Gears of War

INTERVIEW: CVG sits down with lead designer Cliff Blezinsky to talk about Epic's monster 360 shooter

Blezinsky showed up at X06 packing a brand new version of Gears Of War. The general word from X06 show-goers was that it's promising to live up to all that hype, which is a rare thing thesedays.

Shortly after being knocked out by what we saw, Cliffy B shoved some smelling salts under our nose and we were ready to talk shop.

So far the response to the game has been positive, so you must be doing something. But what would you say makes GoW so special?

Blezinsky: Look at all of the beautiful women who are here hosting. They're beautiful right? Maybe even as beautiful as Scarlett Johansson. What make's Scarlett so special is her expression, that inflection in her voice, the way she moves, the way she can go from sexy to vulnerable to cute and to crazy. That's the difference between good and great. How this relates to the game is that it has that intangible difference between the controls working good and working great.

Err, okay. Care to elaborate?

What we're going for with GoW is a feeling of crispness so when you go into cover it's an abrupt action. I play a lot of games in which going into cover is a slow process. But if I was being shot at I would be diving and sliding into home base like a Major League Baseball player because my life counts on it. Making sure that when you press a button the game is responsive - that is what we're going for with the game. I believe we've accomplished that.

Making a game that controls perfectly is no easy task. You only have to look at all the bad games out there now to see that.

Blezinsky: It's not easy. But I think that in this day and age it's a miracle that any game ever gets done, because what you're looking at is the perfect balance between art and science. You have artist types - long hair, fashionable painters - working with nerdy programmers. Then you're trying to appeal to a mainstream audience... you're trying to be everything to everyone at the same time. You want to appeal to the person that's been playing games for just a few years, as well as someone who's been playing for 30 years. How do you make something that does that?

I think the only reason we can attempt a shift with how you play shooters with GoW is because we have the graphics and the marketing support. If we just did an ordinary game that had a slightly unique mechanic and the graphics were so-so, we'd only sell a hundred thousand. But because we have the support, people will really try to play this in a different way.

Has being the flagship title for Xbox 360 this Christmas created any additional pressure for you as a developer?

Blezinsky: Not at all (laughs). There's been a lot of hype. I think the hype machine has gotten a little out of control. We're making the kind of game we would all love to play and it's turned out amazingly well. But then you read gamers' expectations for the game, and see that they're expecting it to do their laundry, feed their cat and do their paper round for them, too. It'll probably feed the cat but it's not going to do the paper round.

Is it fair to say Gears is more than a straight-up shooter?

Blezinsky: We call it a military action horror. One minute you're in a crazy scene where tracers are flying past your head and there are explosions going off, then you see these guys crawling out of the ground and you realise you're not in your average WWII-type game. All of a sudden a giant creature goes flying by and you realise you might have to fight that later.

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