Why you're actually playing as the bad guys in Gears Of War

But before you get ready to dive into all of that, there are a few things you should be aware of. Things that just don't come up during the first game's vague "Here are the bad guys, kill them all" exposition. You see Gears Of War actually has a hell of a lot of backstory, most of which didn't make it into the game itself. And when all things are taken into account, that war you're going to be reveling in in November really isn't what you might think it is.

Brave humans battling valiantly for the bright future of their world against a soulless alien horde? Not at all. Arrogant human invaders trying vainly to maintain their stranglehold on an abused and suppressed planet. That's more like it. Read on to find out why we've been playing the bad guys all along.

The human race are planet-raping colonials

Think about this. Gears Of War is set on the planet Sera, not Earth. All of the protagonists look human and have American accents, inherently meaning that they are of Terran descent. Which means that Sera was colonised by the human race at some point in the game's distant past. Which in turn means that any negative actions they've perpetrated against the planet - and as we're about to detail, there are quite a few - are made doubly transgressive by the fact that they've essentially invaded an innocent world and f*cked it right up through their own hedonistic wants and arrogance.

How many groups and nations have done similar things throughout real human history and how many of them are exactly popular now?

The humans weren't satisfied with one world war, so they had another

Although Gears' backstory isn't properly detailed throughout the first game, a little fishing reveals that the human race's time on Sera has largely been spent being childish pricks. You'd think that the crap we've pulled on Earth over the last century alone would have made the human race want to make a fresh start given a shiny new planet to live on, but no. They just saw it as a big blank canvas to really go to town on, having had more than enough practice in the past to get pretty damn good at the old killin' business.

According to 'Destroyed Beauty', the art book released with the Gears special-edition, Sera had been plagued with human war for millennia before the Locust ever set foot on the surface. That means that Gears is set a SERIOUSLY long time into the future, and that in all of that time humanity hadn't managed to develop past its violent instincts one jot. By that point, you'd have expected the human race to have evolved into benevolent beings made of pure energy, light and Brian Eno music, but unfortunately not. They're still just great big twats.

Of course, the human race of Gears did eventually get its shit together and live in peace for a while, but even then it took the threat of armageddon to give it the necessary slap in the face. And how did they celebrate? By starting another, seventy-nine year war. Over a gooey natural energy source. But of course, it was gold and called Imulsion, making the conflict TOTALLY different from our current international war-mongering over oil reserves. Oh yes, we HAD moved on.

The Gears are the tools of an oppressive, right-wing regime

According to 'Destroyed Beauty', The Coalition of Ordered Governments (Cera's ruling party and bestower of COG orders) was an obscure political party during the near eighty years of the Pendulum Wars. It only really rose to dominance when the catastrophic Locust attack of Emergence Day made the human population desperate for radical leadership. Seeing the same opportunity spotted by more than one real-world human dictator, the COG stepped up.

Thus, the Fortification Act was introduced, reacting to the extremely dire circumstances with the activation of emergency legislative powers for the ruling party, a temporary, legal loss of civil liberties and the introduction of martial law. Those same political tactics have been enjoyed by such luminaries as Emperor Palpatine and Adolf Hitler. And look how they turned out.

Humanity's last, best hope? Yeah right.

The Locust are in no way the bad guys

Sera's subterranean residents might be intent on seeing "every last man, woman and child dead", but can you really blame them? As the indigenous people of Sera, they tolerated the arrival of the surface-dwelling humans and quietly co-existed for a very long time, seemingly happy to let the new neighbours have the sunlight while they maintained their own natural habitat. It took thousands of years of planet-razing war, an invasion of their underground domain, the reaping of their Imulsion resources and yet another petty human war of greed before they made a stand. The fallout may have been brutal, but up until that point the Locust had showed remarkable restrained, all things considered.

Despite their bloody retribution, these are an intelligent, evolved people, as evidenced by their societal organisation and well-developed technology. The Gears might find it convenient to see them as feral nightmares from the deep, but nothing could be further from the truth. Yeah, they look pretty damn ugly by human standards, but let's not forget that making assumptions of character based on outer appearance is one of the cornerstones of basic racism, after all. And while the Locust troops we encounter in the game appear to be angry, single-minded killers, don't Marus and co. very probably appear the same to them?

Gears lore states that all attempts at peaceful negotiation with the Locust met with violence, but with several THOUSAND years of almost unfailing, selfish, aggressive human behaviour as a track record, their distrust and unwillingness to interact with our species is entirely understandable. In their position, we'd feel exactly the same way.

Humanity reacted to the Locust 'invasion' by wiping out 90% of the planet

Of course, the Locust didn't actually invade at all. They just made a stand against an outside force which had proven itself to be nothing but an unrelenting threat to their home. But when the humans realised that all hope for a victory was lost, what did they do? Cut their losses and retreat? Accept the consequences of their ceaseless stupidity and start making plans for evacuation to another planet, vowing never to make the same mistakes again?

No, they made the belligerent and petulent move of holing up on the impenetrable ground of Jacinto Plateau and using orbital weapon technology to decimate the rest of Sera, scorching Locust and human straggler alike. Humanity wiped out 90% of Sera's surface that day, and who knows how many of its own kind. Talk about taking your ball home because you're losing the match.

The COG's last 'victorious' act achieved nothing but prove once and for all that the Locust were right. The human species, to paraphrase The Matrix's Agent Smith, was naught but a malignant virus upon the planet's surface from the moment it arrived.

Remind us again, what exactly are we fighting for here?

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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.