Gears of War: Judgement looks awesome - but why a prequel?
- Epic Games
Bulletstorm was excellent, and to my eyes absolute proof that People Can Fly are a studio with potential. Brutal, inventive, irreverent, brilliantly-paced and surprisingly well-written; Epic's influence was felt throughout, of course, particularly in the art design, but it was very much People Can Fly's game.
On the flip side Gears of War 3 was all Epic – in more ways than one, featuring some of the best set-pieces ever committed to a shooter throughout a truly compelling campaign. The writing may have been full of bromantic man-moments, posturing and creative cussing, but it was a great end to a great trilogy and, arguably, provided the swan song when it was needed – right before things began to stagnate. With barely more than a handful of additions between the third game and the first, the enduring popularity of the series stands as testament to a very successful template that Epic got absolutely right – but how long can you keep walking the same road? Three games long, in this case, and then, slowly but surely, "If it ain’t broke, don't fix it," starts to become "Oh, this again".
Which brings us to the newly-announced Gears of War: Judgement. An unmistakably Gears title developed by People Can Fly. People Can Fly who, earlier this year, announced that the sequel to Bulletstorm had been shelved indefinitely to focus on other projects.
The big question is: do we need another Gears of War? The bigger question is: do we need a prequel set during the war we just ended in Gears of War 3? The biggest question is: are Baird and Cole able to carry us through like Marcus and Dom did? The answer to all three questions is, unfortunately, the same.
That's not to say it will be a bad game – far from it, in fact; the Gears of War gameplay template is solid, the cover system impeccable, the art style dark and brooding and inspired – and if anyone can do the name justice besides Epic, it's People Can Fly. Also, it looks very, very slick in the gameplay trailer shown during E3 and the idea that the battlefields will be less scripted and more open to tactical, freeform fire-fighting is an exciting one in of itself. More Gears should be a good thing, more Gears should have us punching the air.
The war is over. The Locust are beaten. We played through almost twenty hours of desperate firefights, exhilarating set-pieces and at least three square meals' worth of deep-fried awesome to reach the war's conclusion. What came before Gears of War 1 is irrelevant, unless we're exploring the Pendulum Wars or even Fenix's early career and the legendary Battle of Aspho Fields. But we're not. Instead, Judgement goes to a much earlier point in the war we just won, to an event that we don't need to care about because... Well, we just won the war.
And who do we get as a protagonist? Damon Baird, the snarky loudmouth who irritated from the sidelines throughout the main trilogy. Arguably the most clichéd of a clichéd bunch (even more so than the Cole Train, the black former-athlete who says "sheeeet, bay-bee" every five minutes), is Baird really the one to carry a plot? Maybe, but it better be a very short plot.
More Gears of War should be a good thing. We should be excited ( We loved Gears 3, as you can see from our review), but the story was important; the increasingly desperate struggle was important; all the sacrifices were important. How important will Baird's story be? How essential?
The war ended, so the only way to go forward would be to create a new enemy a la Halo 4 and create a new struggle – way too much hard work for the writers of this series. But the trilogy is hugely successful, too successful to leave alone. So you have to go back. But do you risk going somewhere the fans have never been and introducing new characters? Some would – but not PCF. They pick known characters (but not too well-known, because we already had in-depth backstory on Marcus and Dom) and insert a chapter into the history of something already concluded.
We’re all for more Gears of War, more Locust, more chainsaw bayonets, more slamming our shoulders against waist-high walls. But give us something compelling, something NEW, something to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with what has gone before and remember, if the story ain’t switching up a notch, if the characters aren’t going to be bigger and badder and more likeable than they were before, then the gameplay had better be.
Gears of War: Judgement is being developed by People Can Fly and is due for release in 2013.
Words by Mick Fraser (Twitter: @Jedi_Beats_Tank)
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