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OnlySP Favorite Games 35 - Gears of War OnlySP Favorite Games 35 - Gears of War

Editorial

OnlySP’s Favorite Games #35—Gears of War

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Thanks to the staff of OnlySP, I am inviting you to come on a journey through our 50 favourite games. Some of these are forgotten gems, some you will guess straight away. Others cover more than one game in a series, or compare two similar games.

This week we continue by joining Richard for a seriously influential, but not too serious, action classic.

#35. GEARS OF WAR, by Richard Flint

Gears of War is one of the most beloved gaming series from Microsoft to emerge out of the late 2000s, and remains highly popular to this day.

The game was conceived by Unreal Tournament legend Cliff Bleszinski and fellow Epic Games colleague, Rod Fergusson. Initially, Gears of War, was set to be a horror game akin to Resident Evil with the cover system of Kill Switch, before the team took a much more action packed direction with the series. However, many of the horror elements remain within the series due to dark yet rich world building and the iconic enemies known as the Locust. The graphic and excessive violence accompanied by the testosterone-teeming design of the characters was a perfect embodiment of classic Sci-Fi horror movies such as Predator and Starship Troopers. This gory approach to the third-person shooter genre resonated with fans immediately from the first, and now classic, reveal trailer in 2005.

While many new franchises ease gamers into the story, allowing them to absorb the world around them, Gears of War throws players into the deep end as they take control of recently incarcerated protagonist Marcus Fenixkicking off with Fenix being released from prison by long-term friend and fellow veteran soldier Dominic Santiago. The clear bond between Fenix and Santiago is a staple of what made the game such an enjoyable co-operative experience, as fans gradually learn the intricate backstories of the two characters. During the duo’s escape from the jail, audiences are first introduced to the menacing Locust enemies, a species of mostly humanoid creatures the emerged from underground to wipe out humanity.

Few foes in gaming are quite so terrifying and as iconic as the Locust horde. Ranging from humanoid brutes, to creeping bloodthirsty beasts, to hulking masses of explosive power, the swarm of enemies that emerged on E-Day varied greatly which made for great changes in pace during combat. Throughout each game in the series, multiple new villains were added to spice up the gameplaysuch as the growing Lambent threat that was hinted at early on in the series. The Lambent was a name given to those, mainly Locust, who had over exposure to a fuel source known as immulsion. After prolonged exposure to the substance, those infected would become explosive. The inclusion of an exploding group of enemies was an excellent addition as it mixed up the otherwise mid-ranged to close combat focused battles with the new fear of keeping the volatile creatures away. Another interesting detail was that the two enemy groups would also combat each other as well as the player making for some intense and chaotic scenarios.

Accompanying Fenix and Santiago in the fight against the monstrous hordes is one of the most colourful ensembles in gaming history. Completing the four man team of Delta Squad are Damon Baird, a genius inventor with a bad attitude, and Augustus Cole, a lovable ex-celebrity football player. The pair would eventually go on to become beloved fan favourites and receive more screen time in later games and even spawn their own prequel game titled Gears of War: Judgement.

The release of Judgement sparked a large divide in the community as it saw the beginning of a new age for the franchise. With Gear of War 3 concluding the main trilogy in spectacular fashion it was a surprise to receive another addition to the series so soon afterwards especially following the departure of Cliff Bleszinski. Bleszinski was not only a face for the franchise but also a driving force behind the production that oozed enthusiasm whenever he made an appearance. With the loss of one its lead creators, long term fans became skeptical of Judgment’s release. What followed was a rather lacklustre release with a fairly underwhelming campaign.

Thankfully, the future of Gears seems bright with the continuation of a sequel series of games following the story of Marcus Fenix’s equally jacked son, JD Fenix. Gears of War 4 managed to continue on the legacy of Gears while still allowing both generations to feel like their own contained story. Without delving into spoiler territory, the game features multiple links to past Gears titles sprinkled throughout to satisfy any returning player. Gears of War 4 even strips back to basics from the otherwise expanding series by reducing the co-op player count back to two players rather than four. By returning to a story focused on fewer characters the game had more room to explore the all new cast including JD’s long term friends and fellow badasses, Del and Kait.

The core essence of Gears will continue on into the announced Gears 5 in 2019, however not all seems bright with the inclusion of a Funko mobile game and an XCOM clone titled Gears Tactics. Some fans may rejoice regarding the additions to the franchise in the form of different genres of gaming, similar to how Halo Wars was a welcomed success. Only time can tell what the new projects will bring to the table, but now is definitely an interesting time to be a Gears fan.

THE THIRD-PERSON ACTION GAME

The scale of Gears of War‘s success is no less than the impact that Super Mario Bros and Devil May Cry had on their own genres. At the peak of their respective consoles’ popularity, each was also responsible for imitators—good, bad, ordinary—and like those other series, Gears of War continues to divide fans of action games regarding its mechanics, presentation, and lasting impact.

The unequivocal upside of Gears was the advent of several equally-beloved franchises in its wake. Mass Effect. Uncharted. Most of Ubisoft’s contemporary settings. True, the off-center, over-the-shoulder perspective had been pioneered by the critical darling Resident Evil 4, but Gears‘s implementation of a cover system sent shock waves through the industry. More than ten years on, the series continues to represent this time of change, like Devil May Cry and Mario before it—but Gears still has more to boast of than the now somewhat-pat ‘cover shooter’ genre.

Underneath the series’ slick bluster and fan-favourite characters is a level-to-level action trip that sits outside modern games. Ten years of RPG elements and design for player choice has left Gears of War as the only blockbuster franchise that is not trying to dilute its formula—and the stop, pop, roll and repeat structure seems practically arcade-y in comparison to Assassin’s Creed Odyssey or Marvel’s Spider-Man.

The downside of this, however, is that very few new games can be directly compared to Gears. Perhaps the key lies in the series’s straightforward action: the aforementioned Uncharted series, as well as the latest Wolfenstein and Doom (though those two are in the first person), all offer exciting, dynamic action. The XCOM series, though not an action game, shares some of the oppressive-alien-war tones as Gears—and games like Quantum Break, Ratchet and Clank or 2018’s God of War are tonally distinct but full of third-person action and varied set pieces.

On the horizon, Remedy Entertainment’s Control looks to be the next innovative third-person shooter with a bevy of supernatural powers at players’ fingertips and a suggestion of metroidvania to the level design. Square Enix are also giving the genre another shot with their Front Mission spin-off, Left Alive. In 2019, though, fans will still be most excited for Gears 5, which naturally introduces more enemies, new weapons and bigger levels.

Thanks for joining us for a look at one of Microsoft’s biggest games. Leave a comment with your own preferred action franchise, or your own stories of Gears of War, and we will join you next week for a fighting game with surprisingly robust single-player modes.

Single-player games coverage. Every day.

E3 2019

The Winners of E3, According to OnlySP

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E3 2019

The OnlySP team has been rather negative about E3 2019 as a whole, sharing undisguised disappointment about Ninja Theory, Microsoft, and Ubisoft in particular. However, we are gamers first, and the show had plenty to excite, so we wanted to share at least a small ray of positivity by rounding up some of our winners from the past week.

Best AAA Trailer

Cyberpunk 2077

Two of the most anticipated games of 2020 topped the list, with Cyberpunk 2077 just pipping Final Fantasy VII Remake. The trailer was exactly what you want from a major production with the insane amount of hype that Cyberpunk 2077 is enjoying: mystery, emotional story moments, and heart-pounding action.

As if all that is not enough, one of the hottest stars of the moment, Keanu Reeves, was revealed as a cast member.

Doubters were all but silenced, and everyone else was gratified. Even better, we got a release date: April 16, 2020. Could anyone possibly lust for more?

Best Indie Trailer

Tie: Spiritfarer and Way to the Woods

As usual, Microsoft brought the ID@Xbox goods to its E3 stage, and we just could not pick between these two.

On the one hand, the team at Thunder Lotus Games finally unveiled its new project, Spiritfarer. The game brings back the glorious hand-drawn art style that had us falling in love with Jotun and Sundered, marrying to a unique take on the Charon myth. Furthermore, Spiritfarer’s low-key charm and gorgeous watercolour was a perfect counterpoint to Cyberpunk 2077, which preceded it.

On the other hand, Way to the Woods got a sparkling new trailer. The two deer are simply gorgeous, and the bright colours and mellifluous music make the game seems a journey befitting the glory days of thatgamecompany. Simple puzzles, a moving story, an entrancing atmosphere… We just want Way to the Woods on its way to our homes.

Favourite New Game Announcement

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Sequel

E3 2019 had no shortage of enticing new announcements, but nothing was quite so enticing as Nintendo’s “one more thing.” After Breath of the Wild set the world on fire in 2017, a sequel was basically a foregone conclusion. Even so, that brief tease set our hopes alight.

In truth, we know next to nothing about this new project—other than that it is set in the same version of Hyrule as its predecessor and Zelda is rocking a slick new hairstyle—but its mere existence is enough.

Biggest Surprise

Keanu Reeves is in Cyberpunk 2077

I may have already mentioned this, but Keanu Reeves is going to be in Cyberpunk 2077.

If we need to explain more, the world of gaming is familiar with seeing TV and film stars cross over—Kit Harington in Call of Duty, Emma Stone in Sleeping Dogs—but Reeves is a particularly hot property right now.

Moreover, the word is that this is more than just a brief cameo. Reeve’s character, Johnny Silverhand, has been a big part of Cyberpunk lore, and CD Projekt RED reportedly spent 15 days capturing his performance.

Even Watch Dogs: Legion looking as though it is finally going to deliver on the promises of the first game is not enough to beat Keanu.

Favourite Stage Personality

Ikumi Nakamura

Full disclosure: the team picked Keanu, but Keanu can’t win everything, damn it!

Therefore, this award goes to Ikumi Nakamura, protégé of Shinji Mikami, who took the stage during Bethesda’s press conference to reveal Ghostwire: Tokyo. Where most presenters—even developers—are reserved, sharing the soundbites that make the games sound appealing, Nakamura radiated enthusiasm for her project.

Put simply, Nakamura was a ray of sunshine to remind us all that game development is not always about cynicism and monetisation; sometimes, it is about genuine love and passion.

Biggest Winners

Nintendo

With “gamers” one of the options on the list, I thought this category would be a foregone conclusion. However, the outcome proved that adage about what happens when we assume things…

The team voted for Nintendo, and the why is easy enough to understand. A new Legend of Zelda game will always be an event. The addition of Banjo-Kazooie to Super Smash Bros. is a long-overdue coup. Luigi’s Mansion 3 looks better than it has any right to. Meanwhile, Daemon X Machina, Astral Chain, and Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order all got great new showings, and we officially learned of the arrival of The Witcher III: Wild Hunt and Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch (among other, slightly less exciting titles) on the Switch.


These winners were all decided by those of us who stayed at home. However, you may have noticed that we had Mike Cripe and Dimitric Edwards on the show floor, so they went hands-on with a bunch of games the rest of us could only gawp at.

Over the coming days and weeks, Mike and Dimitric will be delivering previews of Final Fantasy VII Remake, Wolfenstein: Youngblood, and Biomutant, as well as a few interesting interviews, so we’ll have plenty of fresh details for you all to pore over.

First, though, coming tomorrow will be Mike’s hands-off preview of one of the show’s most contentious games: Marvel’s Avengers.

For all those previews and much more from the world of single-player gaming, be sure to bookmark OnlySP and follow us on FacebookTwitter, and YouTube. You can also join the discussion in our community Discord server.

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