Gears of War 3 is a bleak, weird game about emotionally numb dudes — blessed with biceps that are almost as big as their massive feelings — fighting against gun-toting monsters in a last ditch effort to save the few remaining scraps of human civilization that haven’t fallen into decay and ruin. In what might be a subtle indication of the national mood, Gears of War 3 is also a runaway success: According to Variety, the game sold three million copies in its first week. That’s a nice increase over Gears 2 (which took about a month to reach that milestone) and it’s enough to claim the title of Bestselling Videogame of 2011 for at least a month and a half, before the latest entry in the Call of Duty franchise sets yet another ungodly sales record.
But you know what? Nuts to Call of Duty. Let’s give credit where credit is due: Gears of War 3 sold three million copies despite being an Xbox 360 exclusive, a rarity in an era when most videogames are specifically designed for multiple platforms, a practice which has inarguably impacted the breadth of console culture. And unlike the Call of Duty franchise, which is split up between several developers to maintain an annual November release date, Gears is a genuine trilogy — no mobile games (yet), no cash-grab third-party spin-offs, no God of War: Chains of Olympus — and it was developed entirely by Epic Games.
That’s probably why the games feel more distinctive and personal than your typical shoot-’em-up-and-slice-them-to-pieces romp; it’s the rare example of an auteurist gorefest. And at least Gears of War has memorable characters, two-dimensional as they might be. (If you actually remember any of the characters from any Call of Duty game, then I’ll eat my hat. Okay, fine, Soap MacTavish, but that’s just because of the name!)
Gears of War 3 wasn’t perfect — you can read my full review here — but the cumulative achievement of the Gears of War franchise is pretty remarkable. Now you’ll excuse me, I’m off to chainsaw through a couple dozen Locust while blasting Sigur Rós on my speakers.
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