BOOK REVIEW: The Art of Gears of War 3
Ballistic Publishing's Largest "Art of Game" Book Available Now...
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There's nothing like a great art book to help fans and collectors fully appreciate their favorite movie or video game. Enter Ballistic Publishing and their incredible series of Art of Game art books.
As readers know, we're big fans of Ballistic's books as we've said numerous times in our previous reviews on a number of their publications, including:
- The Art of God of War 3
- The Art of Uncharted 2
- d'artiste: Character Design
- Expose 8 & 9
Now, thanks to their work with video game publisher Epic Games, Ballistic has published what is quite possibly the best video game art book of 2012: The Art of Gears of War 3.
Gorgeously filled with 320 pages of concept and production art to include characters, environments, weapons, vehicles, and monsters, this beast of a book features an in-depth look at many behind-the-scenes development techniques and ideas which led to the creation of what many video game players no doubt consider one of the greatest games in recent history.
The book begins with a brief introduction by Ballistic's Managing Editor Ronnie Gramazio and Epic Game's Chris Perna, Art Director on Gears of War 3. These two intros provide a preview of things to come in the book as well as lens through which to view and read the book. Both Gramazio and Perna are experts in their respective fields and it's great to have the insight and purview of these two experts help us, the fan, collector, and reader, prepare to enter into what is no doubt the most encompassing tome of Gears of War video game artwork ever comprised and published for mass consumption.
The first section of the book includes Concept art, broken into sections, including Characters, Monsters, Weapons, Vehicles, and Environments. This portion of the book is what many fans think of when they think of art books since it features both rough sketches and tight, detailed color and line artwork of final character designs. The Characters portion includes everything from rough design sketches of Marcus Fenix and the Delta Squad members to unseen and unused detailed artwork of a motocycle-riding Anya Stroud as a part of the M.E.A.T. Squad. Other characters featured include Adam Fenix, Victor Hoffman, Dizzy's Daughters, Myrrah, Summer Prescott among others.
The Monster portion of the book includes a great variety of creatures, including a variety of both Locust and Lambent enemies featured in the game. Everything from the Savage Grenadier and Master Boomer to the Locust Water Variant Lambent Stranded are featured here both in rough and detailed, colored sketches. Likewise, a number of scenes are included, providing readers with a scale to the monster's sizes. Thus, when an drawing of a Corpser Larva is shown on the page, it's difficult to know the creature's scale; however, when placed in the same drawing as a Buckethead, one can see how truly large - and frightening - theses beasts really are.
The next portion of the book includes drawings of weapons and vehicles. This includes everything from the sniper rifle, Hammerburst, Gnasher, Assault Rifle, grenades, mortar, flame thrower, mini gun and more to the various vehicles including the Locust Gas Barge, COG Buckethead, COG Armadillo, Seabass Submarine, trucks, cars, the Raven's Nest, and everything in between.
These weapons and vehicle sketches are truly impressive as they highlight the minute parts and pieces to showcase the amazing details included in their individual designs. It's almost shocking to know Epic's artists went to such pains-taking detail to design everything from minute buttons and levers and belts and spokes on weapons and vehicles which may only be seen on screen for the briefest of moments in-game.
The final portion of the Concept Art Section of the book includes Environment sketches and paintings, which provide a setting to the game's action. Be it Underwater or Pendulum Fort, the Badlands or Mercy, the Shipyards or Char, the Thrashball Stadium or Azura, each of the game's various settings, stages, and maps is shown in gorgeous color and detail. While some of the paintings are stylized to provide a mood or attitude, many are very tightly drawn to show specifically how the houses, buildings, or locales should be laid out and populated with various scenery, to include everything from tables and chairs to vehicles and even burned bodies. Again, the attention to detail is astonishing and impressive.
Most sketches and pages includes not only a description of the artwork's subject, but also a description of the techniques used to design and create the character, monster, weapon or vehicle. These descriptions provide additional insight into the artwork's subject and the reason the artwork was made.
The next section of the book includes Production Art, the portion of the game design that balances - as the book states - "the granular level of revealed detail with the limits of current generation processing power." After all, since these characters, monsters, weapons, vehicles, and environments must come to life on screen through the game, artists must not only take into account what the concepts originally look like, but also what can and can not be realistically accomplished using the Xbox 360.
Again, descriptions of the various artwork are included as are quotes by some of Epic's amazing talent. This insight provides plenty of thoughtfulness and care as we - the reader - learn what it means to work on a piece of video game history directly from those who helped breathe life into it and for that both Ballistic and Epic should be proud. Production models of the various designs help show just how a 3D model takes shape and comes to life to finally be revealed - moveable and playable - onscreen and in-game.
3D Designs of a variety of characters - from each of the Delta Squad to new and exciting characters like Jace Stratton, Samantha Byrne, and Bernadette Mataki (a character who first appeared in Karen Traviss' Gears of War novel series) are all present here.
Not to exclude the Locust and Lambent, the 3D Production Art Section also includes an in-depth look at the Epic Studio's artists work on these monstrosities. From the Locust Corpser Hatching and the all-too-familiar Boomer to the Locust Kantus and Savage Theron, these monsters and enemies are captured here in gorgeous 3D artwork which will impress fans and remind players of the impressive nature of Gears of War 3.
Of course, 3D Production Art for weapons, vehicles, and environments is also included here. These provide viewers an interesting look at the amazing level of detail Epic put into these designs as well as provide an excellent description of how the original artwork is made and modified to work within the game's perimeters. Something few gamers probably realize is the extent to which the game designers and artists must collaborate in order to make an original sketch or painting function as a map or level in-game, including spawn points, weapon drops, cover, enemies, props, and more.
Finally, following 320 pages of sketches, paintings, 3D models, and designs, a prologue by Gears of War 3's Design Director, Cliff Bleszinski, who shares with readers a unique perspective on not only the artwork made for Gears of War 3, but on game design, what makes a game studio function best, and what's makes Gears of War 3 great. It's a beautiful finish to a gorgeous collection of game art.
Fans of Gears of War 3 and the Gears of War game series will want to pick up Ballistic Publishing's The Art of Gears of War 3. It's available in three versions: a regular soft cover edition for $65.00, a special hardback edition for $129.00, and a limited Folio edition which includes a special boxed packaging, A3 print, and more) for $300.00. Fans and collectors can order directly from Ballistic Publishing HERE.
- review by Jess C. Horsley
- images courtesy of Ballistic Publishing and Epic Games.
"Until next time...have FUN with your figures!!"
Jess C. Horsley