Gears Of War is a third-person shooter in which you take control of a giant man wearing a bandana and chainsaw equally giant alien creatures in half. Somehow it manages to make this an emotional, and at times, frightening affair.
The game bounces between explosive set pieces, unsettling, almost survival horror exploration, and tear jerking bro moments.
This wild oscillation would throw most games off balance, but Gears handles it beautifully. Come to think of it, this focus on movement is what makes Gears so special. Not only in relation to pacing, but in how these burly meatheads pull off jumping forward rolls like it’s nothing and slam into cover with a buttery smoothness.
It wasn’t a rigid system either, but one you could easily manipulate to add your own flavour, your own rhythm. All the Gears pros “Wall Bounce”, and I wanted to be as ‘cool’ and ‘hip’ as them when I started to sink time into the game each evening after school. For the uninitiated, wall bouncing is a way of cutting your character’s momentum short by pulling back just before they’re about to careen into a wall, thus briefly resetting your position, and then flinging yourself at another wall. Rinse and repeat. The magic lay in mixing in shots between your bounces, perhaps with the odd roll too. I poured hundreds upon hundreds of hours into blending these moves together, etching combos into my muscle memory to outplay people in multiplayer.
For me at least, Gears has this depth across its modes that most games don’t quite match. I care about the characters as much as I love dancing around enemies in multiplayer and blowing chunks off the Locust. Even as the series grows dimmer with every release, I hold onto this faint glimmer of hope that the devs will recapture the magic of the first. Lancers crossed.