Mar­cus and the gang find a quiet spot to break for toast in Gears Of War 2 ’s weird­est se­cret

XBox: The Official Magazine (US) - - EXTRA - Alex Nel­son

Gears Of War’s orig­i­nal tril­ogy al­ways had an im­age prob­lem, one only ex­ac­er­bated through the lens of 10 years of hind­sight and progress.

De­spite its tight, third-per­son shooter de­sign, im­pres­sive ac­tion and rev­o­lu­tion­ary cover-based me­chan­ics, the gruff, mus­cle-bound tri­an­gu­lar he­roes (ab­so­lute units), al­ways gave it an alien­at­ing, nox­ious mas­culin­ity. It’s no won­der Gears 4’ s slight re­boot of the series – in­tro­duc­ing more gen­der­di­verse char­ac­ters in place of the chis­elled bro-moun­tains – was met with such a warm re­sponse.

But load­ing up Epic’s sec­ond in­stal­ment for a cel­e­bra­tory 10th an­niver­sary playthrough, I was struck by its rare but more nu­anced mo­ments, and one in par­tic­u­lar re­caught my at­ten­tion.

No, it’s not the re­veal of Dom’s long-lost wife, now in the clutches of the Lo­cust horde and re­duced to a moan­ing husk quickly eu­thanised by her sob­bing hus­band.

It is the sur­real mo­ment the game asks, “Who wants toast?!”

Granted, the oth­er­wise gen­teel break­fast query is de­liv­ered in such a way you’d feel pres­sured into an­swer­ing yes just to avoid Mar­cus’ next slice of farm­house be­ing slathered with your Lancer’d-out in­nards, but this sur­real Easter Egg per­fectly punc­tures the game’s re­lent­less mo­men­tum, of­fer­ing play­ers a chance to step back and in­dulge their vir­tual bread crav­ings among the chaos.

It could not come at a bet­ter time ei­ther, deep into the third act with the death of Dom’s wife a fresh me­mory.

Among the slith­er­ing body-hor­ror sur­rounds of the Lo­cust Hive, Delta Squad hatch a dar­ing plan to sink Jac­into – hu­man­ity’s last ma­jor set­tle­ment – and flood the en­emy from their en­camp­ment. It’s a mad­cap strat­egy in keep­ing with Gears Of War’s over-the-top ap­proach. As the team splits, you soon find your­self in an open area with pil­lars ar­ranged in a half-cir­cle. Shoot­ing away a cen­tral pedestal re­veals a Lo­cust toaster, and press­ing X low­ers two thick-cut wedges of loaf into it. A red glow, a puff of grey smoke, and the freshly grilled dough is ready to con­sume. Mar­cus and Dom even ban­ter over the whole bizarre sce­nario, dis­cussing how they “like ’em crispy!” in di­a­logue that sounds sus­pi­ciously like it was orig­i­nally meant for an­other kind of roasted grub. With that, the whole off­beat mo­ment is over, and you’re back to the Lo­cust-slay­ing grind.

Toast of Landown

Okay, so it doesn’t skew the game’s ex­ag­ger­ated vis­ceral tone to the ex­tent it sud­denly ap­peals to all au­di­ences, but the Easter Egg brings hu­mour to a doggedly bar­baric game.

Gears’ orig­i­nal boss Cliff Bleszin­ski once prof­fered the ad­vice that peo­ple should cre­ate shooter games that “make guns feel like guns, not weird toaster de­vices”. Per­haps Gears 2’ s most cu­ri­ous mo­ment is a cheeky nod to that mantra?

Or per­haps, in a game that of­ten takes it­self too se­ri­ously – though it is ar­guably al­lowed to do so on the back of its mer­its – it’s just a silly junc­ture. It def­i­nitely could do with tak­ing its foot off the pedal oc­ca­sion­ally.

As game­play de­signer Lee Perry once told me, “You can’t just have a sin­gle tone for the whole game. Walk­ing mus­cle bags shout­ing ‘wrar­rgh!’ just gets old, quick.”

“Shoot­ing away a cen­tral pedestal re­veals a Lo­cust toaster and low­ers two thick-cut wedges of loaf into it”

Pub­lisheR Mi­crosoft / De­vel­oper Epic Games / For­mat Xbox 360 / re­lease date Novem­ber 2008

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.