It’s hard to explain the aura of respect that Gears of War commanded when it was released toward at the arse end of 2007, but I think it’s probably fair to characterise it as a bit of a ‘statement’. For Epic Games it was a statement that said the Unreal Engine had the horsepower to drive the next generation of games. For Microsoft it was a statement that it was its own second-coming and that it had the dog’s bollocks to take on the big boys. Gears of War signalled, a whole year after the release of the console, the arrival of the Xbox 360 in earnest.
All the pre-release hype and all the hopes and dreams of both developer and publisher culminated in Emergence Day. 12-11-2006. Murals were painted and Xbox 360 Dashboard themes were downloaded. Posters with the now iconic cog skull emblazoned across them, “EMERGENCE DAY” boldly bordering the bottom, hung from the roof of what seemed like any store that had even brushed past an Xbox 360. Gears of War was a bonafide industry event, and its launch was Microsoft pissing to mark its territory.
On the ground it was the game of the season, and it seemed that every little bit of information that was farted out, was met with an equal and opposite swoon from the game playing public and media. Even I followed what was happening, sitting huddle in front of the computer monitor whenever a new trailer or screenshot hit, trying to comprehend just how a game could look that good.
And it turned out for good reason because Gears of War was a beautiful and infinitely playable romp. It was like the first time you spot a simultaneous equation – only for your eyes – as the sheer amount of detail screaming across the telly was almost incomprehensible. But as your eyes adjusted it just became ‘moreish’. The gameplay was similarly compelling and had that rare quality that the sucked time away while you were playing it. It was the sort of game that you couldn’t imagine how things were before it, making a fair swath of of games redundant in one fell swoop. Being introduced to Gears of War was one of many defining moments for the still fledgling industry, and with all of the gameplay innovations it brought with it, it became an important historical milestone for video games more generally.
10 months into the 360’s life and next generation was finally here.
Gears of War: Ultimate Edition has put the spotlight right back onto arguably the Xbox 360’s first blockbuster, and trudging up all of these nearly 10 year old memories with it. It is a reminder of the importance of the marquee titles early on in a console’s life cycle. The kind of impact a larger than life marketing campaign and all of the pomp and circumstances that comes with it can have, nah perhaps should have. The importance of an event, a ticker tape parade, complete with a skywriter etching ‘IT’S HERE’ across the blue sky.
And then I realised that it’s been 9 years for the last one. That that’s what’s been missing from this generation. That this generation has skipped its Emergence Day. Because almost two years in and I still don’t feel like we’ve been properly introduced.