By: William Hume
Following protagonists Marcus Fenix and his son J.D., Kait Diaz steps into the campaign shoes of the billion dollar franchise, whose newest installment is simply titled ‘Gears 5′.
There’s a simple evolution at work here. In all of the interviews with the developers, they simply & calmly remark at how the selection of Kait Diaz as a protagonist is a natural step forward story-wise. Although you still play as Gears 4 protagonist J.D. for the first of four acts. It’s a natural reflection of the entire industry. A subtler approach than EA’s shallow and obnoxious attempt to insert female avatars in a World War II game in order to generate controversy and drum up sales. The ‘Gears’ franchise has really earned its representation. Video games might have had representation at this level before, but never so deep in such a macho and testosterone-fueled franchise, or one as big as this one. The series has earned over a billion dollars in revenue for Microsoft, and sold over 23 million units. As the premiere game in Xbox’s new Game Pass (Netflix For Games) strategy, the newest game was played by over 3 million players in its first weekend. What’s more the transition to this character also makes complete sense in the story world. This is not some revolutionary bold-risky move for Microsoft or its developer The Coalition, there’s nothing riding on female protagonists if the game fails (it won’t, Xbox fans have been hungry for another AAA exclusive since Gears 4). If there’s a downside to the female character’s inclusion in the game, it’s that the personal stakes for our character Kait are diluted after the second act when much of the questions behind her personal story and connection to the big bad are answered, there isn’t much of a narrative reason for continuing.
Having a female character at the centre of a traditionally male dominated narrative has seemed like a no-duh move to me since Alien in 1979, and then re-established by Lara Croft at the turn of the century. Time and time again people talk about it like it’s news. But it has yet to insert itself in such an unfussy way as it has in Gears 5. Kait naturally fits in with the guys and there’s no elbowing in or out needed. Guys also really do not care who they play as as long as the game is good. Dishonored 2 is a game hugely improved by having a dual female protagonist/ antagonist. Mass Effect has been doing it for years and even plays better with a female character, but there’s a difference when the developer forces you to play not choosing otherwise [multiplayer aside]. The most amazing thing is that Gears of War from its chainsaw wielding blood and guns origins is that it has matured into something much subtler than anyone from the outset would have expected and no one is shouting Marcus Fenix’s most famous phrase [“Eat Sh*t & Die!”].
Inspired by the Los Angeles Times article: Gears 5‘ stars a woman behind the chainsaw gun. It’s a strong move: https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/story/2019-09-12/gears-5-first-female-protagonist-gears-of-war