So Long, Sera
I'm one of the idiots who actually made a point of tuning in to MTV's sophomoric unveiling of Microsoft's sophomore console in the fall of 2004, and the embarrassing spectacle left a pretty sour taste in my mouth. And to be clear, at that point my Xbox was my primary gaming machine. I kept my Gamecube and PlayStation 2 at the ready for the few wonderful games that were still trickling in (GTA: San Andreas, Resident Evil 4 and Shadow of the Colossus...what a great period for gaming) but with Halo 2 burning up the University Housing intranet, nothing in my dorm room got more play than my Xbox.*
But with a weak launch lineup and a massive price tag, the Xbox 360 didn't sway me right away. No surprises there. I held off until 2003 to get an original Xbox, after all. But the Xbox 360? No thanks – I'll stick to my standard-def consoles for now.
That was my mandate, and it served me well. Then it was late 2006, and my buddy Dan invited me over to play Gears of War.
The next day, I bought an Xbox 360.
I think it's easy to forget just how transformative Gears of War was for this console generation. So many of its core components – third-person cover-based combat, visceral camera effects, co-operative gameplay where positioning is paramount – are now seen in almost every major blockbuster game.
More than anything, the experience of playing felt genuine in a way no other game had. Characters moved with an uncanny sense of weight, guns sounded raw and real, and chainsaw kills delivered a disgusting-yet-intoxicating sense of victory that I'd never experienced before. It felt like I was playing a game from the future.
I played through Gears of War cooperatively more times than I can count. It was the ultimate buddy-game, with satisfying combat, tight pacing and brilliantly composed combat sequences. And the story was pitch-perfect, with a rag-tag group of gruff, oversized space marines bickering and talking shit while fighting against impossible odds. It's summer blockbuster popcorn fare as translated deftly to the interactive space.
Gears of War 2 didn't impress me like the first game did, although it did manage to deliver a solid experience start-to-finish. But for whatever reason I was beyond excited to finally play the third chapter in the series. And it really didn't disappoint.
I played through it entirely in co-op, as Epic intended. And honestly? It was just fantastic. There's not much more to be said. If you like Gears of War, this is the best game in the series.
I was surprised just how sad I was when I reached the end. Gears of War isn't a game with a story to tug at the heartstrings or anything, but I felt a sense of loss I couldn't really explain at the time. Since then, I think I've figured it out:
This was the first true next-generation game – the first game to make me a believer in the next major stage in game design – and seeing it come to a close is a little sobering. Sure, Epic is bound to make a new game in the Gears universe sooner or later, but I can't help but feel like this is something of a swan song for the Xbox 360, even if the next console hasn't yet been announced. I'm sure great things are on the horizon, but as far as games go, finishing Gears of War 3 felt very much like I was finishing a major chapter in gaming.
We don't hand out review scores at Silicon Sasquatch, but given how brilliant a job Epic has done in concluding the Gears of War series, I'm going to skirt around tradition and award Gears of War 3 a record-breaking ten out of ten shitloads.
Well done, Epic. Thanks for pushing the status quo so far ahead and for building something truly great.