Epic Games achieved a landmark in 2006 when they launched their groundbreaking intellectual property on the Xbox 360, Gears of War. Immediately capturing the imagination of gamers with its third-person gameplay and post-apocalyptic setting, Gears of War established a powerhouse reputation as one of Microsoft’s core exclusives. With Microsoft securing the rights to the Gears of War franchise from Epic Games, and Black Tusk Studios now spearheading the first entry on the Xbox One, here are my five most memorable moments from the series (excluding online multiplayer, which deserves its own list).
Dominic Santiago’s death
Epic Games delivered a thrilling conclusion to the Gears of War narrative in the third instalment, but it was the death of Dominic Santiago that left fans stunned. Dom’s search for his wife, Maria, created outstanding character development in Gears of War 2 and added real depth to his primary motivation for fighting. Often overshadowed by Marcus’ presence on-screen, it was perfect that Epic focused on Dom by adding this significant detail. When the player eventually found Maria on the verge of death, that scene would effortlessly create the drastic alteration to Dom’s personality and outlook in GoW3.
With Marcus Fenix and his squad cornered by the Lambert and Locust, Dom decided his time had finally arrived and made the ultimate sacrifice. Dom’s final words of “Never thought it would end like this, huh? Huh, Maria?!” are still firmly etched in the back of my mind for how surreal and unforgettable they were for the whole Gears of War narrative. Closing off Dom’s sacrifice was the instrumental score from Gary Jules’ “Mad World”, which had previously been used in the series and flawlessly added the finishing touches to the character’s send-off.
General RAAM boss battle
It is a sin to not acknowledge the presence and influence that General RAAM brought to Gears of War. Epic’s AAA title was driven by a powerful narrative and at the forefront of it was the antagonist, the Locust General. RAAM demonstrated that actions will always speak louder than words, marking his presence when he effortlessly eliminated Lieutenant Kim. First time I played Gears of War RAAM created an unsettling atmosphere to the narrative and made it believable how the Locusts were capable of pushing humanity to the brink of extinction.
In the final train carriage in Act 5, knowing that the Lightmass Bomb – humanities best option for ending the Locust War – was mere inches away, all that opposed you was RAAM wielding his Troika and, of course, accompanied by the Kryll (bat-like creatures with the capability of shredding someone to pieces). RAAM’s boss battle on insane difficulty became a thorn in the backside of people who came face-to-face with the Locust General, and it created for, arguably, the best segment from the entire Gears of War franchise.
Augustus Cole Train’s debut
Delta Squad’s membership consisted of a unique set of characters that instantly became fan-favourites. However, Augustus Cole, or better known as the the ‘Cole Train’, brought a personality that was full of charisma and humour, which was brilliant for diffusing tense occurrences in the narrative.
“Can’t stop the Train, baby” or “The Cole Train runs on whole grain baby!” was delivered with outstanding charm and individuality from voice actor Lester “Mighty Rasta” Speight, who fitted the character perfectly, owing to his reputation as a former American football player. Speight delivered Cole’s lines with sheer class and it always offered some special moments in the story, especially when Baird was alongside him.
Chairman Prescott’s speech
Richard Prescott was the Chairman of the Coalition of Ordered Governments (COG) and his speech in Gears of War 2 was a linchpin cutscene from the franchise. COG’s hierarchy was presented in the first title with Colonel Hoffman frequently barking orders at you, but G0W2 added the real depth to the selected individuals who were commanding the final remnants of humanities forces.
Charles Cioffi was a fantastic selection for Prescott’s voice, with him delivering a fierce and alluring speech to the COG soldiers. Prescott’s speech was an excellent component of the opening moments of GoW2 and set into motion Operation: Hollow Storm. Prescott was a brilliant introduction to the Gears of War universe and Epic Games really built on his character, especially the way in which he abandoned the COG and allowed for them to collapse in GoW3.
“Are you kidding me? Berserker!
Those words resonating from Marcus Fenix immediately changed the tempo in Gears of War. Every time a Berserker appeared in the title, the player’s heart immediately sunk, and on my first playthough one thought would float through my head: run for dear life. The Berserker, after General RAAM, was the best character design in the Locust Horde.
The Berserker’s initial appearance in the China Shop in Act 1 is still the most vivid out of the numerous confrontations with the Locust. With the revelation that your current weapons are effectively redundant against the Berserker’s skin, the only way to defeat it was to lure her outside and use the Hammer of Dawn. Luring her outside was a challenge in itself first time round, with the player having to use themselves as bait by standing in front of the door and allowing for her to charge at you. Without a doubt the Berserkers from Gears of War deserve their position on this list as a memorable moment from the series.
Honourable mentions: the Carmine brothers, Colonel Hoffman, Riftworm, Tai Kaliso, Damon Baird, Gears of War 2‘s post-credits transmission, Adam Fenix’s sacrifice and Operation: Hollow Storm.