Microsoft made the right move when they purchased the rights to the Gears of War franchise from Epic Games. The series was born on Xbox 360, and it is synonymous with the Xbox brand. In fact, I would argue that the only game series more associated with Xbox is Halo. Having exclusive rights to the franchise in order to bolster the Xbox One’s library of titles in comparison to the competition was a brilliant move was extremely important to the success of the system, and I for one am glad to see Gears stay at home on Xbox.
That being said, the most recent entry in the series, Judgment, was a disappointment to many. The first three entries in the series, however, are absolute gaming classics. They spawned an entirely new fictional universe for gamers to get lost in, with gorgeous graphics, memorable characters, and an epic story all tied together with fantastic co-op gameplay.
Gears of War 4 won’t be released any time soon. In fact, I don’t expect it to even be fully revealed until next year’s E3 in 2015, with a likely release date of fall 2016. In any case, the game is sure to be a blockbuster title that is going to be highly anticipated by those in the gaming community. As a fan of the series, I want to see Gears of War 4 done right, and so this is what I hope to see from the potential Gears of War 4.
1. Couch co-op
Number one on the list for a reason, couch co-op is absolutely integral to the fabric of the Gears of War experience. Every game in the series to date has offered split-screen co-op gameplay, mixed in with online capabilities as well, which is really the best way to do multiplayer in this day and age. Too many developers leave one or the other out, when in reality they should be co-existing and working together in harmony, like we’ve seen in the Gears of War titles.
Each entry in the series has made the couch co-op experience even better. The first Gears of War allowed players to go through the entire campaign together in split-screen. The second game in the series made the offline multiplayer a lot more interesting thanks to bots being added to the fray. The third game in the series refined the multiplayer even further to make it more accessible, and allowed two people playing in split-screen to take their game online and join online players. And let’s not forget about horde mode.
I think Microsoft and Black Tusk Studios are smart enough to realize that the Gears series needs couch co-op just like it needs robust online offerings. But just in case they aren’t, I thought I’d get the conversation started.
2. Returning characters and not a whole lot of new ones
A lot of game franchises make the mistake of overstuffing their games with new characters. The most successful game series of all times tend to rely on the same cycle of characters, such as Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Bros. World building and character development is difficult enough to accomplish, so after working so hard to develop these characters over the course of four games, it’d be unwise to completely abandon them for Gears of War 4.
Not everyone needs to come back. This needs to be a new story, either set many years in the future or just after the events of Gears of War 3. Personally, I’d love to see an old man version of Marcus Fenix. I think that would make for some interesting dialogue and scenes. I’d also love for him to return as the main character, as Marcus is synonymous with Gears of War, and the one game that he wasn’t the protagonist totally and utterly sucked. The blame falls on you, Baird.
Usually I wouldn’t be so adamant about the need for returning franchise characters and keeping the new characters added to a minimum, but I’ve seen what throwing a bunch of new characters into the pot can do to the narrative of a franchise firsthand when it comes to the Resident Evil series. The Resident Evil games are some of my favorite games ever, but Capcom adds so many new characters in each game and leaves out old, popular characters to the point where it’s really hard to care about the characters or anything that’s happening to them, unfortunately. I hope Black Tusk doesn’t make the same mistakes as Capcom with Gears of War 4.
3. A new, interesting threat
We’ve fought the Locust to the point where there is really no way that they should be coming back in Gears of War 4. I’m fine with that, but we need a new threat or else there’s no conflict or any reason for fighting. I’m fine with a possible civil war between the humans breaking out, with the occasional giant locust monster or mechanical man-made monstrosity thrown into the mix for boss fights, or even an alien threat from another world. The possibilities are virtually endless, but at this point, it’s time to move on to new foes. Halo found a lot of success with this strategy with Halo 4 inventing and perfectly executing a bunch of new enemies in its campaign, and I’m confident Gears of War can do the same.
4. New weapons
One thing that the Gears of War series definitely has going for it is its arsenal of highly interesting and deadly weapons. Some of the weapons in Gears of War are now considered gaming icons, such as the chainsaw lancer, which is basically what the entire marketing of other first game was based on.
I want to see all the best weapons from the previous games return, but plenty of new ones as well. Hopefully Black Tusk studios can get creative in this regard.
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Gears of War 4 just started development very recently after Microsoft acquired the IP from Epic. It is in good hands at Black Tusk Studios, with former Epic Games boss Rod Fergusson leading development on the project. Time will tell if Gears of War 4 lives up to expectations, but based on the almost perfect track record of the series, I think it’s a safe bet to say that Gears of War 4 might just be a reason to pick up an Xbox One.