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I, Gears of Uncharted Beatles Galaxy 1966, have made it clear in past blogs and reviews that Gears of War is my favorite franchise, both calling it my favorite game of all-time and saying that it is one of the primary reasons that I prefer third-person perspectives over first-person perspectives in video games. I learned recently that Microsoft recently acquired the property and that Black Tusk is now developing the next title in the series. I don't know jack about this developer, but I consider myself somewhat of an authority on the series, given I'm a fanatic, even owning an Epic edition of Gears of War 3 and dressing up as Marcus Fenix for a Halloween a few years ago (though the costume was atrocious). And I also acknowledge Mike Futter's wish list made earlier this year, but I will make sure not to look at it for ideas! So, now that I have the opportunity, I want to claim everything I want from the next game in the series.
Best. Game. Ever.
Dom and Marcus totally have a bromance.
1. New start (campaign-wise).
Gears of War has traditionally never been known for its campaign. It is incredibly skimpy on the story and the developers have always introduced plots that make little to no sense (*cough* Dom's wife *cough*). But now that Marcus Fenix's story has ended, and People Can Fly has already made a prequel with inconsistent quality, it is time to move on. Black Tusk, please don't pull a Star Wars. We want new! Introduce a new enemy! Or bring back the Locusts, as if they weren't killed, like in the first Gears of War, but with new protagonists! Perhaps there is a rogue higher-class Gear out there. Maybe another civil war! Also, Gears of War, while not containing some of my favorite moments (as far as stories go) of all-time, definitely has memorable ones. For example, the Brumak in Gears of War 2 was a great bit of action! Also, the worm, while disgusting, will forever remain one of the most cringe-worthy moments in gaming. Try to make some sequences in the campaign on that level while maintaining a new and creative storyline.
2. Characters to care about
Let's face it. Marcus wasn't that great a hero. He was a complete and total badass, but remained largely uncharacterized throughout the series. Sure, Epic Games shoved in that moment in Gears of War 3 where Marcus abandons his army to help out his father, Adam Fenix, but why should we care? Plus, while his voice was cool and Solid Snake-esque, the writing did not really take advantage of it, with all the f-bombs.
Augustus "Cole Train" Cole was badassery at its climax. Just a cool and upstanding guy who is cocky, but can easily back it up. Remember that moment in Gears 2? Where Cole runs through a horde of Locusts, tagging one with a grenade and making it out seamlessly alive? Moments like that make Cole one of the most beloved characters in shooters. And while the Football. . .I mean Thrashball flashback in Gears of War 3 was cool, and finally showed how the sport played, it did not flesh out Cole's character any further.
Damon Baird is primarily a comic relief character. Aside from the fan-angering Gears of War: Judgment, he has always remained incredibly sarcastic and very cynical, making him the funniest guy in this apocalyptic-esque world. He is certainly not a nice guy and pokes Marcus at every turn. As the mechanic of sorts, he knows how to handle himself, and how to get Delta Squad out of many sticky situations. Gears of War: Judgment attempted to flesh out both Baird's and Cole's character, but it ultimately failed. I will say, however, that it's interesting to see how Baird, 13 years before joining up with Marcus and company, was actually a cordial and genuinely nice guy.
Now Dom. He was helpful and nice in the first game. He cracked wise every one in a while, in the vein of Hank Schrader from Breaking Bad. In the second game, he became INCREDIBLY whiny! I mean almost drunk whiny. When they suddenly brought up that his wife was suddenly abducted by the Locusts, all he did was complain! He still helped out the team. After all, he still was a CPU. Nonetheless, his character became unlikeable. In Gears of War 3, well. . . same story. Though near the middle of the game, I must confess, I did cry, and if you've played through the game, then you know what I'm talking about. Sorry guys, I know it's a game, but the moment was pretty touching. . . if his actions were useless.
There are obviously more character that are even less fleshed-out, including the Carmine's, Anya Stroud, and Hoffman. However, after all my bickering and complaining, the characters weren't merely cardboard. I liked them, as they carried the story, but the writing was so weak, and the characters so flawed and un-fleshed-out that it was hard to care about them. Black Tusk, before developing the gameplay, develop a decent story with a characterized cast. The voice acting was good in the past games. I'm just looking for characters to care about. I'm no screenwriter, but I know it can happen.
The whole gang!
3. Traditional Gears of War gameplay
While I found Gears of War: Judgment to be a. . . different departure from the series, it was, as previously mentioned, fan-angering. Essentially, it became Gears of Duty. The weapons were no longer swapped via the d-pad, but instead the Y-button. Grenades were thrown with the click of a button, which did admittedly make things slightly more efficient. And elongated firefights were traded for skirmishes. However, the great third-person shooting and cover mechanics were still there. Black Tusk, look to Gears of War 3 or Gears of War 1 as a perfect example of the quintessential Gears of War. The two games' gameplay are incredibly tight and it would be criminal to only call each enemy encounter intense. Bring back the old and make it even tighter! Gears of War 3's gameplay offered more nimbleness in terms of traversing each ma, and I believe that can be extended further, while maintaining the trademark "roadie-run."
So please, bring Back the old. The gameplay can, in fact, be improved even further. I know it because, well, I know Gears.
4. Even better graphics and more locales
There's really not much to put there. Gears of War has always been known for its great visuals, improving with each game. The first Gears was a little drab in its color scheme, but Gears of War 2 perfected that. Gears of War 3 then improved the graphics further, and Gears of War: Judgment didn't really improve. It however maintained the standard that fans have grown accustomed to over the years.
I would also like to see more diverse locales. Sure, Marcus had been underwater, underground, and even in the sky. He's been through mines, snowy areas, and even a worm. I'm looking for more, though. I'm not saying i want a tropical island (though that would be pretty sweet, if weird), it would be nice to be in a huge city. I mean New York City-esque, full of skyscrapers, subways, diners, landmarks, and more. I live in New Mexico, so you I'm sure you can imagine why I'd want to see something like this in a franchise as great as Gears of War.
I loved this segment.
6. We're gonna need a bigger (and better) multiplayer
I think this is a decent segway into multiplayer. Online multiplayer has always been a large part of what makes Gears of War, Gears of War. The tight and intense third-person shooting and cover mechanics transition very well into the mode that Halo, Call of Duty, and Battlefield have dominated for years. However, when Gears of War hit the markets, consumers everywhere adored the excellent co-op gameplay and teamwork-oriented multiplayer. It has expanded over the years with Gears of War 2''s revolutionary Horde mode and Gears of War 3's Team Deathmatch mode. The multiplayer regressed with Gears of War: Judgment, though. Let me justify this statement: Free-For-All was not even a hit-or-miss thing. It was a weird mode People Can Fly sort of slipped under the rug to, I don't know, make Gears different. It felt incredibly foreign to me, though. And, in a very bad way. Like I said, Gears has always been teamwork-oriented, so when this mode came along, it left a bad taste in my mouth. And even if this mode wasn't included in the game, despite the good maps, Gears of War: Judgment was kind of like my mean older cousin when we were kids and said "oh, you like active reloading? You do? Well then let me confiscate that. You like being revived too? Well that's stupid." However, I did appreciate the ability to drop down from a tower.
Don't mind my petty little tangents, though, because I do like Gears of War: Judgment, as it's more Gears of War. I'm just saying that multiplayer can be made even better without these shoveled-in modes. Gears of War 2 and Gears of War 3 fortunately expanded the scale of the multiplayer maps, which was admittedly much-needed after the tight and narrow corridors in the first game. Its maps evoked claustrophobia. Even less tight corridors would be much appreciated. I just thought about it, and perhaps a map with simply an open space and some cover would be good. Like the battlefield from the Battle of Naboo (even if the movie it was in was bad) or any of the Lord of the Rings battlefields.
I'm not looking for larger player counts. That would take away from the Gears of War spirit. More maps would be appreciated, as well as bigger maps (though not to the extent of Call of Duty: Ghosts, in which it takes an eternity to find another player on the map). Also, I would like to bring to the table more weapon spawns. I see the point of the whole Darwinian thing, as in whoever gets to the Longshot (the sniper rifle) first is going to dominate, while there are no other Longshots. I'm not saying more weapons spawns should be done with every single map, but some select ones that it would make sense with. For example, when Gridlock is redone for the fourth time, it is not mandatory to insert another Longshot.
In a nutshell, get rid of Free-For-All, more varied maps, and conditional (depending on the map) weapon spawns. There's more to this, though. I would like the active-reloading ability back. This is another Darwinian-type thing in which it's your own fault of you can't achieve an active reload, which makes your weapon's rounds more powerful. As an "OG" Gears player, I really loved the active reloading system. Actually, let me digress. Some "OG's" out there hated it, as it made skill obsolete, but I say that it was a part of a game, and an essential one. Aside from this, please bring back the ability to revive others, as well as the ability to get back up from a down after a set period of time. Additionally, I really loathed the absence of COG vs. Locust multiplayer, as it was a basic part of Gears of War multiplayer and, well. . . it doesn't make sense for Marcus to be fighting Dom.
Also, executions. 'Nuff said.
7. Keep the original Gears of War feel
I suppose this encompasses everything. I've explained how gameplay and multiplayer should be improved while maintaining the Gears of War standard. So, this is a general thing. In the course of eight years, Gears of War has gone from legitimate fear to full-on action. I believe the first Gears of War gave this sense of "I will die if I'm not precise." This was especially present in the fantastic multiplayer, which I've made clear is my favorite in previous writings. The multiplayer was infinitely blood-pumping and, given the last-man-standing modes, I was scared at every moment. Plus, the campaign did offer actual scares, examples being the Kryll and navigating the towns at night. Don't get me wrong, even though I continue to criticize Gears of War: Judgment and, on occasion, Gears of War 2, I love all of them. They all offer the same great Gears of War third-person shooting fans have grown accustomed to. I suggest, for Gears of War 4, the tone should go back to the original Gears of War. It might just be a personal thing and perhaps nobody else can relate at all, but I found Gears of War to be one of the most thrilling games of all time, and still do to this day, even with its age. There still are last-man-standing modes, but the blood-pumping has not been present, for me, since the original game.
Again, this is probably a personal thing, and many might like the more action movie-esque vibe. Also, it probably seems like I'm being a hypocrite. After just talking about wanting bigger maps and multiplayer, I mention that I want to be scared. I believe, however, both can happen at the same time. And if they can't, then I'll still gladly accept whatever Black Tusk gives us, as long as the classic Gears of War gameplay is brought back.
Gears of War is by far my favorite video game series. Even though there have been some missteps, I will cherish the games until the day I die. With Gears of War 4, there is tons of opportunity, and I've already put in my two cents worth. Regardless of whether these elements will be integrated, I will always remain faithful to the franchise. Black Tusk, the next era of Gears of War is in your hands. Make it count.