonetta 2 debacle.
Time for a new breed of Gears?
So there are my current siggestions, based on the total lack of information we currently have. But what about you? Where would you like the next Gears of War game to go, and what do you think is likely? Let me know in the comments.
And while you're here, check out some of our related and semi-related content. How fast can you die in Gears of War: Judgment? would be a good place to start, as would our current round-up of the Best Xbox One games.