I’m Not Excited for Gears 3 Campaign
I’m excited for “Gears of War 3″ for many reasons, but the campaign is not one of them. There, I said it. The multiplayer is going to be the best in the series, I have no doubt, and the new Beast Mode addition to Horde is going to be great. But Epic has taken a fundamental wrong turn with their design of single player “Gears,” and they seem determined to keep walking that direction.
The original “Gears of War” campaign was one of my favorite single player (or co op) experiences for the Xbox 360. The sequel was one of my least favorite. I’ve played the original through five or six times and conquered all difficulties, I could barely sit through one play of “Gears of War 2.” Would you like to know why? Do you know what separates the original “Gears” from the rest of its progeny?
You know what comes next. Hit the jump.
The difference between “Gears of War” and “Gears of War 2″ is simple: tone. The original was, in my opinion, as much a horror game as anything else. There were shadows everywhere, the atmosphere was cramped and claustrophobic, they even borrowed the flying light-phobic things from “Pitch Black.” No one remembers this, but “Gears” was actually more akin to “Resident Evil 4″ than “Halo” (although it was admittedly not quite either).
I suspect they did this for budgetary and technological reasons. The player was stuffed into claustrophobic spaces because the engine was so taxing, they couldn’t afford a long draw distance. Bungie even complained about this when their series was stacked up against “Gears” graphically and found wanting, pointing out that everything in “Gears” happens in corridors.
And yet, as is so often true in art, limitations set them free. Years before Epic Games, “Blade Runner” inherited its dark, smokey look from a lack of money to do anything else. “Gears of War,” by the same token, developed a tight, nightmarish vibe it wouldn’t have had with more graphical horsepower, and that horror edge made the campaign outstanding. Quite accidentally, Epic stumbled on a winning formula.
If you want to see just how accidental their success was, look no farther than “Gears of War 2.” With more time and money on their hands, they blew that draw distance to hell, and damn the expense. They went for massive, sprawling battlefields, aerial combat, riding Brumaks, giant fish monsters, and hundreds of characters on the screen at the same time. It was Epic trying to out-”Halo” “Halo,” and it was pitiful. For one thing, their tech didn’t hold under the pressure, and clipping, pop-in, aliasing and slowdown were common. But more importantly, the soul of the original “Gears” was gone, smothered under a blanket of excess.
With everything we’ve seen of the campaign for “Gears of War 3,” it seems likely that Epic is steaming ahead with the “bigger, louder” philosophy on their last trip into Marcus Fenix land. They’re literally afraid to back off, to go for atmosphere over scope. What saddens me is how the true soul of “Gears of War” will be lost to history. No one remembers just how claustrophobic and horror-influenced the original was, how it was far more like “Aliens” than “Star Wars.”
“Gears of War 2″ created a false rendering of what this franchise is all about, one that I believe makes people remember the original incorrectly. And with “Gears 3″ poised to follow in its footsteps, will anyone remember the true heart of “Gears of War”?
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