[Update: With Gears of War 3 releasing Tuesday, we had to bring this back (originally published, August 2, 2010. Also, read our Gears of War 3 review]
Say what you want about Cliff Bleszinski - but the man has style. While other developers have been focused on proving that videogames can be art, Bleszinski and the Epic Games team were combining chainsaws with automatic weapons and redefining dismemberment physics.
It should come as no surprise that, when the decision needed to be made as to whether or not an admittedly insignificant character should be shuffled off his digital coil in the upcoming Gears of War 3, Epic chose the road less traveled. Specifically, the developer has placed the fate of the eldest Carmine brother, Clay Carmine, in the hands of Gears fans.
Surprisingly, this seems to something of a polarizing decision for the Gears faithful - a group of gamers who have been weaned on a steady dose of slicing countless locust hordes apart with a lancer. While message boards and comment sections across the vastness of the internet have been filled with the ravening blood-thirsty rabble expected of 21st century online mob-ocracy, in this case there also seems to be an equal number of compassionate online warriors dedicated to the proposition that even pixelated lives are sacred.
Epic's solution to this moral quandary is a partnership with Child's Play that launches a three-pronged attack on our hearts and minds.
The rules are simple. As of Thursday, July 29th, Epic has made available two Xbox Live Avatar shirts for the very reasonable price of 80 Microsoft points with the proceeds going to Child's Play - a charity that supplies toys, games, books, and cash for sick kids. The shirts are red or black and say either "Carmine Must Die" or "Save Carmine," respectively. Whichever shirt sells the most, wins. So whether you love democracy, charity, or free market economies, Epic's given you a reason to participate.
The only remaining question is, what will you choose?
After all, life or death isn't a decision that should be made lightly. So now that you've had a few days to mull it over, Game Rant's Riley Little and Jonathan Poole go toe-to-toe in an effort to sway your decision about the fate of Clay Carmine.
Carmine Must Die by Jonathan Poole
Look, guys, I'm not a sadist. I don't enjoy being a voyeur to suffering. I'd just as soon sit down with a group of Locusts and play a rousing game of Scrabble in a show of positive bi-species interaction as I would stick 'em with grenades and run like hell. But the former just isn't how the Gears universe works. Above all, Gears of War is a story of survival, dependence on your friends and loyalty in the face of inevitable destruction. There's no happy ending here for anyone - and that's part of the reason that Carmine must die.
But believe me, friends, I don't say this because of maliciousness and I'm definitely not looking forward to Carmine's death - in order to satisfy some kind of perverse gratification. Rather, Carmine's death could serve as a fitting turning point in the overall narrative. Allow me to explain.
The death of the first Carmine brother, Anthony, was important because it showed that death in the Gears universe is persistent and unrelenting. While Lieutenant Kim was killed in a dramatic fashion by General RAAM, Anthony Carmine was simply shot in the head after his rifle jammed. Anthony's death was almost meaningless and, in a way, much more potent for the casualness with which it happened.
The death of the second Carmine brother, Benjamin, was important because of his innocence. Overeager in conversation and green on the field of battle, wondering when Benjamin might die was nerve-wracking. When his death finally came after falling out of a helicopter, subsequently his chest was melted by parasites, we were again shown the indifferent nature of the Gears universe. Once again, a Carmine brother died for nothing.
The reason that Clay Carmine must die is to show us that sometimes, occasionally, there is victory in death. I don't want Clay's death to be comical or arbitrary, I want it to mean something, to inspire hope. Unlike Anthony and Benjamin, I want Clay to go out in a blaze of glory; a blaze that ensures that the Carmine name is burned deeply into the history of Sera, white-hot and unavoidable. I want Clay to redeem the Carmine name so that it stands for sacrifice - unflinching obedience to duty and victory at any cost.
The point would be particularly fitting - as many equate the Carmine brothers with the average, anonymous COG soldier.
In short, Clayton must die so that the Carmine legend might live.
Save Carmine by Riley Little
The Carmine lineage has been offset by a couple of devastating losses. Anthony Carmine was the first to die fighting for humanity’s freedom - when he was shot by a sniper while trying to un-jam his beloved lancer. Benjamin Carmine, Anthony and Clay’s little brother, had a longer run than Anthony, but was eventually torn apart - while inside a giant worm’s stomach.
Marcus Fenix has already watched two Carmines die under his watch and I hope he’d do everything in his power to prevent that from happening again. Never in video game history have fans been able to determine the fate of a character - so we need to take the path less traveled and do something with this opportunity to save Clay Carmine.
The Carmines have always been some of the most entertaining characters in Gears of War; they’re awkward, troubled, and always funny. Anthony and Benjamin were both in their early twenties and act just like any kid thrown into a war would - but Clay is different. He's the oldest and those awkward gun-jamming years are gone - we’ve entered the era of Carmine badass-ness. Clay is a very different breed than his deceased brothers - he’s noticeably more muscular than Anthony and Benjamin, his main weapon is a Mulcher (which he carries with one hand), and he’s not afraid to mow down waves of Locust while simultaneously choking the life out of the nearest Grub. Clay is a bad ass, and badasses shouldn’t be killed - they should get medals.
Clay has been through a ton of nasty business — I’m not only referring to the loss of his little brothers - Clay has been shot in the head. Take a close look at his helmet, this guy took a round right to the dome and still wouldn’t stop fighting. Clay Carmine has a considerable amount of bloodlust, and who could blame him. He’s got issues, issues he's trying to work out - by leaving mounds of dead Locusts in his wake.
Let’s take a step into Clay’s shoes for a moment. Both of your brothers have been killed trying to fight off the genocide of the human race, and now there is a t-shirt campaign to decide if you are going to live or die the next time you go into battle. That’s Clay Carmine’s current situation, and it’s a dire one to say the least. It’s true that Clay does have one more little brother left, but if Clay is gone, who will look out for D. Carmine? We could also look forward to seeing the Carmines play a more of a pivotal role in the story - instead of showing up, only to get shot in the head.
The biggest argument by people who want to see Clay dead is that “Killing a Carmine is a Gears of War tradition,” but that doesn’t really mean anything. Cliffy B. has repeatedly said that he's pro-tradition, pro-killing Carmine but, if that were entirely true, we wouldn't be getting to vote in the first place. Is it possible that the Carmine-curse is weighing on Bleszinski? If there weren’t a vote, Epic Games would have made sure that Clay met the same fate as his brothers - but that’s exactly why you should vote. Exercise your right to choose. He’s the underdog but Clay could bring serious potential to the Gears of War series, potential that will have been wasted if he gets offed in Gears 3.
It's up to you to decide - vote now by purchasing your avatar shirt:
Save Carmine (Male) (Female)
Carmine Must Die (Male) (Female)
For more information about Child's Play - head to the charity's official site. Remember, regardless of whether or not you decide to off Clay Carmine, at the end of the day it's for a good cause.