Chris Schulz is the deputy head of entertainment for the New Zealand Herald.

Gears of War 4 brings out the big guns

Wondering how an alien reacts when you saw it in half with a chainsaw gun? Gears of War 4 has the answer.
A scene from Gears of War 4, a portrait of 'intimate violence'.
A scene from Gears of War 4, a portrait of 'intimate violence'.

When it comes to random office discussions, Chuck Osieja admits he's had some pretty weird ones around the creation of his latest game.

Here's one: how does an alien enemy react when you saw it in half with a chainsaw mounted on top of a gun?

"You don't want it touching on the bone. You want it to pop like a water balloon," says the creative director from The Coalition, the studio behind this week's release of third-person shooter Gears of War 4 through Windows and Xbox One.

"It's over the top. It's fun. You laugh at it rather than recoil from it. We want people to cheer for it and be excited by it as opposed to being grossed out by it."

First released in 2006, with sequels in 2008 and 2011, the Gears series is known for its tense military action, over-the-top weaponry and eye-popping spectacles based on the planet of Sera, where a physically superior alien race known as the Locust Horde has taken hold.

This time, with war breaking out again between humans and aliens 25 years after the end of Gears 3, Osieja says the game's developers tried to turn things up "to 11".

"It's really the Gears history, it's part of the DNA, to get in there and make it visceral. One of the terms that has always been used is 'intimate violence' - get it up close, but make sure it's not revolting," he says.

"We make it fun. We don't have hail, we have razor hail. We don't have bayonets on guns, we have chainsaws on guns. It's insane, it's way over the top."

A scene from Gears of War 4 with that chainsaw gun in action.
A scene from Gears of War 4 with that chainsaw gun in action.

It may sound like a ridiculous romp, and Gears 4 definitely can be. Whether in story mode or playing through its multiple online options, gamers are in for a bloodthirsty spectacle that includes some of the most ridiculous weaponry you can imagine.

So it's a surprise to hear Osieja admit plenty of thought went into a weapon like the Buzzkill, a circular saw that's been modified to shoot out spinning blades.

"One of the issues we had to deal with is (after) 25 years of peace, how do you create new weapons? You don't have weapons factories cranking out weapons for the next war.

"We turned to the construction effort. We've all seen a concrete saw, guys on the street ... tearing up the sidewalk. You go, 'That's pretty cool, what if there were 14 blades in the case? Once they're done with one, they eject it, another one comes in'.

"If you took this concrete saw and disabled the safety mechanism, now you could start shooting these things off into the environment. That seems reasonable. We just try to figure out how to make these things fit into the world."

A scene from Gears of War 4.
A scene from Gears of War 4.

Gears 4 comes with a well-deserved R18 rating, one that Osieja says comes from the game's developers constantly trying to push their limits.

So how do they find that line?

"You want to go way over the top, then look at it and go, 'Does it still fit in the Gears universe?' Or is it something where we go, 'Oh, that doesn't work anymore'.

"You go to those extremes, too mellow or too big, and try and find that happy medium from there. It's gotta be plausible, not necessarily believable."

LOWDOWN
What: Gears of War 4
Platform: Xbox One, Windows
Rating: R18
Release date: Available now

- NZ Herald

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