The lights are on
With this morning’s announcement that Gears of War is not only alive and well, but has a new home at Black Tusk Studios, we got to thinking about what we want from a new title. With series producer Rod Fergusson on board, we’re confident that the core of Gears gameplay – the “roadie run,” brutal melee attacks, and intense multiplayer – are sure to make a comeback. But this is a new generation with new demands, even on established series.
Staff Black Tusk With Even More Industry VetsBlack Tusk is largely a blank slate. Under its former name (Microsoft Vancouver) the studio helmed Microsoft Flight and a canceled Kinect game for children. The studio has been reborn, and with Rod Fergusson in a “key leadership role,” it has an opportunity to cultivate additional local talent for a return to Sera.
The studio has already brought on staff that have worked on Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine, Rainbow Six Vegas, Max Payne 3, Halo 4, ModNation Racers, and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. Studio general manager Hanno Lemke has overseen Gears of War, Forza, Fable, Ryse, and other games for Microsoft.
One of the wonderful things about Black Tusk’s location in Vancouver, B.C. is access to a wealth of development talent. The Vancouver game scene has taken some hits over the past few years with layoffs and the closures of Rockstar Vancouver (Max Payne 3), Radical Entertainment (Prototype), and Slant Six (SOCOM series, Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City).
Bring Back Classic Competitive MultiplayerPeople Can Fly made changes to the core Gears of War formula that left the multiplayer feeling like a step backward. Instead of bringing back the popular Horde mode that pit players versus AI controlled Locusts (or even letting players choose Locust in deathmatch modes), People Can Fly used the new Overrun mode to give users control of the subterranean horde in player versus player matches. Also, allowing multiple players to use the same characters in TDM and free-for-all removed a handy way to keep track of players without worrying about Gamertags.
“Down but not out” was largely removed, slicing away a major facet of team-oriented play. The gameplay was also sped up, with changes to grenade wall tagging that removed some of the more strategic options. Slowing down the combat, and reintroducing some of the missing features that made Gears multiplayer stand out will endear Black Tusk to multiplayer fans.
New WeaponsWe all love the classic lancer, the torque bow is a source of constant amusement, and there are even some hammer burst fans out there. But we're going to need some new weapons to keep things interesting. The options are a bit limited if the story takes us back in time, but the future holds plenty of opportunity to be creative (see thoughts on the narrative below). For instance, a lancer with a laser cutter that can't be infinitely revved but comes online more quickly would offer a variation on the dismembering theme.
Variants on Locust armaments that offer different kinds of ammunition would give players a way to tailor their play style. As an example, a hammerburst with incendiary ammo and one with electric ammo might offer a choice between damage over time and temporarily stunning an enemy. Weapons make sci-fi shooters, and Gears has always had some of the most creative choices. Black Tusk would do well to remember that.
It's Time For Horde 3.0It’s time to bring back Horde mode. After all, Gears of War is where the now-common gameplay style got its name. Instead of the wave-based cooperative mode, Judgment included an asymmetrical team mode called Overrun with teams alternating between attacking and defending.
The Lost Relics DLC added Breakthrough, which tasked one team with delivering a flag against a defending squad. After countless late night sessions playing Horde mode with friends, Judgment left me feeling a bit empty. Here's hoping Black Tusk is able to recapture the magic.
New Characters, New StoryThe original Gears of War story was wrapped up in a neat bow. Love them or hate them, Marcus, Dom, Cole Train, and Baird have shared all their secrets with us (especially the latter two). It’s time to move on.
We’ve gone backward in time a bit, but Gears fans have been clamoring for a heavier hand on the rewind button. The Pendulum Wars, and particularly the first emergence of the Locust, have a lot of potential for a new entry. A story detailing how the humans put aside their differences to combat the new threat would give writers a chance to further explore the prejudices that exist between the two sides.
Alternatively, a story set far in a rebuilt Sera’s future would present a society with new relationships and a sense of relative complacency about the Locust Horde. We might not need the original emergence day if we can get a brand new one.