In a recent interview with ComicBook, Cliff “CliffyB” Bleszinksi spoke at length about the unfortunate fall of his studio, Boss Key Productions, as well as his venture into writing his comic book, Scrapper. When asked whether he would consider returning to the world of Gears of War through a comic book, he answered: “I believe Gears needs a little bit of a reboot, like God of War had, and I’ve always said, Phil Spencer has my number, I’m happy to consult. Gears will always be near and dear to my heart…”
Bleszinski rose to fame in the game’s industry during the mid-2000s as the lead designer for the first three installments of the Gears of War franchise; a franchise that, prior to Microsoft’s acquisition of it in 2014, had sold over 22 million copies and grossed over $1 billion globally. The franchise was (and mostly still is) heralded by the gaming community as the marquee IP for the Xbox, in no small part due to Bleszinki’s work and influence. So when he announced his departure from Epic Games in the fall of 2012, many (myself included) wondered about the future of the Gears franchise.
As the interview covers, CliffyB would go on to create Boss Key Productions in 2014 with the hope to go independent, a venture that would come to a closure in 2018 when Bleszinski announced the dissolution of his studio due to poor sales. The closure was in no small part due to the studio’s biggest project, LawBreakers, failing to meet critical or commercial success. Since then, CliffyB has seemingly stepped away from the games industry, focusing instead on other creative endeavors like theater, television, and now a comic book. On the other side, Microsoft have developed two games within the Gears franchise without the help from the former Epic Games employee. Both Gears of War 4 and Gears 5 released to relative critical acclaim, though neither of them reached the fervor that their processors did.
The idea of having Bleszinski return to once again be a part of the iconic franchise that he helped create, even in a consulting role, is an exciting one. However, the idea that the franchise itself needs a drastic reboot akin to that of Sony Santa Monica’s God of War is not one I agree with at all. The obvious reason being that its current developers, The Coalition, are still working on the series with the sixth installment currently in the works. The franchise hasn’t been dormant for years like the God of War series was prior to Sony Santa Monica and Cory Barlog’s reboot in 2018. A reboot for that franchise was understandable as there were many elements, both narratively and in terms of gameplay, that needed to shift in order to bring a modernity to the series.
The original God of War trilogy were button-mashy, QTE-riddled hack-n-slash action games with an almost isometric fixed camera angle that could at times be frustrating. Couple those with a main character whose only emotion was rage and solution to problems was to skewer his blade through them, and you have yourself a more-than-dated experience. Don’t get me wrong, experiences that are still (mostly) a blast to play through today — I myself played through the third game only a few years ago for the first time and had a grand ol’ time — but dated nevertheless.
Gears of War, on the other hand, was a revolutionary title for the third-person shooter genre when it released back in 2006. It took all that Resident Evil 4 did with its over-the-shoulder aiming and fine tuned it to perfection. With the additions of environmental cover mechanics, oh-so-satisfying gunplay, and a machine gun with a chainsaw, and you had yourself a trilogy of glorious, gory masterpieces. Masterpieces that have been iterated on since Bleszinksi’s departure from the company. One could argue that the last two games, though good, are a far cry from where the series was in the late-2000s. I wouldn’t disagree, but I also don’t think their quality points to a need of a changing of the guard. If anything it’s a testament to how well the core mechanics Bleszinski and Co. established back in the day that the games still hold up as well as they do after all this time. You can start up the very first Gears today and still see some semblance of modernity. Not everything holds up, especially as far as the narrative is concerned, but it still plays quite well.
Those very mechanics have continued to lay the groundwork for the fourth and fifth games, with The Coalition adding their own flare and interesting quirks. And that’s the point, The Coalition are still making these games. The sixth game is also moving into using Unreal Engine 5 — one of the latest engines in game development — and if this video is any indicator of how that might turn out, then color me excited. There’s nothing about this franchise that screams “outdated.” Gears 5 was and remains one of the most visually stunning games I’ve ever played. Its gameplay, though iterative, was still incredibly fun. And narratively, it had solid character writing and continued the emotional highs from games past, even if the ending was abrupt.
If Bleszinski wants to join the team as a consultant for Gears 6, that’s fine. He’s still quite active on X (formerly Twitter) when it comes to discussing Gears topics. He posted a couple months ago that he believes Gears 6 should finally be the game where they kill off Marcus Fenix, the series’ original protagonist, and just recently posted that prior to his departure he had desires of seeing the franchise go into first-person — an idea I am personally grateful didn’t come to fruition. He clearly still has a love for the series he helped create, and as he should; so if Phil Spencer wants to bring him on in a consulting role for Gears 6 (or 7?), then it could be an interesting partnership.
Partnership or not, I can’t wait for Gears 6 from The Coalition. For me, there was a substantial jump from the fourth game to the fifth, and I think the devs have now found their stride and will (hopefully) knock the sixth game out of the park. Bleszinksi himself even tweeted last month that some rumors he’s heard about the upcoming title has him curious. So let’s let The Coalition do their job. Gears of War is still a franchise that people care about. If the sixth game sees a noticeable dip in quality with bland gameplay and an uninspired story, and does terrible in terms of sales numbers, then fine, we can conjure up this idea of possibly rebooting the franchise. But for now, Gears is still Gears, and that’s not a bad thing.