Videogame (2006). Epic Games (EG). Designed by Cliff Bleszinski. Platforms: XB360 (2006); Win (2007).
Gears of War is a squad-based Third Person Shooter which shares much with the same developers' earlier First Person Shooter Unreal (1998). The setting is an interstellar colony planet, ravaged by subterranean Aliens known as the "Locust Horde" and defended by the titular human soldiers. The tone is that of the more Clichéd kind of Military SF; Gears features orbital laser weapons and a main character who begins the game in Prison, enthusiastically macho dialogue and a great deal of splattered blood and body parts, all within a brutal world where humanity's army must destroy its own cities to deny them to the enemy. As might be expected, the gameplay focuses on a largely realistic approach to combat. There is much emphasis on the need to take cover from enemy fire, whether in the single player game or in the variously competitive and cooperative multiplayer options. In essence, Gears of War is a well-crafted action game, with impressive visuals and a primarily linear narrative based around a formulaic war story which is delivered with considerable verve and an abundance of references to popular culture (see Interactive Narrative).
Gears of War 2 (2008 EG, XB360), designed by Cliff Bleszinski and with a script by Joshua Ortega, is a sequel with similar gameplay and a somewhat deeper story, based on a counter offensive against the Locusts. Ultimately the player is forced to destroy humanity's last redoubt in order to defeat the enemy. In Gears of War 3 (2011 EG, XB360), designed by Cliff Bleszinski and written by Karen Traviss, a new, but equally hostile, alien species emerges from underground to threaten the few survivors of the previous game; ultimately both they and the remaining Locusts can be utterly destroyed. Fundamentally, the considerable commercial success of the Gears series may be due to its effectiveness at making its players – usually, but not exclusively, men – feel that they have become heavily muscled, highly competent, hyper-masculine future soldiers, regardless of how much they resemble this stereotype in everyday life. Arguably, this makes the games a kind of interactive analogue to such films as The Chronicles of Riddick (2004) or to the Space Wolf novels of William King.
Related works: Gears of War: Judgment (2013 People Can Fly [PCF], XB360) designed by Wojciech Madry, Arcade Berg, Oliver Barder is a prequel created by other hands. Gameplay and tone are similar to those of previous instalments, but the main storyline takes place during a series of flashbacks from a framing sequence in which a team of soldiers are being court-martialled for their actions on the day the Locust Horde first emerged from their underground lairs. A coda focuses on the actions of the same characters during Gears of War 3.
Gears of War: Hidden Fronts (2007 EG, XB360) and Gears of War 2: All Fronts (2009 EG, XB360) are expansion packs for the eponymous works which add more locations for competitive games between players in temporary Online Worlds. Gears of War 3: Horde Command (2011 EG, XB360), Gears of War 3: Forces of Nature (2012 EG, XB360) and Gears of War 3: Fenix Rising (2012 EG, XB360) similarly add new areas for multiplayer games to Gears of War 3. More interestingly, perhaps, Gears of War 3: RAAM's Shadow (2011 EG, XB360) serves as a distant prequel to the original game, with some sequences in which the player adopts the role of a Locust commander. Finally, Gears of War: Judgment – Call to Arms (2013 PCF, XB360) and Gears of War: Judgment – Lost Relics (2013 PCF, XB360) extend the titular game with new options and locations for player versus player combat. Gears of War: The Board Game (2011 Fantasy Flight Games [FFG]) designed by Corey Konieczka is a Board Game in which players must cooperate to complete randomly constructed missions based on the events of the first two Videogames. Gears of War: Mission Pack 1 (2012 FFG) designed by Corey Konieczka, Brady Sadler is an expansion.
Gears of War: Aspho Fields (2008) by Karen Traviss is a sequel to the original game which focuses on the histories of its world and major characters. Several other Ties followed, all by Traviss. Thus Gears of War: Jacinto's Remnant (2009), Gears of War: Anvil Gate (2010) and Gears of War: Coalition's End (2011) are set between Gears of War 2 and Gears of War 3, and tell a single continuous story while depicting the games' characters in rather more detail than they receive in their original medium. Gears of War: The Slab (2012), meanwhile, is a prequel to the first game which also provides additional backstory for the third. Gears of War (2008-2012) is an associated Comics series, written variously by Joshua Ortega, Michael Capps and Traviss. [NT]
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