12AM PST on a Wednesday night. Most people are sleeping, but on Santa Monica Boulevard Microsoft is busing in gamers for the Gears of War launch party. After a truck ride to the crypt and playing a couple of multiplayer rounds I had a conversation with Preston Thorne the QA manager of Gears of War. We chatted about the production of Gears and I mentioned some of the criticism that one gamer voiced at the previous Gears of War event about the all purpose A button. In Gears of War players hold down the A button to do a “roadie run” where the camera shakes from side to side and you dash forward. If you run towards a wall or a barrier your character will automatically take cover as long as you are holding the A button. It is a different experience than a first person shooter, probably because Gears of War isn’t designed as a FPS. Preston explained, “Gears of War is really a second person shooter. People that come from Halo or Call of Duty 2 are used to jumping. Have you ever seen a soldier jump? No. They duck and run into cover. If you run out with your guns blazing you’re going to die really fast.”
Preston is absolutely right. Whether you’re a fleshy human Cog or part of the Locust Horde you can’t take many hits. There is no magic force field that regenerates every couple of seconds to protect you and even if there was a single run in with a chainsaw marks the end. Instead Gears of War relies on a team dynamic where you and a comrade should travel side by side. Covering each other is the obvious advantage, but pairing up in teams also gives you an opportunity to be revived by your buddy if you happen to get shot down.
While Gears of War plays more like an action game than an FPS it is commonly compared to Resistance: Fall of Man. Both have humans versus mutants and both are next generation gun games. One thing Resistance: Fall of Man has that Gears doesn’t are large scale battles. Gears of War only has up to eight players on a map while Resistance has up to 40. “We tried making bigger battles and it just wasn’t fun. Forty person battles have to be time consuming you’re going to spend five minutes running for a thirty second gun fight. In Gears of War when you respawn and you’re fighting in seconds.” As soon as you’re on a map Gears throws you straight into action and the maps are small enough where you’re going to run in your enemy quickly. However, if you’re killed during a match you have to wait until your entire team wins or loses before you can play again.
Since Epic is working with the PS3 hardware and the Xbox 360 hardware could Gears of War ever work on the Playstation 3? “256 MB of RAM makes a huge difference. There is no way we could ever do Gears of War on 256, we had trouble fitting everything on 512MB. We pushed the 360 to the limits.” Another member from Epic’s team chimed in with the fact that there are currently more Playstation 3 programmers than Xbox 360 programmers. “It (the PS3) is in our future. We always had plans for the Playstation 3 and an engine already runs on it.”
What about the Wii could a game like Gears of War work with the Wiimote? “I love the idea of the Wii, taking a paradigm and completely changing it. For shooters getting the accuracy is really hard. Graphically, we couldn’t even get he engine on the Wii.” Is Epic planning on supporting Nintendo’s console in the future? “Epic has no plans right now, but in the future who knows.”
Want to see what the party looked like from the inside? Check past the break for photos of the event.
Before going to the event we rode these trucks stamped with the Gears of Logo to the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.
The trucks brought us to the crypt which was lit up by HDTVs playing Gears of War and an aura of red light.
What the crypt looks like without the red light and those really are graves.
Some lucky people get to go to all of the Microsoft parties, these guys went to last year’s Zero Hour event and were at the Gears of War party.
This party didn’t have any official swag, but at the end of the night a few partygoers claimed the Gears of War posters straight from the celebrity photo background.