I still hate Jack, Gears of War’s Pixar-like companion drone, but after hearing the inspiration behind him I appreciate why he exists. Gears 5 director Rod Fergusson said at a recent game conference that Jack was meant to give non-Gears players an approachable cooperative role similar to Mario Galaxy’s co-star mode.
Oh, that’s pretty cool! I didn’t realize that the robot was playable in the new Gears game which means I definitely didn’t realize that he played completely differently than the core characters. I love those kinds of non-symmetrical co-op experiences and I love adding new gameplay options to make the game more welcoming. Seems like a double-win to me. (I love the quote from the included link, where they say a player described playing Jack like they were a drummer in a band. That’s a fun metaphor.)
As somebody who has only dabbled in the Gears games, I always through of Jack as a really fun way to normalize some game mechanics within the fiction. In the first game (and I assume the others?) you would often find a roadblock of sorts where you would need to battle enemies while waiting for a door to unlock or a console to be hacked. In lots of games it might be an NPC that would do this, which means you have this person running around with you who sometimes fights along with you and other times is doing busy work. The fun thing about the Jack robot is that he filled that role, but he could also turn invisible. So when he’s busy unlocking a door, you never feel like, “Ugh, I wish this guy would just shoot the bad guys and deal with the door later.” Then when he’s done, he just disappears because otherwise he’d get in the way. Where does he go? He’s just invisible, don’t worry about it. I thought that was a clever little idea.