The Gears of War franchise's most lauded feature is undoubtedly its cover-based combat. From the weighty movement and the satisfying slam into waist-high walls, to firing bullets into meaty humanoid monsters, the feeling of playing a Gears game is unique and distinct. But since the first game's debut in 2006 the series has also built a strong narrative.
From the outside looking in, it may not be immediately evident what makes the Gears franchise so compelling from a story perspective, but the key to it is in the colorful cast of characters, each which drive the story forward and allow it to play with tone. In Season 2, Episode 4 of Audio Logs, Rod Fergusson–head of developer The Coalition–highlighted this as one of the defining features of the franchise.
"When I think about when people come to Gears, they come for the story. We're given permission, because of the world we've built, to have this comic book sort of sensibilities. We can laugh at ourselves, we can make really bad jokes and have dark humor, we can have blockbuster action movie sequences … and then we can have sweet moments of sadness," he said,
"The fact that we can go from big men with thick necks and all that stuff to a place where we're able to play with that and make our storytelling more contemporary with greys instead of black and whites, can have more complex characters, more nuanced characters, and yet still bring out the emotion, and people are responding to the story is so meaningful to all of us."
Perhaps the best representation of this strength is Jack, a helper bot introduced in the first game. Jack began life as a tool to open doors, but over time has become not only a vector for The Coalition's narrative ambition but proof that the series' story and characterization has as much depth as its gameplay.
Jack's journey from helper to hero spans multiple games across the series' 13 year existence. In that time Jack has changed significantly, becoming more functionally relevant for gameplay but also emotionally resonant for story. Gears 5 is the culmination of Jack's arc and leverages the little-bot-that-could's entire history for an impactful payoff. To guide us through the whole journey, Rod Fergusson dives into the creation of Jack, charts his evolution, and breaks down his role in the latest entry in the franchise.
Make sure you subscribe to GameSpot on YouTube for new episodes of Audio Logs Season 2 every Sunday. Thus far we've had Hideo Kojima and Yoji Shinkawa breaking down a pivotal scene from Death Stranding; Control director Mikael Kasurinen showing how the incredible Ashtray Maze was created; and Disco Elysium writer and designer Robert Kurvitz talking through the fascinating Thought Cabinet feature.