“The problem with four-player co-op is that it’s chaos,” says The Coalition’s Rod Fergusson.
The Coalition are attempting new things with Gears 5, which is being billed as the biggest game in the franchise’s history in every way possible. From the campaign to the PvP and everything in between, Gears 5 is promising to be ambitious in all the ways that Gears of War 4 wasn’t. But one area where the game is actually pared back as compared to the original trilogy is its co-op.
While Gears of War under Epic Games used to feature four player co-op options for its campaigns, with Gears of War 4, The Coalition brought that number down to two. They’re kicking it up to three with Gears 5– but why is it that 4 player co-op still isn’t going to be an option? Speaking at a Gears of War panel at San Diego Comic Con recently (which you can view in its entirety below), The Coalition boss Rod Fergusson answered that question.
The reason for Gears 5 not having that option, Fergusson says, is two-fold. The first aspect is design issues, in that the game would have to have larger areas to be able to accommodate four player, and that, all said and done, a four player experience ends up being a chaotic one.
“I’m a big co-op gamer, and everything I do is co-op based,” said Fergusson. “The problem with four-player co-op is that it’s chaos. When you played that Halo experience for the first time, I bet you didn’t understand exactly what was going on at all the right times. Because while you’re grabbing ammo, somebody’s triggering the event that causes the thing… you know what I mean? There’s a technical issue with four-player which is you need much bigger worlds. One of the things you’ll notice from Gears 1, 2, and then 3, is that 3 had much bigger levels because, ‘Now I’ve got to find places for four people to take cover.’ So it’s much more challenging to build.”
But it’s about more than just that, as per Fergusson. Another thing that four player co-op gets in the way of is the story itself, and the way it’s told. As per him, earlier Gears games suffered because their cutscenes had to take into account that four players might be playing the game at the same time- to avoid that, The Coalition decided to limit those numbers.
“It’s also much more challenging to tell a story,” he said. “f you watch Gears 3, and you watch the cinematics… Like that was one thing I had to work with [Writer Karen Traviss] on, is she just started to do this round robin thing where everybody got one line. Because you could never have the characters alone. It always had to be four people in a scene, it always had to be four people in a moment. So all four people expressed an opinion.”
“So when we went back to Gears 4, the first thing we did was we shrank down to two-player co-op,” Fergusson continued. “art of it was the technology but part of it was storytelling. It was just really hard to tell a really compelling story when nobody can go to the bathroom alone because they gotta bring three friends with them every time, you know what I mean? So you’re not going to have those moments where two people can be like, ‘Hey this is a thing,’ right?
“So as we look to expand that we look at creating better and bigger offerings. Escape is three-player, Horde is five-player. We have co-op in spades, it’s just the notion of four-player co-op campaign… I feel like as fun as it is, it also dilutes the story quite a bit. It’s walking that line. There’s lots of co-op for you and your friends in Gears 5, there will not be four-player campaign co-op though. Sorry.”
Gears 5 already promises to have much bigger areas than this series has ever had, so it would stand to reason that having to accommodate four players wouldn’t be much of an issue (it’s already doing three as it is). That said, what Fergusson says about it being a chaotic experience, and the story and storytelling suffering because of it does make sense- there might be fans in the series who would still be disappointed that there’s no 4 player co-op, but at least there’s still plenty of other content to dive into (no battle royale though).
Gears 5 is out on September 10 for the Xbox One and PC.