What Gears Fans Want in New Installment: NOT Innovation

Posted by mangaz137 (20 posts) -

Gears of War, a flagship franchise for Microsoft, is a series which has been through a bit turbulence as of late. Before discussing what should be done to the new sequel, it's necessary to understand what the fans and the franchise have been going through.

Up until recent, Gears sequels had consistently hit the near-impossible niche between new features and mechanics, and maintaining the classic feel which made the original Gears of War a complete dark horse success. However, 9 months after Gears of War 3 ended the trilogy, Microsoft revealed an entirely new Gears game, Gears of War Judgment, before Gears 3 could even wear its welcome. While fans have bashed this sequel enough, it's important to note why this out-of-house project failed. Whether it was to cater to a wider audience or funded from the beginning as an effortless money-grab from Microsoft, one thing is certain: so much of what made Gears Gears was missing.

Judgment left fans with a bad taste in their mouth. The fate of the series was uncertain, and fans would likely have preferred no sequel at all to a second Judgment. However, once word escaped that Epic Games had sold the rights to Microsoft, the news bred mixed emotions; would Microsoft give the franchise back to People Can Fly for a Judgment 2 or could a heart-felt new Gears of War be developed for Xbox One? Well, Microsoft executive Phil Spencer assured fans that the poor reception of Judgment was acknowledged, and he recognizes the importance of such a sequel for the future of the franchise. Also, it was revealed that Rod Fergusson, a man who has been influential to the Gears of War series since its inception, would be a creative lead. The possibility for a great sequel was beginning to look realistic.

To the dismay of some, a recent article on Gamespot reported Ken Lobb's, Microsoft Studios creative director, thoughts on what Black Tusk Studios had created so far, describing them as "innovative". This vague, overused game's media term is likely the last description Gears fans would hope described the new sequel. 'Innovation' is what turned so many people off to Judgment's "unique" creative decisions.

So where is the line drawn between true innovation and stomping on what made the original trilogy so great? These are my suggestions on what the next Gears needs to return to its roots.

Classic Map Design

There are few components of a game's multiplayer that determine its success or failure than map design. Historically, Gears of War's maps have ranged from dreadful foul-tips, such as Stasis and Gondola, to absolute home runs, like Jacinto and Gridlock. A few key characteristics are what separated the classics from the garbage.

For one, symmetrical maps have always complimented Gears' attrition-centric combat. Two equal forces meet on even terms, and the team with the greatest cohesion comes out on top. This has always been the heart of Gears, and maps which give teams an equal opportunity to collect power weapons and gain footing are usually the ones which stay in players' hearts. Maps which are just a cluster of cover are usually confusing, and make hit-and-run guerrilla tactics necessary and frustrating. While occasionally an asymmetrical map can add some welcome variety, symmetry helps generate the firefights fans love from Gears.

That being said, if the new Gears is going to include maps from previous games, keep the maps untouched. Gears 2 launched with the Flashback Map Pack, which was an absolutely genius idea. The maps themselves, fan-favorites from Gears 1, were unchanged, but they were given a cosmetic change, giving them a new flavor. But in Gears 3, Epic somehow got the idea that when players kept asking for Jacinto to make its return to Gears 3, they wanted a slightly different map than before. The minor changes ended up majorly changing how matches played out, and the hideous imulsion yellow glow completely ruined what fans had hoped for. Naturally, Judgment had to one-up this slap in the face and introduced the new-and-improved Blood Drive, which added entirely new routes and pathways, ruining that map as well. Bottom line, these maps are classic for a reason, so they should remain untouched.

In my opinion, the absolute biggest damn on Judgment's multiplayer was its verticality. NEVER should a player be able to jump down from so high that height damage is even considered. The slow pace of Gears' multiplayer is what separated it from other shooters at the time. It wasn't like a Call of Duty match where you could run around the map like a monkey, jump-shotting people from every angle. It wasn't like a Battlefield match where there was so much shit happening that it's impossible to comprehend what your opponents are doing, and you're never safe with so many players in such a huge space. In a Gears of War match, a clear line in the sand is drawn between the territory your team controls and the area your enemies protect. In a map like Jacinto, if your team set up a solid perimeter, there was no way someone could drop down from a building and kill you out of nowhere. In a map like Gondola, it's impossible to establish any sort of territory when there's so many levels. Players can hop out of the hanging gondolas and kill you from nearly anywhere on the map. This chaotic environment is the complete opposite of what Gears combat should be about. Maps should consist of a single plane with elevations which can only be entered or exited via slopes or a mantle-climb.

And let's also hope that this game ships with more than 4 maps.

Revamped Customization

While Gears 2 included a few golden weapon exclusives, Gears 3 gave players a wide variety of fun, awesome weapon skins... to buy. It was disappointing to see all of the hyped weapon skins available only through purchase, but that frugality was nothing compared to what Microsoft had planned in Judgment. People Can Fly changed the iconic COG vs. Locust multiplayer teams to consist only of humans. But conveniently, Microsoft could also start selling armor skins, which ranged from tacky to seizure-inducing. And to make matches even more dull, there were only a handful of characters to choose from. The huge cast of Locust and COG to use as a multiplayer model had now been dumbed down to about 10 humans. The individual look and sound of each multiplayer model is so key to the flavor of Gears, so how can the next installment build from lessons learned?

First and foremost, COG vs. Locust multiplayer matches. Period. Unless the next Gears is based around the Pendulum Wars, in which case each team should still be easily distinguishable from one another, not just Red team vs Blue team.

With regards to selling weapon skins, I understand that we live in an era of video games ruled by monetization and microtransactions. However, weapon skins are so miniscule that only the most dedicated players are going to buy that Pulse lancer for $3. The inclusion of challenges in Gears 3 was great, and I think there'd be even more incentive to complete these and play the game longer if weapon skins were awarded upon completion as well. Unfortunately, seeing how Microsoft incorporated microtransactions into their recent next-gen launch titles like Ryse and Forza 4, which are practically free-to-play, the hope that the next Gears won't scrape for every dollar it can ask for is unlikely, but one can dream.

In terms of number of characters, I don't see why a Gears 4 should have less characters to choose from than Gears 3. The models are only cosmetic, so there's no reason why certain characters should be excluded. To build on that, instead of having two separate characters dictated as say Classic Marcus and current Marcus, it'd be fun to let players mix and match armor pieces from different iterations of the character. Microsoft could even begin selling additional clothing items as DLC. Hell, I'd pay for a botanist costume pack for Dom, or a Thrashball Cole armor set. If something absolutely must be monetized, this would be DLC I could concede paying for.

Expanded Horde and Overrun Modes

Of all the things Judgment did wrong to the Gears franchise, the one bit of good out of the project was the seemingly impossible feat of creating a mix between Horde and Beast mode, Overrun. The class-based mode offered the possibility of deep strategy which was never fully realized due to the game's appropriately short lifespan. Horde, a mode which was as influential on the game's industry as the original Gears' patented cover system, was expanded upon in Gears 3, adding an economy system and multi-tiered fortifications. These improvements were nice, but overall felt a little arbitrary when a Berserker could destroy your entire base in a matter of seconds. Multiplayer is core, but Black Tusk would do wise to put some time into revamping these modes as well.

In Overrun, an individual ranking system with branching skill trees for each class would add a ton of depth. With no variations in each class of COG and Locust, it was difficult to justify including a Medic on your squad when a team of Soldiers could keep Locust teams from getting enough money to purchase the higher-tiered Locust at all. Conversely, the Ticker ended up being useless when in the time it took to destroy a spiked wire a Grenadier could have destroyed it in two grenades, and still be a huge threat to COG soldiers. Skill trees would allow players to specialize with a particular class as well as allow teams to spec to team builds, all of which would create an entirely unique but equally fun versus experience separate from standard multiplayer.

Learning lessons from Gears 3, Horde should deepen its fortification and economy system with more useful things to buy, like AI companions or perks. Rebalance the strength of fortifications and let players build an actual base to defend. Wave challenges were nice, but the crates you were awarded with either contained ammo you didn't need or power weapons which were useless beyond Wave 10. Give players more useful heavy weapons or enhancements to their standard weapons like laser sights or extended magazines. In each set of waves, give enemies more practical attributes like increased intelligence, not just more health and damage. Overall, make Horde mode less archaic and give players more ways to spend their money.

Given that Epic planned on shelfing the game for the foreseeable future, fans should feel fortunate that they're getting a new game at all. With Rod Fergusson as a creative lead, fans should feel optimistic and know that the man who helped create the spirit of Gears is guiding Black Tusk to create a project that will reinvigorate the series. All of us Gears fans need to forgive the betrayal of Judgment and go into this new Gears announcement with an open mind.

Unless it's Gears of War Online, a free-to-play multiplayer-only downloadable title. Then give up all hope.

This a relevant and thought-provoking episode of Game Theory which discusses innovation and if it's what gamers really want from the industry. Give it a watch!

#1 Posted by BattleSpectre (5954 posts) -

Damn it's far too early in the morning to read all that, hehe *embarrassed*

I loved the first Gears of War like everyone should have, and played that multiplayer for years on end it was that addictive. I want the new Gears of War to be like the first in regards to the multiplayer, as for the campaign I'm sure they'll blow us away, with the visuals being top notch as usual.

No matter what direction they take with Gears of War I'll always have a spot for it, I've grown to really love this series and it's provided some of the best gaming moments to me. Long live Gears of War! Hoo-Rah!

#2 Posted by cainetao11 (16645 posts) -

I respect your passion and patience to write that, but I couldn't stay interested in reading it all. Maps, yes. I for one don't think Judgment was all that bad. I know I am weird. It wasn't up to the level of the originals and the 7.5 it received was justified. But I don't see 7.5 games as bad. I see 4.0 games as bad. I had fun with judgment.

#3 Posted by mangaz137 (20 posts) -

@cainetao11: There were a lot of stupid little design decisions like the exclusion of Locust in multiplayer, but the way they changed multiplayer from something that required a calculated team effort to succeed in, to a brainless third person shooter where players could just fall out of the sky and get behind you and your team's defense space was what dedicated fans hated so much. Gears is one of my personal favorite franchises, and I understand most people who play Gears casually probably didn't notice how the decisions People Can Fly made affected the metagame, but the hardcore community could tell that something smelled shitty.

#4 Edited by cainetao11 (16645 posts) -

@mangaz137: fair enough. I really only ever played horde mode in mp. I am a day one buyer of all three games, and reader of the novels. Like I said I enjoyed the campaign for what it was. I enjoyed the activating challenges.

#5 Posted by TurboGraphix (309 posts) -

Gears of War was the reason I bought 360. The dark grim environment, the creepy under tones of locust killing the human population and the gritty action was amazing. Gears of War 2 fell short, and 3 was ok. Judgement was fun for a little but not for long. I agree with you by having them make it like GoW1. I spent many sleepless nights walking into high school lookin' like a zombie because of that game.

Warzone and Annex was so much fun and the team work you had to use was on point. I've played many games in my day, but I must say GoW1 is one of the few games where I'd honestly call it a near perfect game. The only cons of the game was the active down longshot sniper rifle and the Host advantage. In my book, those are minor. I'd easily rate it 9.8.

All they have to do is make it like GoW1. Small maps, CQC. All of that made GoW1 the best.

#6 Edited by Solarplex (52 posts) -

I agree, we are not looking for innovation, if somethings great why change it? What we want is closure, an epic ending. Also agree with your point about gears 1.

#7 Edited by nyc05 (10173 posts) -

Even though I loved the first three Gears of War games, I never got around to playing Judgment; I just didn't feel like I needed to play it. Too soon after Gears 3, I guess, or maybe I just had my fill of Gears for the time being. My point is that I don't think Gears needs to innovate, but just be a damn good Gears of War game. A damn good Gears of War game that belongs, and is a worthy enough game to carry the name "Gears of War".

Too often I see that fans of a series want innovation, even drastic changes to the formula that made the game good in the first place. I never agree with that sentiment. If that's what someone wants --a new experience-- they should go play a different game. Gears needs to do what it does and do it well. No need to change anything too much, IMO. I'm certainly not saying never change it up a bit, tweak here or there as necessary, but change the core experience? No f'n way.

I, for one, am eagerly anticipating the unveiling of a new Gears of War. Seeing as the first three were gorgeous and bad ass, I have no doubt that the series debut on Xbox One will be awesome.

#8 Posted by jamejame (10474 posts) -

Multiplayer wise, if they just took every map in the original trilogy, spruced them up graphically, tailored each for Horde 3.0 and Beast 2.0, and kept their original promise of dedicated servers for all (this did not last long in Gears 3) I would be quite happy. The map design was almost always impeccable throughout the series sans Judgment. I also feel like Overrun deserves a place in the 4th official installment as well considering it was the sole feature that had me holding onto to my copy of Judgment for as long as I did.

Campaign wise, I'd love to see slight RPG elements introduced -- the kind you might expect the series to have in it's multiplayer (think CoD), but campaign (or maybe Horde as well) exclusive with further life added here by a sort of Spec Ops mode of challenging side missions/campaigns.

Do this, and I'll gladly purchase. Innovation be damned, Gears gameplay was already golden.

#9 Posted by magicalclick (22399 posts) -

I haven't played Gears MP, but, I agree with unnecessary changes. Like that game after CS:Source. The game is horrible. Game characters all look the same, annoying incendiary grenade, weapons all the look the same, and changes in weapon recoils. Just horrible. Ended up playing CS:S instead.

#10 Posted by mangaz137 (20 posts) -

@jamejame: Yeah, I totally agree with sprucing up the Campaign with some kind of skill tree or something, because Campaign in Gears has always been pretty boring. I actually like what Judgement did with the Declassified mission objectives, mainly because it added a change of pace. Maybe if this new Gears ends up being a Pendulum Wars game we could see customizable soldiers carried through Campaign and multiplayer similar to Halo, and with individual upgrades and skill trees for each mode.

#11 Posted by NiNoKuniGal (9 posts) -

Besides the inclusion of the Sawed-Off, GoW3 definitely offers the best mutliplayer experience of all. And then there's Judgment...ughhh xD

#12 Posted by JangoWuzHere (16029 posts) -

You need to summarize your thoughts, I'm not gonna read all that.

#13 Posted by slakkmichael (28 posts) -

Shit, I didn't know Judgement was pretty bad. I thought it would be its own Halo Reach.

#14 Posted by PrinceRhymz (95 posts) -

Great post

#15 Posted by ObxChillin (116 posts) -

Its hard to imagine a better Gears than Gears of War 3 with Cliff B gone, but i would love a new gears if it played as smoothly as Gears 3 and you could actually play as locust online and had more than only like 5 characters to choose from. Judgment was the worst out of all of them imo

#16 Posted by juboner (371 posts) -

Gears 1 and 2 campaign was fun and new feeling especially with the graphics, but after that I didnt really care for the franchise as much. I had an ok time playing gears 3 campaign could of went without playing it though.

#17 Posted by Lulu_Lulu (10009 posts) -

Judgement was wasn't bad at all. It just strayed even further from the Gears Of War formula than Gears 3 did.

PCF may have failed to carry on the "hardcore" Gears Of War legacy but they still made a great game, emphasis on the word "great".

#18 Posted by mangaz137 (20 posts) -

@Lulu_Lulu: I think it's interesting that so many people actually didn't mind Judgment. Maybe because a lot of casual audience only played Judgment's campaign, which I actually thought was one of the best in the series. What I and other hardcore fans hated so much about the game was its focus on monetization and its bastardized rendition of Gears multiplayer. But again, not everyone is a really dedicated fan of Gears where they'd notice these changes. I think everyone has that one gaming franchise that they love and have just played the shit out of, and Gears is one of those series that has an extremely dedicated following. So I think that's why there's such a mixed reaction with the game between mainstream opinion and the Gears fanatics.

#19 Posted by Lulu_Lulu (10009 posts) -

@ mangaz137

I think their biggest most obvious stupid mistake was removing active reloading from Multiplayer.

Other than that, I think the rest of the stuff was people being angry that there were changes regardless of what they were.

#21 Posted by spike6958 (4686 posts) -

TBH, I want Gears of War 2, but with better online servers.

#22 Posted by Murderstyle75 (4165 posts) -

I just think it suck that Microsoft is wasting Black Tusk on Gears of War. Gears was a really good series, no doubt but it was only good because it's creativity came from Epic Games. While Black Tusk might put some good things into it, another installment will never be pure. I think they should have just let Gears rest and had Black Tusk devote their time and talents to something new, original and exciting.

#23 Posted by bowchicka07 (1073 posts) -

I want a more compelling campaign. I've never cared much for MP on Gears but I like horde. I like Judgement but it was basically just a narration tied in with multiple firefights. It wasn't a bad idea but it wasn't a memorable as 1-3 IMO. Bring in some new characters as well.