Epic’s Gears of War series is one of the most popular available on the Xbox 360, but it has never really been known for having great stories in spite of having some powerfully emotional moments throughout. A path to remedying this was begun by bringing Karen Traviss, a somewhat prolific scribe of speculative fiction novels including a number based on video games, on as writer for the third game, but the developers are aiming even higher with the latest entry. The new writing team consists of Tom Bissell, a contributing editor for a number of respected publications including Harper’s Magazine and The New York Times and Rob Auten, a consultant at 20th Century Fox and this pairing seeks to take a different approach to the storytelling, as related during an interview with Eurogamer.
A large part of this stems from focussing on the characters of Cole and Baird, bringing them and their friendship to life in a way that feels authentic. Said Bissell:
“We really worked hard to make Cole and Baird’s friendship actually feel like something that’s not stated. It’s not told to you. ‘These guys are best pals, watch them go.’ We actually tried to give them more moments to actually see them relate to each other as guys that really love each other and we worked really hard on making that connection something that’s actually real.”
Auten went on to explain the dynamic between them in a bit more detail:
“Their connection is sort of like a camp friend. These guys haven’t known each other for very long and they’ve fallen for each other very quickly. They rely on each other, they are kind of a dual creature and they share brains and brawn between them.”
This approach is to be commended, but it is allowed as much by the series profile as by the intentions of the authors, as explained by Auten a little later on:
“The nice thing about having the locusts as the enemy is that we never really hear about their motivations. They’re monsters. And that gives you a lot of time to work on the character to character stuff. Because when the moral rightness of their characters is established you don’t have to argue over the ramifications of marching through these endless waves of enemies like you do in something like Spec Ops. They’re monsters that you’re plowing through because they will f***ing kill you if you don’t.”
In keeping with this, the game will eschew the disconnection between cutscenes that try to strike a tender emotional chord and brutal, over-the-top action in gameplay. Instead, the plot will be relayed almost entirely during the gameplay with cutscenes acting as a framing device as the main characters give their testimonies at their trial. Bissell claims that this decision is so that:
“There’s not that weird disconnect where the story is telling you our hero cherishes life so much he’s willing to charge across the world to save it and he’s going to kill a thousand guys on the way there.”
“Gears has never been about the sanctity of life. It’s actually the opposite. It’s a brutal, savage world in which people are fighting for their lives. I think Matthew’s (referencing Matthew Burns’ assertions that games, at their current point, are inherently unable to tell a truly great story) right in the sense that most people choose to tell the wrong kind of story in a shooter space. This is a brutal, savage game about a brutal, savage world in which people do really brutal, savage things and it’s all is grounded in itself. So we’re not seeing contradiction in it to the degree I think a lot of shooters suffer from.
“When you’re making a shooter story, you have to be very careful about the kind of story that you want to tell for there to be any hope that it’ll be good.”
As always, we’re excited to see an attempt at elevating the storytelling in games and the particular approach used by this pair to marry gameplay and narrative. From what has been said in the aforementioned interview, they really do understand the Gears of War series and should prove to be more than capable of doing it justice. You can read the thoughts of the writers regarding the series through the link at the beginning of this article.
Gears of War: Judgement is in development at Bulletstorm developer People Can Fly and is currently slated for a release towards the end of March 2013, exclusively for the Xbox 360. Follow OnlySP as we continue to bring you more news on this game, and most others that should appeal to all the single players out there.