Gears of War 2 LA Launch Party

A Thursday night seems a strange time to launch a video game, especially if said game is one of the most anticipated games of the past two years. This is a game, though, that will make people stay home from work to play. Epic Games was only too kind in giving gamers a perfect excuse for a long weekend.

Gears of War 2 fans support the Cole Train

Gears of War 2 was released at over 20,000 retail outlets across the globe at 12:01 AM on November 7th. One of the largest launch parties worldwide was held at the Gamestop/EB Games at the Universal CityWalk location in Los Angeles, California. Approximately 1,000 people attended the midnight launch. Earlier in the day, gamers picked up wristbands that would allow them access to a fenced-off area directly in front of the stage. Regular lines were allowed to start forming at 11 o’clock in the morning on November 6th.

Gears of War 2 fans wait for launch

By 6 PM, about half of the 100 people granted access to the sacred corral had parked themselves comfortably on the concrete, mere feet from the stage. Meanwhile, the line of regular Gearheads started in front of the Hard Rock Café just across from GameStop, and slinked around the building into the darkness. One young man in a homemade COG uniform was admired by everyone, and posed obligingly for countless photographs.

Gears of War 2 COG Armor Kid

At roughly 10:00 PM, Xbox Live’s Major Nelson welcomed the crowd and introduced Epic Games’ most favored son, Cliff Bleszinski, design director and proud daddy of Gears of War 2. Cliff shared his excitement and enthusiasm with the cheering fans, who were waiting to get a glimpse of the game in action.

Nightmare Armor don Gears of War 2 costumes

They would continue to wait. Major introduced members of “Nightmare Armor,” a group of people who make COG armor costumes for commissions and wear their own outfits to special events. Major then talked up the crowd and selected five people at random to play the multiplayer part of the game. The gamers selected ran from veteran players to people who had no idea what their gamerscore was. They were introduced to everybody and ushered inside to waiting consoles.

Some Gears of War 2 vocal talent

There was a brief lull in the event while they were being set up, before Major finally returned to introduce the vocal talent from the game. They included:

- John DiMaggio as Marcus
- Lester Speight as Cole
- Carlos Ferro as Dom
- Michael Gough as Carmine
- Fred Tatasciore as Baird
- Jamie Alcroft as Col. Hoffman
- Nan McNamera as Anya

With Cliffy B on one controller, and the other controllers being passed between the vocal talent, the game was on. Shouts and cheers went out among the players, and laughs came from the crowd as the actors got into character, yelling the occasional taunt, whine, or obscenity. It didn’t take long for one serious competitor in the lounge to get into a chainsaw duel with Cliffy… and win! However, the crowd started showing their annoyance that they were unable to see any of this action. A large projection television affixed to the building just outside of the store showed only footage of the celebrities playing the game, and not the game itself. It would be another two hours before the fans in line would actually get to see the game in action. Rather than an intentional attempt to prevent spoilers, there seemed to be a technical issue keeping the Xbox feeds from getting to the crowd monitor.
 
Gears of War 2 competition

The battle ended, and the five lucky players were brought back onto the stage and thanked. Everyone cleared off the stage and the celebrities went into the store for more media interviews. Cliff stopped long enough to meet the young man with the homemade costume and let him take a couple of pictures with his hero. Some of the voice talent went in and out of the crowd, signing the occasional autograph for fans. A roped-off, red carpet area just outside of the store was used to interview a small number of celebrities from the NBC shows "Chuck" and "Heroes." Those celebrities moved onto the first stage, played some multiplayer games and entertained the crowd.

 
Gears of War 2 cast on the red carpet
 
Finally, midnight arrived. The Nightmare Armor people portraying Delta Squad lined both sides of the entrance to the store as the first group of people was ushered in to pick up their games. Cliff and the voice actors (sans Ms. McNamera) were seated at tables placed in the red carpet area, and new Gears 2 owners were allowed to meet the celebrities and get their game or strategy guides signed. Steve Jablonsky, who did the music for the game, joined them in the autograph line, as well as Greg Mitchell, the game’s cinematics director. Over 600 people eventually made it out of the building with one version of the game or the other. I expect the term "Epic Event" to be tossed around a lot, but it couldn’t be more true.
 
Spoils of War
 

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