Gears Of War Is Still My Favourite Shooter

Gears of War Is Still My Favourite Shooter

Francis is the closest thing to a hardcore gamer I have in my life. He's the kind of guy that bought a DualShock 4 controller on his lunch break one day before the PlayStation 4 had officially come out just so he could hold it. Buying the PS4 over the Xbox One was a calculated decision he can justify many, many times over.

So when he asked if he could stay on my couch one weekend while he was attending a wedding for one of his cousins, I knew that saying "yes" meant that we'd be playing some serious video games. It was just a question of which ones. We only had a few hours by the time he got back on Saturday night, so we had to choose wisely.

I hadn't really started playing Titanfall yet, so I wanted to try that. Francis had gotten into that game early on his PC, but he was curious to see how it measured up on the Xbox One, so he consented. We would switch off.

I booted up the game on my Xbox One.

"I'm excited to finally see this," I said, tensing up my shoulders. The anticipation for Titanfall had been more than breathless.

"It's pretty cool," Francis said.

We were greeted by an "update required" message.

"God dammit," I looked down at my phone. We were supposed to meet friends at a bar downtown in two hours or so, which gave us maybe an hour to actually play anything.

"Uhh…how about Plants Vs. Zombies?" I asked, picking up the Garden Warfare box. Francis gave his assent without looking away from the screen — of the TV or his phone, I can't remember which.

Another loading screen. And another. We thought about switching to the PlayStation 4 to play Killzone.

"Fuck it, man." Francis said finally. "Let's just play Gears of War."

I was more than happy to oblige. A few minutes later we were fending off waves of clammy white zombie-looking monsters called Locusts, enthralled in a routine spectacle.

"I feel like that's been the next-gen experience so far," Francis said, laughing. We were both pretty giddy, the way we always get when we start playing the game's horde mode. "Try to play Titanfall, settle for Gears of War."

Gears of War Is Still My Favourite Shooter

That could easily describe my experience with the new Xbox and PlayStation, though I wouldn't call it "settling." I enjoy the ambitious work that's beginning to come to the two consoles. Titanfall and Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare have already won me over in particular.

But switching the allegiance of my go-to shooter of choice is a much more involved process than being wowed by impressive visuals and new types of gameplay. It's something that will probably only come with time as developers and players alike settle into the new hardware. So for the time being, I keep being pulled back into Gears of War.

Gears of War 3, specifically. And it's not even that whole game, though I do play through Marcus and Dom's entire saga whenever I find a friend who will go along with me. That doesn't happen very often anymore, however, so really what I end up playing is the game's horde mode. And, occasionally, I'll play king of the hill when one of my fellow Gears holdouts demands it.

Gears of War Is Still My Favourite Shooter

I keep playing Gears of War because I see no reason to stop. The series has been out for almost eight years now, and I still haven't gotten tired of playing through the same challenges — even the same maps. The morning after Francis and I tried to play Titanfall, my roommate and I started playing a round of horde while Francis packed his bags. Hours later as the sun started to set and Francis was well on his way back to Chicago, we were still playing.

The game is so finely tuned that by the time creator Epic Games took a third lap around the development track for Gears of War 3, it was near perfect. Everything in the game just fits so well together. Staring down one of the game's giant bazooka-wielding enemies known simply as a "Boomer" while the friend sitting next to you screams to hold on until he can get back to cover feels just as invigorating today as it did in high school and college. The same goes for that rush of adrenaline that comes every time you land an instant kill with the torque bow, the game's powerful but slow-aiming futuristic longbow-type weapon.

Partly this stubbornness is brought on by the obstinacy of the crowd. People don't cross hardware generations in a single, unified leap of faith. They trickle across slowly as they're won over by the beauty of promises delivered or the pestering of insistent friends. Very few of my game-playing friends have gotten the PlayStation 4 yet, and even fewer have bothered with the Xbox One. Even when I bring up the best games on both systems, therefore, they often fall on deaf ears.

The hesitance to give oneself over to something new is rooted in profound memories, however. Gears of War might be a silly-looking game set in a flat grey universe pulled from some b-rate sci fi thriller about killing space aliens, but traversing that world has created many bonds for me. I played Gears in passing throughout the final years of high school and well into college, but I only really got into the game with my friend Salim the year after we graduated.

We'd meet several days a week at his apartment after working our internships or shaky first jobs. Exhausted and overwhelmed, we'd sit on his couch together concentrating on the gory action on screen while we narrated the day's events to one another.

I've made a surprising amount of friends this way. Salim and I would play the game together over a case of PBR before going out on Friday or Saturday nights. When I moved into my last apartment, my roommate gave me a funny look when he saw me unpacking the full extent of all my gaming systems. Later that week, I got home to see him sitting on the couch, intensely focused with his head inches away from the TV screen.

"Wanna play Gears of War?" he asked once he looked up.

Gears of War Is Still My Favourite Shooter

My new roommate and I first got to know each other by killing hordes of Locusts, too, before we'd ever discussed going in on a lease together. Only time will tell if Gears becomes one of those system-keeping classics like Super Smash Bros. or Mario Kart: Double Dash that make diehard fans hold onto an old console long after its prime, but it seems telling to me that whenever the game is around, it's what I end up playing with friends.

This has lead to some ridiculous moments. Last year, I went to visit Francis for a few days on my way to and from Thanksgiving. We were planning to spend one of these days on shrooms since he'd bought a batch a while back and wasn't sure how much longer they were going to last.

Or at least that was our logic. For some reason, we hadn't planned on Chicago being absolutely freezing in late November, which it was. So after eating our peanut butter Nutella and shroom-sandwiches and trying to step outside for approximately five seconds, we ended up back in his living room shivering and wondering what to do.

"Well, I guess we can play Gears of War and figure it out from there," I suggested.

There are moments playing video games that I'm never going to forget. Lifting off to Gears of War the first time I took hallucinogens is one of them. The drugs took a while to kick in, but at a certain point we were screaming "TICKERS" and "LAMBENT" every time a new wave of those enemies arrived.

Gears of War Is Still My Favourite Shooter

Gears is an extremely gory game, so the constantly squelching sound of splatting corpses got way too intense once we were good and high. After we saw our space marines heads get crushed under the foot of one the Locust foot soldiers, I dropped the controller and put my palms over my eyes, inhaling deeply. Francis leapt off his chair and started rolling around the ground cackling wildly.

We both noticed his cat as if for the first time. Descending upon the confused animal, Carlo put out both hands and whispered, "...1080p." We both bent over, cracking up again.

At a certain point that afternoon, an unpleasant email from an editor I freelanced for came in that put me in a bad spiral. I ended up sitting on a chair that was really just a car seat they had in their apartment for some reason, staring out the large kitchen windows into an abandoned lot across the street.

"I'm...feeling...a lot of negative emotions right now," I said, my eyes bulging and my legs bouncing up and down rapidly.

"Just try to push them out," Francis said, also looking out the window as the sun slowly set. "Make room for other, better ones."

The past few years hadn't been an easy transition for any of us. Salim eventually decided he couldn't cut it in New York, and after returning home to Boston briefly he packed up and moved to Dubai — the one place he said a family friend could help him get a job. Instead of playing Gears of War, mostly talk when he messages me from a bar there after work saying he's still looking for a way to come back.

Francis, has been trying to look for jobs that will let him relocate too, but he's held back because of his citizenship status. And at the time we were playing Gears last November, I was working as a full-time freelance writer with no idea how much longer I was going to be able to find work.

These are all real-life issues that are much more challenging that reaching the next level in horde. But in its own weird way, Gears of War reflects these modern anxieties that young men face. At its core, after all, the game is about the friendship between two men — Marcus Fenix and Dominic Santiago — both of whom have experienced profound loss. The tagline for the third game, "Brothers To The End," seems like a heartwarming display of bromance until you play through the game and realise how fatalistic "the end" truly is. Marcus and Dom do keep supporting each other, but that support only takes them so far.

My relationships with my friends has changed as we've grown and become separated by frustrating realities. We're not always eager for further change, therefore. And I'm no more ready to leave Gears of War behind than I am to let these people go.


    Played Beowulf on acid....what an experience that was.

      Lol, Kotaku needs more drug fuelled gaming stories. I spent a day on acid at the GameOn Exhibition many years back. Dunno if anyone remembers it but ACMI in Melbourne got a collection of old and new consoles and arcade machines and you could play all the games, it was awesome. Nostalgia, 8-bit sound and acid, hell of a combination... I got stuck playing Halo 3 multiplayer death match for hours against randoms (mostly teenage kids). Don't think anyone was aware how high I was, but I came out from the underground exhibition at one point and there just happened to be a big dust storm which had turned the sky red, so naturally I lost my shit.

      I went to the movies to see City of the lost children on a T lol

    I have fond memories of GoW. Game was quite the showpiece at launch. Back then I didn't have cover shooter fatigue either. I also enjoyed the lack of story, quick set up then shoot shoot shoot. It reminded me of the pacing of action movies of yore which didn't bother too much with story after setting up the premise. The insistence of 'improving' the story in the sequel stopped me from ever bothering with the third. Maybe one day ;)

    I'm still looking for 4 player co-op for the main campaign of Gears of War 3 and the DLC campaign.

    and 5 player co-op for pretty much all of Hordes. Pretty much don't know anybody who wanted to team up in Gears of War, and if I did they always treated me as the extra wheel.

      If you ever find a couple hit me up. I've done it already but would be happy to lend a hand.

      GT: Nomad AUS

        I'd be interested. Though I will be tied up with uni for the next couple weeks or so.

        GT: Infraspinatus

          It'd depend on how committed the group was. Me and some mates blasted through the campaign on a Saturday, half playing on insane.

            and Arcade mode changes that up. Requiring only one person to survive until respawn to prevent checkpoint reloading.

              Yep, plus you're able to use the infinite ammo mods in arcade, so handy.

    only on kotaku would you find someone who is apparently a gaming journalist who doesn't realise that 90% of new games require updates....

    How much of Gears Of War's appeal comes from that local multiplayer? Even if it's only 2 player split screen, most of the times I played any of the three games in the main franchise, it was with my brother or a friend.

    It's not coincidence that the best games on PS4 currently are also local multiplayer. Developers and publishers lost their way last generation with their online only multiplayer. Open your eyes and understand that games are meant to be played with friends, not strangers. The moments you remember are never fleeting anonymous headshots. They are the moments you stay up all night with your friends shouting and laughing at each other's victories and defeats.

    I understand restricting the game to one player allows for better graphics and more units sold, but that short game attitude isn't what got companies like Nintendo its overwhelming good faith. It's not why Guitar Hero and Rock Band seized the world for a long time. Make good experiences consumers can actually share with their friends and you'll never have to worry about money.

    Of course the game has to be amazing as well, and as far as I am concerned, there isn't a game out there that is better balanced than Gears Of War. Even the first game was pretty much perfect in its weapon balance over competitive play. In Halo, when someone got a rocket launcher, the odds were stacked heavily against you in a one on one encounter. In Gears, you could only have a pistol and it would still be a fair fight. That kind of balance is what makes the game great.

      In Gears, you could only have a pistol and it would still be a fair fight.

      Ehhhhh if one person had a shotgun and the other didn't it's pretty one-sided.

        Depends which game you're talking about. And I'd argue that it was a proximity issue in that case.

        In Execution mode, the true Gears of War multiplayer mode, people wouldn't be so reckless with sawed off shotguns and dive at you with reckless abandon.

        Sure, in Gears of War 3 there were an increase in those cheap sort of deaths via sawed off shotgun. But there was always something that could be done. The Retro Lancer was a strong match up against the Sawed Off. Heaps of stopping power.

          Proximity is always short thanks to the abundance of chest-high walls that allow people to move through the map without trouble and be able to vault over and instant one-shot with that overpowered Gnasher.

          I forget what Execution was. Is that the gametype where you have to either down them 3 times or perform an execution? If so then the Gnasher was only used because it excuted people from range.

          Funny thing about the Retro Lancer and DBS, all the Gnasher abusers did was complain about those weapons for being overpowered because their shotgun wasn't overpowered anymore. Eventually getting nerfed until only the Gnasher remained again.

            Yeah execution was one life only. But you had to be executed. I think that victory in that game only had meaning when defeat had it too. Gears was perfectly suited to a no-respawn system. Staying alive, thanks to the cover mechanics, was a lot easier than other games, so the punishment for death made things more intense.

              Yeah, but cover was worthless when you discovered that not only could someone bounce around the walls to you, but also stun you if they jump over the cover you're behind, leaving you destined to death by shotgun.

              Could have been improved if like, holding down the melee button with the Chainsaw or Bayonet caused people jumping over to instantly die.

        The pistol in GOW1 was quite effective against shotgunners. It was my main tool of destruction. It dawned on me one game where an opponent kept slaughtering our team using a rapid fire/strafing/melee technique. Basically, if you didn't gib him on your first shot you were done for. I started trying it out and was ludacrisly effective. And I never looked back. I became a pistol whore! It didn't really work in GOW2/3 though.

          I only ever played one match in GoW1 (for achievement) and by then GoW2 was almost out.

          I remember during several matches in weekend events in GoW3 where the shotguns were removed, I slaughtered everybody with my rifles. The only time I remember dying is when someone snuck up on me with a chainsaw.

          I remember hearing at the end of one match where I went 30/3, "Man, fuck this rifle bullshit!".

    Gears of War 3 and Halo Reach are the two things I really miss from my Xbox days.

      Why not go back?

        Oh okay, Kotaku doesn't want to do spoiler tags anymore. Sure whatever. Sorry everyone who wants to scroll down past this!

        I dunno. I kind of moved on. I slowly got disenchanted, almost mad at the 360 and Microsoft and Xbox Live. Something happened inside, I grew discontent with the idea of paying to use my internet connection a second time, where I was once fine with it. (I just checked though, $30 for three months? Has it always been that way? That seems cheaper than I remember.) Hypocritically I would later go on to pay for an MMO subscription, but that's another story.

        It was an unfortunate combination of events, really. Back in Reach's hayday, I was great. I played a lot, I was flying up the ranks faster than all my friends. I loved it, and Big Team Battle, and the DLC, and Wayont! Fucking Wayont. Beautiful Wayont.
        My first big achievement was saving up the 2,000,000cR for the flaming head. That felt great. Then I managed to get to mythic, I think. We'd seen a few mythics about in our time, usually kicking our asses in awful displays of domination. I called them "moons" cause of their full moon icons, and then I was one. That felt good.

        But for better and worse, things changed and I moved. The new suburb was closer to schools and works, but with a grievous drawback: No landline! I went from living in the black spot between two interchanges, to no internet at all. From like $60 a month for 200gb (or something) to $60 for 12gb of wireless internet.

        That was fucking murder, I tell you what.

        It also killed the 360. The wireless internet in Craigmore was almost as bad as its nonexistent landline. Originally with Optus, which gave no coverage 70% of the time, we crawled back to Telstra. More coverage at least, but the allowance was next to nothing. 400mb a day. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy.

        The internet dongle was incompatible with the 360, too, so after some time I managed to get one of those wireless receivers. Unfortunately, since months had passed, a lot of games needed patches, and those patches were just not downloadable on that internet. They would fail every time. I found the Xbox's lack of transparency frustrating here: would it be so hard to tell me how big the file I'm downloading is, what speed I'm downloading? Give me something more than a percentage! This probably added to the disenchantment. (I'm told that neither the Xbone nor the PS4 give these details either, so great work nextgen consoles.)

        Years have gone by, and the internet situation has improved. The xbox situation though... I mean, Halo 4 has come out, Gears of War: Judgment has come out, a lot more unrelated games have all come out since GOW3/Reach's heydays. The last time I played either of them, they seemed pretty dead. I'll let you tell me how their communities are faring these days (and while you're at it, tell me how Halo 4 is going, I always enjoy a good laugh).

        Why not go back? I'm not sure if I can and I'm not sure if I have much to go back to.

        Last edited 27/05/14 5:23 pm

          So because Turnbull is old and outdated you fell out of gaming?

          Well, if you can find a group of people for custom games or co-op play you can still play.

          Reach still has a decent population. At least in Team Slayer, Infection and BTB there's a good number of people. If you're looking for local only gaming though it may take some time to get into a game. Only problem is though, every now and then you'll come across a group of 4 Inheritors who have severe SDS that only go into Team Slayer to dominate and destroy. They don't really care if their attitude is destroying what population remains, but then again when did they ever?
          You don't have to worry about updates, the gametypes holding those changes are dead. Completely dead. That TU was also the first population hit for the game because 343i was only listening to MLG.

          Gears of War 3 has A.I. bots. Until the servers shut down it's impossible to not find a game. While you may be against bots due to the lack of challenge, at least it gives you some room to use other weapons. Once another player joins you may as well just stick to the Gnasher. I imagine though that everybody just stuck to the Gnasher-only Raven down gametype.

          As for Halo 4, HA! That was dead the following January after release. The multiplayer changes and sever lag from no local only search option just made everybody quit. Doesn't help that they really, really messed up with new maps (forcing players to buy them to play most gametypes).
          Judgement had something similar happen, although that game only sold half the amount due to fatigue.

            >So because Turnbull is old and outdated you fell out of gaming?
            Maaan I really couldn't do much! I remember when I first got the wireless thingy for the Xbox, I was all "yeah, I'm gonna play and have fun again!" I ended up lagging out of half of the games of Reach, lagging hard in the other. It was depressing. Not to mention what it did to my sweet KDR... By the end of it, I was bitter.

            Well it's nice to hear that it's still going. Roaming packs of insane MLG jerks were always an occasional issue in BTB, I can't imagine it would be any more fun in team slayer.
            >>You don't have to worry about updates
            The only issues I had with updates is that I couldn't download the damn things, ever. It was awfuldome 5000. Those days are in the past, thankfully.
            (PS: what's SDS?)

            I have no real issue with bot games. They're still fun, and compared to some of the more insane players, a lot easier. Unfortunately, bots don't mean squots when it comes to Horde and Beast mode. I really dug beast mode. And those medals, that was fun, if not an awful grind at times.
            They gave me something to work for, at least.

            >Halo 4
            Ehhh, that's a shame I guess. On one hand, it's kind of a shame to have mostly missed it's incredibly short heyday. I didn't even get to do that online story campaign thing they were doing. On the other hand, fuck those guys completely. You know what those motherfuckers did? In Halo 3, my emblem was the unicorn. It was sweet and awesome. In Halo: Reach, my emblem was the unicorn, it was still sweet and awesome. But Halo 4? Those cockbites took my unicorn emblem of the previous 5 years, and made it an exclusive to the people who shelled out for the Halo 4 Xbox 360. I'll be mad at them for that forever.
            I gave Halo 4 a chance once my net improved, for about a month or so. Then I asked my friends, "wanna play Reach?" and it was more fun.

            Ah, Reach.

              They're easy to spot though. If matchmaking finds 4 players at once there's a good chance they're a team. But the MLG tryhards are all the same players, if I go into 'Recent Players' I can look at thier gamertags and if it's the same players I back out until they're in a game.
              Look up SDS, I don't think I can explain that without getting reported.

              Oh, you always needed a group of tight friends to play Horde or Beast mode. Even when matchmaking worked it wasn't a good idea to use it for those gametypes.

              Don't worry about missing Spartan Ops. You can do it by yourself anyways, for no reason they gave you infinite lives to complete each mission. Even so, doing them were dreadfully boring. I didn't even finish the whole campaign, I was so bored. Trying to muscle your way through with 4 players is a worse idea as there's a 3 second lag input.
              Wasn't much better in multiplayer. I still remember the last thing I did before I gave up. I stepped on a mancannon, launched myself across the map, rubber banded back 3 times, landed, commited suicide. I just got up and turned the console off, I was that pissed.

          Kinda in this boat. Maybe I'm naive, but I expected at least the first entries of interesting new IPs with this new generation but instead we get Halo 5 and... probably Gears of War 5. Sure, there's Watch Dogs but I suspect that might wind up being this gen's Assassin's Creed (not my bag) and while I was looking forward toTitanfall, its community has fallen off a cliff in only two months.

          Last edited 27/05/14 7:52 pm

            It shouldn't. but it kind of bothers me that they're making more Gears of War (Gears of More?).
            Like, 3 was pretty good. It was it. All the loose ends wrapped up; Lambent are dead, Locust are leaderless and probably going to go home and chill, having lost a lot of their forces to the Lambent, Marcus is more alone than ever but Anya is actually taking up the role of love interest properly, the origin of the Queen is alluded to but handwaved as unimportant enough for the moment, it's over.
            Any sequels set after 3 are gonna feel like Halo. I guess if they're lucky, they can make Gears of War: Reach and strike gold, but I think that's what Judgment was supposed to be.

          I'm currently in your boat. I used to pay $60 for 200GB and now I can't get a landline at my current location. I basically have 3GB for $30 prepaid on my ipad which I can tether my Xbone to if I want. It's all good until your game or OS needs an update. I can't currently upload any times to Trials Fusion cause the Xbone needs a dashboard update to be online. I also can't redeem my Watch Dogs pre-order trinkets either cause I can't spare the 300MB for the system update (and the game will most likely have a day one patch over a gigabyte in size).

          I really took my internet for granted when I had it. And I didn't realise just how gimped modern systems are without internet. Luckily I'll he back in Adelaide soon with that sweet, sweet internet!

            3GB? That's pretty insane. No image-heavy websites, definitely no youtube... when you have so little internet you really watch everything you do closely, especially when you're paying a premium.

            Just make sure that when you move back to a place with a landline, to organise your internet/ISP ASAP. We moved in and still had to wait 2 weeks for internet (half of that time was them somehow forgetting about us, which was not well received news).

              Yah, I'll be moving at the beginning of July. So I'm going to call any day now and get the wheels turning.

    Gotta say, I agree. GOW3 is my go to game especially Horde mode. Couldn't belive the clusterf3ck Judgement was. If Microsoft bring out a Gears game for the Xbox1 I'll buy one there and then...As long as Horde is included this time....

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