"Rod Fergusson never turns off" laughs Matt Searcy, the man responsible for directing Gears 5's campaign.
"When we started working on the story to this game, Hamilton was in full swing, right? It was all over the place and everyone was listening to it. Rod went out to watch the show on broadway and came back the studio like 'we've got to do it… we've got to put Hamilton in the game."
Fast-forward a few years, and Gears 5 is out to a great critical reception. The game takes advantage of what Gears has always been known for: great combat, inventive level design and some of the most spectacular setpieces you're going to see in action games this generation.
But one of the most stand-out moments happens towards the start of the game, in the very first act, where protagonist JD Fenix and his crew of bulky soldier mates push through a city under siege by an emboldened Locust-like enemy, determined to evacuate any surviving civilian before it's too late.
The game pushes you through the occupied city until you get to a theatre. A theatre putting on a production of Embry – Gears' version of Hamilton.
"Rod and our writer, Tom Bissell, wanted to put it into the game – this idea of ‘Hamilton in Sera’ – and we started to build gameplay around it," explains Searcy.
"Rod was like ‘we’ve gotta have the spinny thing on-stage, because Hamilton has the spinny thing on stage!’ So we made it work!"
And The Coalition really did make it work. As you progress through the theatre, you start seeing posters and marketing materials for this production that has a striking similarity to Lin-Manuel Miranda's historical hip-hop masterpiece.
Gears does what the series does best and builds tension as you push through the dark corridors and abandoned backstage departments as you edge closer to the stage, this grim sense of unease building as you pick off stray enemies patrolling the building.
Eventually, you come across the stage: wooden props provide cover, the rotating wheel that takes center-stage makes you move from wooden set dressing to wooden set dressing, offing Grubs and holding the line as music blares very loudly in your ears and light floods the stage.
It's peak Gears, and it's easily one of the most fun and creative moments in the newest game.
"Gears is like this crazy balance between fun and gritty. It runs the gamut," acknowledges Searcy.
"People write the series off sometimes because it’s an action movie with comic book visuals. But it’s always had this heart in it, and it’s always had this ability to go from gallows humour to crazy over-the-top moments, to dealing with the death of a significant other, or a family member, or a close friend."
To a degree, Gears 5 smudges those seams somewhat, and it's a credit to the various teams that worked on the game – from narrative, to visual, to audio – that this single set-piece manages to encapsulate that creative, fun spirit that lies at the heart of the Gears franchise.
“The Gears franchise has always had these ‘palette cleanser’ moments in them, right? These situations where you go from a really intense firefight in a level to something different. In the past, these might have been on-rails setpieces or something similar, but now we’ve thrown the doors open and we're doing different things."
The Coalition dared to experiment with something new, and something fun, and in doing so has created one of the best moments in gaming we've seen this year.
Here's hoping that creative spirit, that willingness to not take itself too seriously and play with the tropes that made the series so successful to begin with stays alive with The Coalition as it starts to eye up the next chapter in the Gears story.
Gears 5 Best Prices
GAME – Gears 5 Ultimate Edition – £69.99
GAME – Gears 5 Standard Edition – £49.99
Amazon – Gears 5 Ultimate Edition – £69.99
Amazon – Gears 5 Standard Edition – £49.99
Xbox Live – Gears 5 Ultimate Edition – £69.99
Xbox Live – Gears 5 Standard Edition – £49.99
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