In 2006, the Xbox 360 seemed poised to win the console wars for the generation. Gamers chose the 360 to play non-exclusives like Rainbow Six: Vegas, Call of Duty 3, and Madden 07. Plus, Halo 3 was just a year away, which would likely be a generation defining game. Microsoft execs felt good about another title from Epic Games released a year before the return of Master Chief. In a way, the history of Gears of War is very much a tale of a great series always living in the Halo shadow. While it’s true that Xbox gamers will always think of the console’s top series as Halo, Gears of War cannot be ignored in terms of impact in the shooter genre, and across all of modern gaming.
Epic Games and the Coalition
Image Credit: Microsoft
Epic Games is the team behind the history Gears of War through Gears of War: Judgement in 2013. Most gamers know the Unreal Engine to be the engine behind most games across platforms. Epic Games is also the creator of that program. The studio’s first foray into shooters came from the Unreal game series, a multiplayer-focused deathmatch game featuring otherworldly creatures. Now, of course, most know Epic Games for their Game Store, as well as the international hit Fortnite, which uses the Unreal Engine. After creating Gears of War 3, the team turned the majority of its attention to Fortnite, putting out Judgement and then handing things over to the Coalition.
Beginning as a developer of Facebook games under the name Black Tusk Studios, The Coalition began its relationship with Microsoft by working on Microsoft Flight, a game in the vein of the popular 90s and 00s series Flight Simulator. They also worked on a game called Project Columbia for the Xbox Kinect, before both it and Microsoft Flight were canceled. Microsoft, being the sole console carrying the Gears of War series, purchased the rights from Epic and then renamed Black Tusk into The Coalition. Similarly to 343 Studios and their work on Halo, the new name marked the game on which they’d spend most of their time. Rod Fergusson, executive producer of the first 3 Gears games came over to work with The Coalition. The developer is under the Microsoft Studios umbrella, and is responsible for Gears 4 and 5.
Gears 1 and 2
It’s not worth talking about the history of Gears of War without a backdrop to what the game series is about. Let’s start with the original Gears of War and what’s happening in the series.
Gears of War
Gears of War released on the Xbox 360 in November 2006. In Gears of War, the game takes place on an Earth-like world called Sera, where humans are near extinct. In order to stop the on-planet conflicts and move back to a brighter day, scientific exploration occurs. Humanity discovers Imulsion, a natural substance that has a potent energy source. It cures nearly all conflict on the planet, but those without access to Imulsion plummet into financial disaster.
Over the newly discovered substance, two groups begin a war with one another: the Coalition of Ordered Governments (COG) and the Union of Independent Republics (UIR). In a 79 year war, millions die and a figurative stalemate keeps both factions locked until the UIR develops the Hammer of Dawn, a satellite controlled laser strike control. After stealing the plans to the weapon, the COG and UIR agree to hold off their battle. Only six weeks after the ceasefire, the real trouble begins.
The Locust Horde, an underground traveling band of alien-like monsters attack every human city. In the offensive, nearly all human life is wiped out. The first Gears of War game takes place 14 years after this attack, as the COG try one last time to destroy the Locust Horde by placing lightmass bombs at the heart of their tunnel network. Succeeding, soldiers Marcus Fenix, Dom Santiago, Augustus Cole, and Damon Baird prove that the fight is not over just yet.
Gears of War 2
Gears of War 2 released for the Xbox 360 in 2008 on an upgraded version of the Unreal Engine 3. In Gears 2, the Locust leader Myrrah regroups her forces and plans to a giant worm-type monster into the cities around the COG bases. In turn, the COG sends Marcus and company into the Locust Horde’s depths to stop the threat at its source. As if the Locust Horde isn’t dangerous enough, Imulsion is turning them into Lambent.
The mutation leads them to become enemies to the unaffected Locusts, leading to a Locust move to the surface for a new place to live. The plan becomes sinking the Locust back into the tunnels via sinking the entire Jacinto Plateau, where the cities are located, back underground. The COG leave the area, and city collapses in the end, drowning the Locust Horde for good. At least, they think that is the end.
History of Gears of War – 3 and Judgement
Image Credit: Microsoft
Gears of War 3
In the final entry of the original Gears trilogy, the game begins 18 months after the sinking of Jacinto. The COG is now disbanded and humankind is all over Sera trying to survive. The Locust Horde retreats its surviving members to the planet’s wastelands, when Marcus’ father, Adam, tells the COG he is living on an island called Azura, with a solution to get rid of the Locusts for good. The crew sets out to travel to the island, where they’re attacked. Dom sacrifices himself to keep the crew moving forward, and they arrive on the island. Marcus and company rescue Adam, only to find he is infected with Lambent as well. The weapon is then used to destroy all Locust forces, including Adam due to his condition. Marcus then kills Myrrah and calls her death a dedication to those he lost along the way.
Gears of War: Judgement
In the fourth game, and final from Epic, the series travels back to the early days after Emergence Day, following younger versions of Baird and Cole. Members of Kilo Squad, Baird is constantly disobeying orders, including the use of a secret weapon of mass destruction that kills Locusts. The squad is court-martialed, and the story plays out as a flashback of sorts.
Gears of War 4
For the first game under The Coalition’s control, Gears 4 takes place 25 years after Gears 3. Humanity knocks out the ability to use fossil fuels, leading to windstorms that pose major threats. With what little people are left, the COG is reformed and living in walled-off cities under martial law. A group of people outside the walls, known as the Outsiders, begin raiding the COG, including new recruits J.D. Fenix, the son of Marcus, and his friends Del Walker and Kait Diaz.
Unknown creatures begin attacking the Outsiders. It turns out that the Locusts did not die when hit with the death-blowing attack, but rather went into hibernation to evolve. The kids call in help from Marcus, Baird, and Cole to begin fighting back. As they fight inside the hive, it turns out Kait is actually the granddaughter of the Locust Queen Myrrah. It’s a wild turn of events that should play out further in Gears 5.
Gears 5 and Beyond
Image Credit: Microsoft
Without a doubt, the biggest question heading into Gears of War 5 is Kait’s lineage. How can she be human and of Locust descent? It’ll be a great exploration into the lore of the world. It’s sure to be considered a frontrunner for 2019’s best games. The series is a tour de force for great storytelling, as well as incredible combat. The third person over-the-shoulder view is copied by many games because of Gears. No other series gets it right like Gears. Between mechanics like speedy reloads with a hit of the RB button, a chainsaw melee option on rifles, and chainmail-like grenades, the series is unique and innovative.
Is Gears of War Overrated?
A lot of people wonder whether or not Gears of War is overrated or underrated. In fact, it’s likely overlooked thanks to the number of other popular shooter series. Because it is an Xbox exclusive, many see games like Call of Duty and Battlefield as better shooters. In terms of quality gameplay and visuals, neither series matches the quality of Gears of War. Likewise, the story in Gears is as good as any modern game series. Halo even fails to hold up to the emotional storytelling Gears is still putting out at this point. Will Gears of War 5 be as good as the previous games? Time will tell. In a lot of ways, we won’t know until the game releases. Early looks and Beta multiplayer sessions, however, make it seem like the title is going to be just as popular and of a high quality as any other entry.
Gears of War 5 releases September 10, 2019. If you subscribe to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, you can pre-load the game now, and play it for free upon release. Keep reading Comic Years for all things gaming, comics, pop culture, and beyond! Have an idea for a next History Of article? Did you enjoy reading the history of Gears of War? Let us know in the comments!
Taylor loves to play video games in his spare time. He has two degrees in Political Communication and wrote his thesis on Marxism and the exploitation of college athletes. In his spare time, he loves spending time with his wife and two Toy Australian Sheppards. He’s always got headphones in, and he’s a diehard Cubs fan.