Gears Of War: E-Day Will ‘Scare The S*** Out Of You’

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The “one more thing” at the Xbox showcase during Summer Game Fest was a reveal trailer for Gears of War: E-Day, a prequel to the original Gears trilogy starring everyone’s favorite bros, Marcus Fenix and Dominic Santiago. Naturally, Gears fans (myself included) were very excited at the reveal, though it’s not clear when it will launch.

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Kotaku got a chance to sit down with creative director Matt Searcy and brand director Nicole Faucette to get a better idea of why The Coalition decided to go back to the original characters and what players can expect from the first Gears of War title built in Unreal Engine 5. Here’s what we learned.

Gears of War: E-Day goes back to the source

Searcy tells us that The Coalition continued to work on Gears 5 for well over a year after its 2019 launch, and that shaped their decision to pivot to E-Day. ‘When we finished all that stuff we were actually pretty far into the [covid] pandemic. So, a lot of people at the studio were saying we’re just gonna take a beat and reflect.” The natural progression might seem to be toward Gears 6 (especially considering the cliffhanger at the end of 5). But, the team instead found inspiration in an iconic, but relatively unmined, aspect of Gears lore: Emergence Day, or E-Day, when the bad-guy Locust first emerged from underground on the planet Sera.

“We wanted to make something that really went to the heart of what people have in their heads when they play Gears,” Faucette said. “We spent a lot of time listening to how fans talk about Gears.” The Coalition settled on four main pillars: the brutality inherent in this universe, the melancholic vibes (exemplified in the marketing both then and now, which loves to needle drop somber versions of “Mad World”), the brotherhood shared by the members of the COG army, and big, bold action sequences.

“E-Day is where we landed [after discussing those franchise pillars],” Searcy said. “We felt like we could get the most out of the theme, the vibe….it’s the most important day in the entire franchise and there’s never been a game set there. It’s a ‘what if’ story. What if monsters came out of the ground in Los Angeles?”

Faucette said that the team wants the Locust to feel scarier than they have in a while, especially the Drones, who have become a kind of cannon (and meme) fodder as the Gears series has progressed. We want to “go back to those horror vibes,” Faucette said. “[We want the Locust to be] actually monsters that scare the shit out of you.”

Bros of war

Aside from the chainsaw gun, Gears of War is probably best known for its bond between Marcus Fenix and Dominic Santiago. The two hulking manly men have plenty of tender moments throughout the original trilogy, and Dom’s death at the end of Gears of War 3 remains to this day one of the most emotional things I’ve experienced in a game. E-Day takes place 14 years before the events of Gears 1, during a time in which Marcus and Dom aren’t yet the best bros.

“They’re not the same Marcus and Dom that you know from the original trilogy,” Faucette said. Dom’s older brother recently died in the Pendulum War, and he and Marcus were best friends, so there’s “tension, they’re struggling with grief and loss.” For The Coalition, Gears of War E-Day is an origin story of both Emergence Day but also of the bond that “defines the franchise.”

I love Marcus and Dom just as much as everyone else, but I still had a momentary pause after seeing the trailer. Until Anya (the Lieutenant in your ear in Gears 1 and Gears 2) became a playable character in Gears 3, the franchise always felt incredibly masculine—especially if you played online like I did. With Kait Diaz becoming a central character in the second trilogy, it felt like the franchise was spreading its wings a bit more. Now, we’re back to the bros—during a time of great strife in the industry where, perhaps, a female-focused Gears game would be met with derision from some bad actors.

I asked Faucette and Searcy about this, if Gears of War: E-Day would feel like a bro-down session, a sort of backtracking, and they assured me it wouldn’t. They couldn’t tell me about them, but they promised there’d be other characters central to the story. “Those are just the two people in the trailer,” Faucette pointed out. “Gears has always had a commitment of [showcasing] a wide array of humanity on this planet up against these monsters. That’s our studio values and our franchise values. We are 100% committed to unique and interesting characters in all walks of life.”

Here’s hoping I get to cut a Locust in half as a bad-ass bitch whenever Gears of War: E-Day drops.

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