Gears of War didn’t reinvent any wheels when it came out in 2006. Yes, Epic Games’ military sci-fi shooter emphasized environmental cover, and the act of strategically hiding and shooting from behind barriers became ubiquitous in other games.
But what propelled Gears to success was the way that it felt.
Coming after iconic characters like Duke Nukem and Halo‘s Master Chief, series hero Marcus Fenix was a different Video Game Tough Guy. Sure, Gears‘ lightweight political allusions – war over natural resources – get buried underneath tons of gore, but Marcus still embodies weariness, rage and regret.
The desperate atmosphere makes its sharply executed action feel like life-or-death. Hugging a slab of cover, then running for the next chunk of concrete? You might die in a hail of enemy bullets — or live to headshot the sniper making your life hell. It’s the programmatic linkage between vulnerability and lashing out that keeps you playing and makes Gears of War great.