The first Gears of War game was a breath of fresh air for early adopters of the Xbox 360. The hotly anticipated third-person shooter was a technical showcase for its time, and was undoubtedly the biggest release of the console’s first year on the market. The two numbered sequels that followed were successful both critically and commercially, but middling reception to Gears of War: Judgement in 2013 seemed to suggest that the series had hit a slump.
Earlier this year, Microsoft purchased the Gears of War IP from series creator Epic Games, giving them free reign over the direction that the series heads in from here on out. In an appearance on IGN’s ‘Podcast Unlocked’ earlier this week, Xbox head Phil Spencer has given some hints as to what to expect from the next Gears installment.
Spencer notes that “Judgment didn’t hit everybody’s needs and desires,” and states that the next game in the franchise— set to be helmed by Black Tusk Studios (with Gears veteran Rod Fergusson in charge as studio manager) — needs to concentrate on “getting back” to the series’ roots. To Spencer, that means a return to something “soulful and maybe even a little dark.”
The first Gears of War title was an undoubtedly bleak affair. Rather than depicting the struggle against an alien threat, the game took place after the world of Sera was already in dire straits, with humanity fighting a losing battle against the Locust. There was always a real sense of desperation, which was lost when its sequels tended closer to the tone of an action movie.
While it’s somewhat played out for this sort of game to adopt a grimdark tone and setting, it’s a good fit for the visceral action that defines Gears of War. The first game had the occasional moment of levity to break things up — who can forget Cole Train’s request for you to ‘look at all that juice’ — but for the most part it played things straight.
Spencer confirms in the interview that the new game will not be a reboot, although it’s been made clear in the past that the series’ canon is subject to change. It’s obvious that Microsoft are willing to do whatever it takes to make sure that Gears can return to its past glory — while it seemed to be destined for a lengthy hiatus up until a few months bacl, Spencer states that Microsoft intend to ‘invest in this thing for the next decade.’
Everything seems to be in place for Gears of War to come back better than ever — the question is, how soon does the next instalment need to be released before the franchise is forgotten by the Xbox audience?