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A Criticism of Gears of War 3, Introduction

Gears of War;  I love this series.  I have never played a video game with as much gore that has been this fun.  Epic Games, developers of Gears, has been working on the series for several years, and each installment has been better than the last.  Gears of War 3 came out last month.

Over the course of the next month, I’ll be nitpicking Gears of War as a series, focused entirely on the campaigns.  I’ll start with Gears of War 3, then move on to Gears of War 2, then finish it off with the first Gears of War.  The focus of these criticisms is not to bash Gears of War or Epic; the games are great and I enjoy playing them very much.  In addition, it’s because I love the Gears of War series that I’m going to be criticising it.  Along with all of the faults, I’m also going to be pointing out all of the cool stuff.  And of course, it should go without saying that this series (of posts, not the game) is going to be very subjective.

You can check out the rest of the series here:

Today, we’re biting into the first thing a Gears 3 player will see: the opening cinematic.  Idle long enough on the title screen—perhaps if you’re reading through the extensive and thoroughly detailed instruction manual—and you’ll be treated to it.  Alternatively, you can select the “Previously in Gears…” option when you play the campaign.  Or just watch it on Youtube:

Previously in Gears…

Anya picks up her Lancer off of a desk.  We know it’s hers because it has her last name (Stroud) on it.  She picks it up, carries it ten feet, and sets it down next to another desk.  Why doesn’t she just keep the Lancer next to the comms desk?  It could be argued that maybe she was just leaving it there after stripping it down, but something later in the cinematic will debunk that.  It could also be argued that it needs to be close to the door in case she needs to rush and grab it, but then she could just carry it with her at all times, or just find one of the weapon racks that are going to be nearby.  She puts an earpiece on, and begins her exposition dump, “So this is how it ends.  Today, the Coalition of Ordered Governments cease to exist.”

On the screen:

Raven’s Nest Intrasystem

The following information is an unclassified data disc from the

Coalition of Ordered Governments

The media assembled here is for historical purposes only.

“Chairman Prescott?  He abandoned us some time ago.  We can’t pretend we’re a government any longer.”  According to Coalition’s End, by Karen Traviss, this is taking place three or four months after Prescott left.

“It all began on E-Day, when the Locust emerged and overran us.  We tried to stop them with the Hammer of Dawn, incinerating our own cities, killing millions of our own people.  But the Locust kept coming.”  Prescott had decided that a “Scorched Earth Policy” would stall the Locust.  The Hammer strikes occured a little more than one year after E-Day; it was a very desperate situation.  Anya was there when Hoffman and Prescott turned the keys.

She pulls out the magazine and reloads the clip.  The keyboard that was on her desk is still in front of her.  Also, we hear her voice but she’s not moving her mouth.  She’s supposed to be recording this message, as that is what the big red REC on the display means, right?  She must be one hell of a ventriloquist.

“The survivors of the Hammer strikes, the Stranded, didn’t want anything to do with a government that sacrificed civilians.  And after 15 years of fighting, we even had to sacrifice the last human stronghold—Jacinto.  We sank the city and finally stopped the Locust army.  The war was finally over.”

When she sets her Lancer down next to the desk, the keyboard has moved and there is a stencil ready to be cut.  When did she have time to do that?  Her right hand is setting the Lancer down, but her left hand is in her lap!  The cuts to other footage and other shots, that’s understandable because that’s how movie magic works.  What we’re looking at with Anya is a single on-going scene, though.  There cannot be any movie shorthand because it has been established that she is doing all of this in real-time.

“Reduced to refugees, we found a remote island where we could start again.”  Cut to Dominic Santiago, Dom, holding a picture of Maria, the same one that he showed everyone in Gears 2.  “But some things could never be rebuilt.  The broken hearts, the broken minds…”  Sam is upgrading Dom’s tattoo of “Maria.”  Now it has an angel surrounding the name!  This is actually the first time we see Sam; the timing of this shot would put them on Vectes, while Prescott is still Chairman.  Cutscene magic!

“Then a new enemy came after us even worse than the last, the Lambent.  Now they’re spreading across Sera, killing everything in their path.”

The video shows polyps, then Lambent Drones and drudges.  There are scan lines, so this is recorded footage, not some omniscient cutscene magic.  There is footage of non-polyp Lambent variants; this is important, because Anya (and the Raven’s Nest she is on) has yet to leave Vectes.

“We’ve held them off as long as we can.  We’re out of options.  Our only hope now is to abandon the island and split up.  Some of us are going to live on the remaining ships.  Others want to risk going back to the mainland.”  Cut to Colonel Hoffman directing trucks as he moves his group into Anvil Gate, which is an old COG fortress.  “Godspeed, Colonel.  This is the former Lieutenant, Anya Stroud, signing off.”  She removes the ear piece and speaks into a desk mic.  “Now hear this, all hands prepare for leaving harbor.”  That last bit confirms that they have yet to leave Vectes’ harbor.  According to Coalition’s End, Hoffman moves into Anvil Gate four days after the COG evacuates Vectes.  How can we see the shot of Hoffman from the future?  Him, and his group, should be on the Raven’s Nest along with Anya.

Then, Anya sets her Lancer down on the desk, grabs a can of paint, and sprays it with the Crimson Omen.  First off, why does she have a can of red spray paint at her desk?  Is she a huffer?  That would more than explain for how terrible her AI is in-game.  And how come her Lancer doesn’t have the Crimson Omen skin?

“I guess we’re all Stranded now.”  This is perhaps the most important line in this cinematic, as the Stranded are going to be mentioned many times throughout the game.  The player is going to have seen this one way or another before they start playing the campaign, so they’re going to be expected to have heard this final line.

The timing of this, considering that we see Hoffman moving into Anvil Gate, would put this roughly 18 months before 1-1.  But, according to Coalition’s End, if they haven’t left Vectes yet, then Hoffman can’t be moving into Anvil Gate because that happens four days after they leave Vectes.  I thought Karen Traviss, author of the novels, was head writer for Gears of War 3?  This is a pretty big oversight, so we’ll have to see if this cinematic is indicative of the rest of the game.

Tomorrow, we’ll start the actual game with Act 1, Chapter 0: Prologue. Or for short, 1-0: Prologue.

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