Gears of War 2 is one of the Xbox 360’s most anticipated games of 2008, which means Microsoft is bound to create some sort of ARG (alternate reality game) or other online stunt. Microsoft started that tradition with ilovebees, and it’s shown no reservations about playing (non)games online since then. That may very well be the case with Gears of War 2 as well, as DailyGame today received an odd package in the mail courtesy of Microsoft: a real-life Gears of War 2 cog.
As you can see from the images in this article, this Gears of War 2 cog is solid metal, engraved with the appropriate ownership tags and, lo and behold, a special serial number (called a CSID — “Coalition Security Identification”??). Along with the serial number are instructions to enter the CSID code at a specific Microsoft-owned URL.
The code in and of itself means nothing; it essentially looks like an activation number on today’s most-expensive software. The word “activation” may not be all that far off, considering what we encountered when we went to the “Last Day” Web site, as directed by the box. Suffice it to say, it appears that the game is on….
[UPDATE] An industrious DailyGame reader, Richard, has apparently solved the mystery of these Gears of War 2 cog tags. Great job, Richard!
When we first pulled up the URL, we were greeted by an age gate. Lovely. Even the ARG stuff is subjected to the legal types now. Once that nonsense was taken care of, we were presented with a Flash animation that took approximately two minutes to load. After the loading was complete, a first-person camera “awoke” and slowly rose from a pile of rubble, almost as if it were a human surfacing from a recent attack. After gaining a few feet of altitude, the camera flew over to a satellite dish.
Shown on either side of the camera’s viewfinder is a convex row of 13 blue horizontal lines (26 total), each of which pulsates lightly as you roll your mouse over it. Pressing each bar causes the camera to zoom to a different location on what appears to be a level ripped from the single-player Gears of War: the gas station. Only this time, the gas station is completely blown to Hell before you arrive.
Clicking through the various bars leads you to new viewpoints, each of which has one clickable item. However, when you try to click the item, you get a buzzing sound and the message “Cog Tag missing.” As of this writing, only two stops along the blue-bar columns were activated: the second and third down on the left. Our guess: enough people — or the right people — have entered their CSID code to warrant that content being unlocked.
[UPDATE]: Our theory at this point — and yes, this is just theory — is that there is one Cog tag for each blue bar, so 26 total. If that’s true, then whenever a recipient activates their CSID code, a new blue bar lights up, thus unlocking new content. So, what does that content entail?
The second button leads to an old arcade machine that, once the robot/camera has analyzed it, opens up into what appears to be concept art or sketches for Gears of War 2. The sketches are larger than the camera’s viewfinder itself, so it’s possible to drag/scroll them like you would a PDF. The third bar, meanwhile, zooms over to a wheelchair that, when clicked, shows you the view from two security cameras panning around a surgery or operating room. Other than the disturbing image of bloody operating tables, the wheelchair “station” also includes an audio track, with people lamenting that they can’t handle the situation.
Intrigued by the content, we clicked the fourth blue bar, which led us to a pay phone. Unfortunately, once we clicked it, we encountered the message “Cog Tag missing.” Just at that time, we noticed a pulsating red cog tag icon on the bottom of the camera’s interface. “Aha!” we thought, “good thing we have that missing tag.”
Nope. Even after entering the code, the multimedia remained locked.
Blue bar after blue bar we clicked, hoping that our CSID code would activate additional content. Instead, we received cryptic lines of code that surely mean something to someone, but it’s high-level math beyond our feeble brains. We’ve uploaded the images below in hopes that someone else can figure out the missing code and activate the content accordingly. You can now understand how our [Update] hypothesis came about; one number (ours), and one new blue bar was unlocked. No more, no less.
That’s not to say the cryptic sketches and audio/video are the only things available. While we were halfway through the 26-stop aerial tour and clicking on the hidden cog-tag paintings in the environment, we noticed that Firefox had prevented quite a few popups from opening. Worried that we had just broken Microsoft’s game, we opted to accept popups from the site for the time being. Fortunately, we had not broken the game, nor had we missed out on any wacky codes. Instead, we learned that we’d simply missed out on some promotional posters (they look like traditional propaganda pieces, but with a BioShock or Fallout feel), two Gears of War 2 wallpapers and two renderings (there’s no way they were screens) of Marcus with a chainsaw and a flamethrower.
It was not clear whether our “unlocking” of this content was based upon entering our code at every single one of the 26 “stops” along the blue-bar trip or upon discovering enough of the red-painted cog logos in the environment. However, it’s safe to say that unlocking those pieces of content is attainable by just about everyone; we had at least four copies of each by the time our trip was complete.
Not that our experience was every really “complete,” mind you. We saw two pieces of odd “story within the story” bonus content and 24 “Cog Tag missing” messages. And yes, getting the latter message over and over and over got annoying. The things we do to ourselves to keep you informed. 🙂
The moral of the story, as far as we can tell, is that Microsoft is literally playing games with us, and it’s up to gamers to make the next move. It’s unclear whether there are any wacky codes to break in the images we screen-grabbed above, or whether the unlocking of all this added multimedia is just determined by people entering their CSID code. What is pretty clear, though, is that Xbox 360 owners are going to have fun with this latest Microsoft marketing stunt, even if it’s just for a few days. And just for the record: no, you can’t have our Cog, and yes, we erased the CSID number from the jpegs above.
— Jonas Allen