Defining Moments – Gears of War

A lone soldier languishes in prison. He disobeyed orders, seemingly abandoning his post at the Battle of Ephyra. Without much fanfare, he was court-martialed. With nothing but a toilet and a do-rag to keep his company in his cell, Marcus Fenix lives out his sentence in relative silence.

That is, until his best friend Dom busts him out of prison. But this is no Great Escape. The world, overrun by alien/bug hybrids called Locusts, needs men like Marcus Fenix. Convicts, killers and degenerates – men who have no business being in the military – are now needed on the front lines.

Dom could get in a lot of trouble for doing this. But not anymore. Things have changed. Everyone was pardoned. All the prisoners are gone.

Welcome back to the army, soldier.

“Shit,” says Marcus, his first profanity as he unofficially rejoins the military.

Marcus and Dom shoot their way through the prison, felling Locusts by the dozen. They head outside and outrun a giant arachnid creature, barely making it on to the helicopter with their lives. The situation is dire.


A trial by fire if there ever was one. We’re welcomed to Delta Squad, whatever that is, whatever this war is.

All Marcus wants to know is where we’re going. We’re going to meet Colonol Hoffman, a stereotypical cigar-chomping hands-on combat leader if there ever was one.


Talk to some rookies. It’s not cool to be Marcus Fenix, says Marcus Fenix, but we all know it’s great to control him in battle. Just not to experience what he’s experienced. Not to live through what he’s lived through. Here’ a hardened man consumed by fear, rage, mistrust, going to meet the man that court martialed him and is now bringing him back into the fight.


Get out of the chopper. Hoffman’s waiting. You’re a traitor, you’re scum, you don’t deserve to wear the uniform. But Hoffman needs you. They need you. The world need Marcus Fenix.

Or does it?

Hoffman has a plan, to end this terrible war once and for all. And it doesn’t involve Marcus Fenix. At least not yet.

Locusts attack. Gunfire ripples through the soldiers, knocking them down like dominoes.


Watch the front. Watch the side. Locusts attack in droves, like the damn bugs that they are.

We need to get the bomb off. Hit those sons of bitches where they live. End the war before it can escalate further, all on our terms.

Take cover. Get back in action. Get lost in the heat of battle. Put down locusts as though they are flies.

Lost contact with Alpha Squad. Need to mount a rescue.

Air support? You are the support, son.


That was satisfying. For Marcus Fenix, it’s his first taste of death in a long time.

Fight your way through and find Alpha squad. At least what remains of them. Their tags are gone, nothing to identity them with. Just charred corpses littering this desolate city. Casualties of war.

Or could be Locusts. Setting a trap. We’ll never know. Lieutenant Minh Young Kim orders Delta Squad forward.

Death in the streets. You’ve got a lot of nerve, soldier. Delta squad member Anthony Carmine goes down. Sniper.


Damn bug bastards. Avenge his death and move on. It’s all there is to do, it’s all you can do.

One member of Alpha Squad is alive, hiding in the wreckage of this once great city.

State your name, soldier.

Cole, Augustus Cole.

A once great man, an athlete, reduced to this.

Too bad the radio’s don’t work for shit… sir.

You’re on your own now.


This is how Gears of War opens, establishing its setting with verve and restraint, never revealing too much, holding its cards close to its chest. It may not seem like much, but this opening sequence is one of the most tightly written in all of video games. It reveals the who, what, and where, without giving away the why and the how. And frankly, it never needed to; a brush with death is all Marcus Fenix needed to feel alive. And that’s all we needed to know.

The rest is ancient history.

Daniel Horowitz

Daniel Horowitz

Daniel doesn't just play and write about games, but he also writes his own comics. He can usually be found arguing with Dale about who the best member of the X-Men is (it's Jamie Madrox, obviously)
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