I love a good cliché. Don’t you? The way a whole subject or personality is summed up one easy-to-notice bite and damages everything it was trying so hard to cultivate in its own style.
Things like grumpy commuters, Hollywood hot-shots like Charlie Sheen or moaning about not having the heart to dump someone even though you’re not that into them anymore. So cute.
Then there’s Gears Of War 3. This ‘blockbuster release’ is the third instalment of an Xbox exclusive, third person shooter series, set on a planet where insect-like aliens commit genocide against Humanity.
You take control of the hulking, great big muscle-men (and women) of the army you’re rooting for, or ‘Gears’ as they’re known. They quip and blast their way through hours and hours of storyline while guts explode, rockets explode and, ok, everything explodes.
Yup, it’s a video game cliché; probably the biggest I’ve ever played. When I picked Halo as my go-to no-brainer console shooter of choice, I expected I’d picked one of the beefier-plotted, hard-man character, drab-coloured shooty games out there. Turns out I’d picked the colourful, subtle, well-acted game with the engaging plot.
Since it’s the third in the series, and eagerly awaited at that (though by whom, I wonder. 15-year-old boys spring to a mind struggling to comprehend how a game like Gears garners any critical success at all) the plot of Gears Of War 3 is quite complicated.
Which is a shame as the plot is pretty compelling especially for those who’ve become loyal, passionate fans of the Gears Of War brand and its universe (see comments below), it’s just the dialogue that stinks. Though, as it turns out, playing the first two games is a pre-requisite for believing the Gears Trilogy is the greatest first-person video game story ever written. It isn’t, no. See Bioshock for that.
Well, here’s a Gears 3 summery; Fenix, the main muscle-man, is in jail. Then he isn’t. The planet he and his team are on is over run by aliens, or two different types of alien, and the humans are surviving like scavengers, hiding out on a massive floating war base (or ‘boat’). Then Fenix’s dad is still alive (who knew!) and he’s a top scientist and then the ex-President shows up like he didn’t run away at the first sign of trouble, years ago. Then he dies. In short: it’s bad. Humanity is on its knees and the death toll is extravagant; it’s a dark time. Not that the Gears give a shit, oh no.
They prattle through Humanity’s final mission to save itself with Die Hard-like comebacks and breeze through the barren landscapes, littered with death and bodies, joking away like they’re somehow aware it’s all just a video game and, no matter how bad it gets, take comfort knowing you can switch the Xbox off and have a nice cup of tea whenever you like. Or maybe it’s brilliantly witty dialogue. Nah, it’s not that. Really, it’s not that.
Epic, the makers of the Gears Of War series have excelled in one slightly unnoticeable place, though. The controls are seamless. Really, playing Gears Of War 3 is fluid and borderline enjoyable, if the plot, design and colour pallet didn’t get in the way.
Running to cover, picking off aliens, reloading and running to the next cover point is brilliantly executed. Three games in, however, and that’s pretty much what people expect. As someone else pointed out; video games mature and ripen with sequels, films rot (generally speaking).
Then there’s the multiplayer. This is top-notch too. The Gears series always excelled in multiplayer gaming with many different game modes, upgrades and compelling play – even if the delicately engineered ‘cover and shoot’ mechanics are chucked away in favour of blasting your foe till death. And repeat.
Gears Of War 3 expands on all this fun, however, with effortless integration of online modes, more options within the modes and a plethora of co-op options. Nerdy, endlessly good stuff.
The opposite of this, though, is Gears Of War 3 having game modes greyed out while it waits for the right time to release them as downloadable content (DLC). This feels like a slight punch in the neck, to be honest. The cherry on that would be, I dunno, dozens upon dozens of useless funky patterns to cover your guns or muscle-men in, costing dozens upon dozens of pounds. Bad DLC management, Epic. Bad.
Worse of all, though, is the cliché Gears Of War 3 perpetrates. This could be a Duke Nukem-style game; deliberately exaggerating gaming’s biggest clichés – like hulking men, pithy dialogue, endless bloodshed, wise-cracking ballsy women you only find in games like this – to celebrate a withering genre of shooter. But, it just isn’t. All the Gears Of War titles are this obvious. The game HAD to be like this.
Gaming is a platform of infinite ideas and at a time when cost and trends push games into the same narrow genres, with Gears Of War 3, Epic does nothing more than cement the baggage its more innovative peers struggle to drop.