If you’ve read any of my recent blog posts, you’ll be aware that I’ve been rekindling my love for the Gears Of War series. A game well-known for it’s co-operative gameplay. But is it better to go it alone?
Since the beginning, I’ve played every single Gears Of War game with a friend using either splitscreen or online co-op; and to me it always seemed the best way to experience the game. I don’t have any siblings that are interested in gaming, so I alway turned to my friends. More often than not, whichever buddy I played with, he usually knew what he was doing. We could rely on each other in terms of ammo sharing, covering fire, reviving and flanking. We were much more dependable and efficient than the in-game AI, which made the game really easy, even on the Insane difficulty.
I played cooperatively on both Gears 1 and 2, and one-third of the way into Gears 3. Sadly, I stopped playing shortly after getting the third game, as I ending up getting an Xbox One. I seemed to be more interested in the new fancy graphics and higher frame rates, and I loved playing the new games on the latest generation console. Unfortunately, I had very little motivation to plug my Xbox 360 back in. However, I always regretted not completing Gears Of War 3 and wrapping up the saga. By the time this regret had set in and by the time backward compatibility was introduced, I’d traded Gears 3 in at my local store. Probably for pittance, but I digress…
Anyway, getting Gears Of War 4 gave me ample opportunity to revisit the whole series through the bundled download codes, so I gleefully jumped in and carried on where I left off… this time all alone. My friends weren’t all that interested, and most had already completed the game so it proved rather difficult to convince them. I had to do it solo, otherwise I wouldn’t have got it finished.
Boy, I’m glad that I did!
Gears Of War has a great story to it. The voice acting is cliché and sketchy at times, but it’s easily forgiven and Baird’s constant barrage of sarcasm sticks fondly in the memory. Strangely though, the narrative never touched me in the way that it does now when I was playing with a mate not all that long ago. I don’t know why that is. Maybe it’s because we talked during cut scenes, maybe we focussed too much on the killing of Locust and less of what was actually going on or why we were fighting. Playing it on my own though, I really connected with the story, but not only that, I was found myself bonding with the characters in a way I hadn’t previously experienced.
*WARNING – Spoilers ahead for Gears Of War 2 & 3*
Maybe it’s because it has always been me or my pals playing as Dom Santiago, but I’ve never had any feelings for him whatsoever throughout his entire story. In the sense that he was always a drab character in my eyes. He was boring, relatively quiet in comparison to the other members of Delta squad and only seemed to moan. I get the whole sadness to him finding his wife in Gears of War 2 and her then dying in his arms but we all saw that coming a million miles away. Obviously after that, he becomes even more dull and uninteresting on his endless cycle of grief. Obviously, his suffering is key to the story but I was never really that bothered and I always just saw him as ‘Player 2′. In Gears Of War 3 it was more of the same with him, if even more lacklustre and uninspiring. The only difference in this one was that he had a huge, pube-like beard.
Having said all this and despite my lack of interest in his character, Dom actually grew on me the more I played solo. Of course, I had to look out for him because he wasn’t being played by a friend of mine who can actually aim and make simple decisions. I also had to rely on him to come and revive me in my times of need too, knowing that it’s much more unlikely for him to reach me than it would have been for a real-life player, who understands that if I bleed-out and die, it’s game over. We had plenty of theoretical arguments too and it was usually over the latter. There were several scenarios where I had been wounded and had crawled over to him. Despite being right in front of him, the AI would just continue shooting whilst ignoring my revival requests. Obviously, we’d then fail the mission because I eventually bled-out. Cheers Dom!
The friendly AI have much-needed enhanced stats when compared to human players. They have a higher level of health on the harder difficulties – mainly because they’re idiots and need to absorb bullets like a sponge – and it makes for some great scenes. For example, I’ll be at the back of an area, sniping enemies with the Longshot. As I’m moving from foe to foe, I’d occasionally see Dom miles out of position. He’d be right next to the enemy, usually locked into a chainsaw duel or swinging a grenade around his head. What a hero!
So after playing some of Gears 2 again, and all of Gears 3, I actually grew a surprising fondness for Dom. I’d always assumed that there would have been some casualties throughout the game and I’d always guessed it would have been Dom at some point, but when the time came for his sacrifice I just wasn’t ready for him to go. Maybe it was the subtle use of Gary Jules’ remixed version of Tears For Fears’ ‘Mad World’ soundtrack that made my bottom lip quiver.
Regardless, I was sad to see him go. I’ll have to replay the whole saga again it seems to truly appreciate how awesome Dom was. If you can read this Dom, I am truly sorry.
He actually makes a small cameo in Gears Of War 4, during the game’s prologue and the sight of him made me smile, as if I was greeting an old friend. Predictably, he swiftly became as boring as he once was though, with no real charisma about him. So it turns out he’s always been a depressing guy, even before E-day and the Locust wars. Annoying too; he still feels the need to push me out of cover and into oncoming turret fire. Not cool, Dom.
*You are now leaving Spoiler-ville, thanks for visiting.*
Of course, co-operative campaigns are not a rarity. There are some great games that allow you to have fun with friends whilst having some meaning behind it. Even the Call Of Duty series incorporate cooperative campaigns nowadays. Alternate playing modes are used quite frequently too, whether this is just a fun mode that’s been added in by developers or it’s a totally different storyline and cast of characters altogether. My favourite co-operative experiences usually include killing things… not that it should surprise you. My personal favourites include Left 4 Dead, Splinter Cell, Army Of Two, Borderlands, Conflict: Desert Storm, Resident Evil 5, Castle Crashers, Ghost Recon, Gears Of War and of course, Halo. Not because of the storylines, and not because of the gameplay, but because of the great memories I have built with friends that we can laugh about to this day. Which makes me realise how awesome video gaming actually is.
After replaying Gears, I’m really tempted to revisit some of the aforementioned games. Play them alone just to be sure I didn’t miss anything important and really try to follow whats going on a little more closely. Not that I didn’t know what each of the game’s were about or anything, but I’d like to keep an eye out for the subtler things. Except for Army Of Two, I’m not playing that on my lonesome. Your partner’s AI is awful and is of absolutely no use whatsoever. I’d rather it just be an Army Of One than play solo on that.
Moving back onto Gears, I really enjoyed the storylines in each of the Gears Of War games. I’ve enjoyed them even more so now that I’ve been able to relive it and actually follow the narrative and little references without my friends constantly badgering me for something to eat.
Splitscreen is awesome and games need to keep adding it in. Local multiplayer is the basis of what modern multiplayer games now are. It’s started to be phased out by a few developers, but here’s hoping it’s here to stay!
Do you prefer to play story-driven games solo and full immerse yourself, or do you like the companionship that only playing with a friend can give you?