Gears of War 3 hit stores last week, and with it comes the closure to both an impressive storyline and a series that has both defined a genre and built a massive fan base. However, with Battlefield 3 and Modern Warfare 3 releasing this year, both with an equally impressive story, fan base and genre changing gameplay there is one consistency all three games share, War.
War in video games is usually taken with a grain of salt, mostly broken down into the genre at which the games are portraying war. Modern Warfare and Battlefield for example, both treat war with a military attitude, having the player usually of some military ranking; following orders and caught up doing missions with almost impossible odds of success and using tactical teamwork which brings about success throughout the many hardships along the way.
Gears of War however treats war in a different manner, instead of looking at it through the perspective of “Elite military team on a mission to save the world” the game’s story takes a focus on why war is fought and through the reality of truly impossible odds. You are nothing short of a few guys (and eventually two girls) who are all unfortunate enough to be alive and ‘enlisted’ to fight against an enemy that will not cease their assault until every human on Sera is dead.
Now the obvious difference between both games is not what I am trying to explain, one is heavily blended with science fiction and mindless slaughter while the other is meant to be an almost real experience of a life-like military soldier fighting for their country. What I want to focus on is how they approach the one thing they have in common; War.
Throughout GoW, you are constantly reminded that the war you are fighting has been going on for over a decade, and to which has not seen anything close to a climax within that time. Playing through as Marcus Fenix you quickly learn why that is the case. The Locust are unrelenting, and enemy that has no fear and no sign of giving up. They kill anything and everything that stands in their way, and have an almost unlimited amount of troops at their disposal. The war can easily be seen as taking a toll on humanity as a whole with over ¼ of the human population being wiped out in a single day and the constant visuals of what remains of humanities struggle for survival. What is left of humanity are either enlisted to fight against the locust, or are ‘Stranded’ who utterly despise the COG’s for the methods at which they had gone to fight for the extension of the very life that now hate them.
But all that pales in comparison when realizing that only a few weeks before the war with the locust, humanity was fighting against itself over a fuel source. Again, showing that not only does humanity face a constant problem with fighting each-other, but even after a peaceful resolution is found, another war begins. The true meaning behind war is show, a constant struggle for peace.
The quote that made it all a shivering reality was at the end of the last GoW when Marcus sits on a rock looking out to an ocean and asks “What is left?” and the response he receives is “Tomorrow. We finally have a tomorrow”. This is what makes Gears approach War differently. The idea that war is not a petty argument over who is right or wrong, it’s the idea that a war can escalate into a fight for the very existence that not more than a few weeks ago was gladly thrown away over a source of fuel.
I find that while Modern Warfare or Battlefield take a certain approach at war in a more ‘realistic’ or ‘real-world scenario’ light, Gears slightly morose take on war has far more ‘impact’ and ‘depth’ on the word ‘war’ that has seemed to be diminished to what we believe to be simply escalated political conflict. Of course I do not mean to say Modern Warfare or Battlefield are looking at war in the wrong way, I just don’t feel the same desire or the motivation to win the ‘war’ going on in those games as I do with the almost impossible and otherwise hopeless ‘war’ being waged in the Gears universe.
While it might seem impractical or almost fantasy to look at a ‘fight for the survival of our species’ to be taken seriously, there is much you can learn from playing Gears of War and seeing how the characters react to being worn down through so much fighting. How desensitized and morally broken they have become as a result, and the feeling of emptiness they feel when the conclusion to a fifteen year war for survival comes to a close, and the idea that these characters can finally just, live life. A life which less than six hours ago wasn’t sure if it would be able to see the sunrise on the next day or the sunrise ten years from then. There are many ways to approach a war story, and while some stick to the more realistic side, there are those who go beyond the confines of our definition of war and build upon it, bring about depth and fear to an otherwise almost natural word we hear all too often.