With Gears of War 4 being one of the Xbox One’s big hitters this year, and the Xbox One being my first Xbox, I figured it’d be a good idea to be all caught up on the series. Even though I DID play the very first Gears of War on PC, I bought the Ultimate Edition because it came with all of the Gears of War games FREE through backwards compatibility. Neat, huh?
GEARS OF WAR
Aside from the absolutely incredible facelift this game got from its original, one thing remained surprising: underneath its somewhat dated and clunky controls was an eerily familiar cover-to-cover mechanic that pretty much defined the modern “cover-based shooter”. But the first outing didn’t keep it safe: it was loaded with surprising sequences of explosions and gore, and ended up turning into an epic campaign that trumped all of the competition in a sheer, raw beefcake-versus-everything non-stop thrill ride even if its story was a bit lackluster. There’s no denying Gears of War entered not only Epic Games and the Xbox 360 into a whole new tier of awesomeness in terms of both graphics and gameplay, but it laid the groundwork for the gaming industry to follow with mechanics that still see use in today’s games such as The Division.
I give Gears of War… a 9/10.
GEARS OF WAR 2
I thought to myself playing through this for the first time, “really, how can they make the thrill ride any more beefcakey?”. To my surprise, the game took it up to 11. Not only did vehicles enter the fray, but so too did an even more evolved storyline. And while the vehicles handled clunky with odd physics, Gears of War 2 did what people at the time probably didn’t think was possible: make it bigger, bigger, and storyline-ier. The fight became more of an all-out war, and towards the end there is a surprising and tear-jerking moment that left me with feels, ones that all the biggest muscles in the world can’t protect a man from. It was more action, more intensity, and more humanity, none of which was even expected. And even if it was, the leap from the first Gears of War to its sequel is nothing short of stunning in every facet ranging from its expanded gameplay options to its graphical scope on the field of war.
I give Gears of War 2… a 9.5/10.
GEARS OF WAR 3
As I entered the third entry, I began to ask myself once again, “so NOW what are some of gaming’s most popular beefcakes going to pull off?”. To my surprise, not only did it include finally giving the team some female love in the form of Anya joining for field work, but also managed an even DARKER tone. By turning the fight towards humanity, Gears of War 3 took on a more horror-inspired approach, returning to a form more similar to the first Gears of War. Sadly, this return to form also meant a bit of a step back from the epicness of Gears of War 2, and the focus in Gears of War 3 seemed to have begun what I feared would eventually happen: lose a sense of direction. While it still manages to come together competently with what feels like closure, it basically took all that works and stuck with it, playing it safe and not ruining anything in the process but not really breaking new ground, either.
I give Gears of War 3… an 8.5/10.
GEARS OF WAR: JUDGMENT
While this can be considered not a main entry, it can also be considered one of the most bold. Also, I was at first confused by the timeline, so for anyone else wondering: this entry precedes all the prior games as a prequel. But moving into the game itself, there were several mechanical changes that favored a much faster pace of gameplay, and ultimately it paid off in what I felt was the most modern and good-looking of all of the Gears of War games. Unfortunately, this one step forward was met with two steps back, as the more corridor-oriented and mission-based structure kept things feeling a little too much like a sundry list. While it was nice to play as different characters (including a redhead with a perfect butt), the bold step-by-step mission structure kept the game feeling limited despite its far superior and more intense shootouts. Fortunately, they made sure the characters were each “characters”, and I’m glad they managed to develop each one competently enough to have them grow on you.