Part 1 here, if anyone cares
Using a spoiler warning seems a bit ridiculous considering Gears of War 3 has been out the best part of a year. But there was a moment so dramatic and absorbing that I would've hated to have known how it was going to play out.
Dom’s dead, yo.
Yeah, sure, looking back over the trilogy it makes complete sense that Dom would die. After his wife's death, he decided he had little left to live for. In Gears 3, his nihilism was made all more prominent. Despite all that, I didn't see it coming.
But, my god, what a way to go! The moment—which I now refer to as 'the Dom scene' or 'Mad World 2'— was brilliantly done. Many cut scenes are executed well but lack emotional weight because they aren't harmonious with the gameplay that precedes them. Epic married the two beautifully, and the cinematic is all the more powerful for it. Gameplay establishes a feeling of being overwhelmed, of desperately struggling to find an escape, tying in perfectly with what unfolds.
You're on a platform, fighting off waves of Locust below. No big deal. Some of them start to scale the sides with grappling hooks, and you're now dealing with three angles of attack. Then Lambent appear from the rear. You're fighting them off, chainsawing any Locust who climb the sides, while trying to take down the Locust firing away from distance. Ammo is running low, your squad need revived again and again, attacks are unrelenting. A thought crosses your mind that perhaps the game has glitched and you can't possibly win. Maybe you've somehow stumbled into Horde mode, and the only way it will end is with your death.
A cut scene begins—finally, a chance to relax. Dom finds a vehicle and speeds away. Not the reponse you expected. He stops, turns and races back. Marcus recognises Dom's plan seconds before you do: it's a suicide run. You watch on as the remaining COGs jump to safety. Dom, Locust, Lambent, all disappear in balls of flame. In slow-motion, Marcus screams as explosion after explosion booms. An instrumental version of the famed Mad World cover fades in, an inspired moment. It fits the mood of the scene perfectly, but Mad World also signalled the beginning of Gears, now it signals us approaching the end. It was there at the beginning: that first trailer, when we watched Marcus race down a rain-soaked street, leaping into a ruined building to be confronted by a giant spider. Who is this Fenix guy? What's Emergence Day? What happened to the world? Why was that spider so big? Mad World was the soundtrack to us first meeting Marcus Fenix, and it's here as we prepare for the end.
The Locust are—finally—no more. They'd been somewhat humanised by Marcus' father, Adam's attempts to save them. Alas, he was unsuccessful. Despite their beastly appearance, Locust weren't invading aliens, they too were inhabitants of Sera. The battles of Gears were essentially battles for land, and one side had to lose for the other to survive.
The Gears trilogy is largely about these battles, but it's also about Marcus and his relationship with his dad. Throughout the games Marcus tries to come to terms with the apparent loss of his father. In Gears 3 he receives a glimmer of hope when he discovers Adam is alive. Yet the game ends with his dad's death. Marcus has journeyed to save him but in the end can do nothing to help; Adam dies a hero's death, but it's a death nonetheless. The moment is all the more touching when you remember that the man in charge of these games, Cliff Bleszinski, lost his father at an early age, and was playing a game when he found out.
The final scene of the game shows Marcus and his fellow COGs on a beach. Humanity has been saved, this story is over. Gears of War: Judgement will take other COGs in different directions, but Marcus and I are done. It seems strange to think that, the first time I picked up an Xbox 360 controller, it was to begin Marcus' journey, way back in his prison cell. Now, as the saga ends, talk is of what the next Xbox console will be.
We've chainsawed and shot our way to salvation, and now we're finished. As the game fades to black I put down my controller and leave Marcus where he is, wistfully looking out over the ocean, getting a well-deserved rest.