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Gears of War

Marcus Fenix and His Cardboard Posse

Marcus Fenix in pursuit of depth

Gears of War is exactly the sort of series that shouldn't, on paper at least, appeal to me. A ridiculously macho nonsense in which an array of increasingly large and uncharismatic men run about in suits of power armour, hiding behind a series of low walls, and shooting aliens in the face while spitting terrible lines of dialogue at each other. Its characters' designs and personas are the sort of bulky charmless entities a scrawny teenager might invent in the back of an exercise book while entertaining thoughts of revenge against school bullies.

Yet, somehow, appeal it does.

While the story is some convoluted sci-fi fare that pits humanity against its own creation (I think, it could never really hold my attention) the level design and the sheer crunchiness of the combat grabbed me and has kept me playing through the entire series. The first game introduces the Locust (the supposed baddies), and the COG (the supposed goodies) including the main character Marcus "Range" Fenix whose personality runs the gamut from angry and quiet to angry and loud, and asks you (as Fenix) to blast said Locust into pulp. So far so ordinary, however, the shooting, the cowering behind cover, the brutal splattering of enemies is done in such a satisfying way that it overcomes its narrative and cast shortcomings to become something brilliantly enjoyable to experience.

Gears 5's Kate, with Marcus who has grown a beard by way of character development

And over the years, they did improve the story and characters (though they're a still a little to shy at retiring the old crew) and by the time Gears 5 arrived, we had a genuinely likable and charismatic cast with some emotional depth to their characters, flawed as they may be. I recently played back through Gears 5, Gears of War 3 and Gears of War 2 (in that order) and each has its own spectacular set pieces and pulse raising moments. They all still feel great to play, with the later installments continuing to refine the mechanics of their predacessors.

And they're all on Game Pass.

Play them.

Rating: GEORGE W. BUSH

The uncharismatic face of the military industrial complex still managed to be a vote winner.


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