For several months we've been hearing industry murmurs of a Kinect-enabled Gears of War game. At first, many fans were hoping the upcoming sequel, Gears of War 3, would include Kinect functionality. As time passed, reality set in and gamers looked to the upcoming Gears of War Ultimate combo pack for hopes of being able to snipe Locust soldiers with nothing but their hands.
Eventually, it was revealed that Gears of War Ultimate would not include Kinect functionality and that, if a Gears of War Kinect title was in fact in production - it would be a new game entirely. Speculation about what this new Gears title might entail have fueled the industry for weeks and now we may actually have some details: Gears of War for Kinect is real - and, according to a recent rumor, it's an on-rails shooter.
The less-than inspiring news comes from a recent Kotaku report, which claims "movement in this Gears of War spin-off would be controlled not by the player, but set on-rails" and that "a demo version of the game appeared to re-use some assets and events from Gears of War 2."
Epic design director Cliff Bleszinski fired off a tweet in response to Kotaku's report, but if you were hoping for clarification or an official announcement, you must not be too familiar with Cliffy B:
"I'd comment on that Kotaku Kinect rumor that just hit, but I can't find the article in their new confounding layout. Oh well!"
Like many "no comment" statements, Bleszinski's change of conversation only hints at the notion that this rumor might have some truth to it. An on-rails shooter would be a let-down for many hardcore Gears fans, who had dreamed up more immersive Kinect-enabled gameplay scenarios, and it would seem as though the often candid head at Epic would have been quick to dismiss the rumor if there weren't some truth to it.
It's still unclear how Epic intends to provide the necessary precision required for a shooting title - though, given the recent announcement of Twisted Pixel's Gunstringer title, it sounds as if the Kinect tech might be up to the task after all.
An on-rails format is certainly the most likely gameplay design for a Kinect-enabled Gears of War title since implementing Kinect enabled shooting mechanics in a fully-explorable 3rd person action game environment would have required some really innovative, and costly, design - not to mention push the limits of the Kinect hardware.
That said, the blend of a more approachable/casual entry into the hardcore Gears of War franchise may make sense given Kinect's technological boundaries but it sends a confused message to consumers - and could have a difficult time finding a clear audience: too hardcore for the Kinect's typical casual market but too limited for Gears of War franchise fans.
Gears defenders will point to the quality of the Wii's hardcore on-rails shooter Dead Space: Extraction, which was recently ported to PS3. However, despite racking up positive reviews, the game was a commercial disaster on the Wii, selling only 9,200 units in the first week. The title has found new life on the PS3 but mostly as a free pack-in with Dead Space 2 - as it's difficult to imagine a lot of gamers rushed home to download the stand-alone digital copy in the PlayStation Store (since they either purchased Dead Space 2 - or aren't interested in the franchise).
Unless Epic is preparing some innovative and engaging tweaks to the on-rails format, it'll be interesting to see how the hardcore Xbox 360 user base and the recently culled casual Kinect market respond to a title that's being developed for an industry gray area.