Epic Games art director Chris Perna has called out "copycats" for borrowing the look and feel of Gears of War, arguing that the franchise has had to shoulder the label of a "stereotypical shooter" as a consequence.
"I think a lot of that stereotyping was done by copycats," Perna told us in issue 96 of OXM, on sale now, when asked how the forthcoming Gears of War: Judgment would challenge perceptions that the franchise aesthetic is worn-out.
"When Gears came out it was fresh, it was dark," he explained. "That's what it's meant to be, right? No apologies there. It was a brutal game - it was meant to be. Then everybody copied us and copied our look, and the market was flooded with Gears clones, which hurts the original."
Fortunately, Epic was able to build on the original's exaggerated yet high-fidelity visual style without compromising its identity. "We evolved the colour palette, and the engine and the lighting and the technology and stuff through Gears 2 and then on to Gears 3," said Perna. "Gears 3 was so colourful because we upgraded the renderer and global illumination lighting, which just worked better with more colour, brighter lights and things like that.
Judgment will also push envelopes, he insists. "With Judgment we've evolved even further. We've enhanced the bloom in the renderer so fires will bloom better and won't be a blown out, ghostly type of thing where it looks like Vaseline is smeared on the lens. I think it's really, really soft looking.
"We've evolved the colour palette even more, to make a lot more colour yet still keep a more sombre tone. We've done things with post-processing to really enhance the visuals and our cinematics, too. I think visually, it's the best looking Gears so far."
Co-developed with People Can Fly, Judgment is also a subtle change-up in terms of campaign design - the single player is broken down into individually-scored sandboxes with optional, more creative "Declassified" victory criteria, and thus seems more replayable. You can read more here.