If this Tweet by Lester Speight is to be taken literally, it would seem the 'Cole Train' is returning to Gears of War. Still shrouded in secrecy thanks to Microsoft and Black Tusk's decision to keep things under lock and key for the time being, this could be taken as our first glimpse at the direction things are heading in.
In many ways, it's an unexpected move as well.
Following Gears of War 3, and the end of Marcus Fenix's storyline, it wouldn't have been too far of a stretch to assume that further entries would introduce a new cast of characters to proceedings. After all, Judgment – which allowed Baird and Cole to take centre stage – was surely testing the waters of such a move. The problem was, the first Gears spin-off wasn't exactly received ecstatically by its audience. It didn't sell that well either.
A lot of this could be down to the fact that many of us were 'franchise fatigued' at that point, or slightly underwhelmed that Epic weren't directly in charge. As popular as PeopleCanFly are, there's never a substitute when it comes to the original developer.
On top of all this, though, was the fact good ol' Marcus and Dom (RIP) were, more or less, absent. Was this enough to put potential buyers off altogether? Absolutely. As a tie-in that wasn't part of the main canon, Judgment was never going to have any serious impact. The lack of familiar faces would only have contributed further to that.
It poses a difficult task for Microsoft. Trying to get a new character accepted in a series that's already built itself some pretty solid foundations isn't easy, but trying to continue a story that wrapped itself up quite nicely isn't a walk in the park either. Furthermore, even if Augustus Cole is going to reprise his role, there's nothing to suggest the rest of Delta Squad will turn up too. It could very well be nothing more than a cameo, included to introduce a sense of nostalgia as a stable of new jacked-up dudes curbstomp around Sera.
With all that said – and given how entertaining the Gears template has always been - I'd be very supportive of Marcus and co. returning before embarking on adventures new. I've watched all nine seasons of 24, and I wouldn't want Jack Bauer replaced. The long-running rumour that former partner Chase was once set to take over his spot would've killed the show. Half the fun is getting to experience different scenarios with individuals you've built a relationship with over a set period of time. If Darrius Vantrope all of a sudden turns up, maybe my gut will tell me I don't want to go through another Gears of War game*.
Thankfully it seems the people behind the Xbox One version of Gears understand that. It's very likely the reason Rod Fergusson was brought back into the fold. A veteran of the series as much as Cliff Bleszinski was, you would assume this isn't a 'for the sake of it' project. Even if it's pitched as straight-up fanservice, I don't think anyone would be too upset to see the same millions buying back into the license.
Ultimately, a new iteration needs to bring fresh ideas to the table without upsetting the balance. Forget any nonsense such as changing the controller layout (what were you thinking, Judgment?) and don't be tempted to take any radical decisions that, for example, could see the Lancer permanently retired. That's just stupid.
Build on the core gameplay, add in that next-gen sheen and remind everyone why –when it works – the multiplayer side of Epic's former creation is so damned good and you've got a real reason to entice people to purchase an Xbox One. With Titanfall already winning a fair few over and the upcoming Halo celebration, it could very well be the final turn the console needs to get everyone back on board. Drastic, and unnecessary, shifts, won't do anyone any favours.
In the short term, it's a question of waiting for Microsoft to make an 'official' reveal. 2014 still seems like a smart move – a tag team assault of this and the Master Chief is an enticing concept. Old they may be, but they're still franchises with a significant amount of power.
So does this all hint at a reunion of the original cast? Maybe and, to be honest, I hope that's the case...
* I do...