Despite being considered a tactical, team-centric game, Gears of War will not allow you choose who you play with in ranked matches. Epic Games programmer Joe Graf confirmed as much on the official forums recently, citing Microsoft certification as the reason. Graf, through a long series of discussion, explains that Microsoft would not allow the game to be shipped unless ranked match-ups were randomized (based on skill level, of course), though non-ranked games will still allow you to play with friends, privatize games, and send/accept invites.
From Graf's tone, we get the feeling Epic would prefer a more clan-friendly online system, and we're inclined to agree. Microsoft's theory, according to Graf, is that randomized ranked matches "prevent collaborative cheating (I kill you ten times, now you me, etc.)." However, this move will breed loner behavior -- why should I help a fellow teammate out when I now have less competition against my kill count?
A potential solution would be to reward players who heal their down-but-not-out brethren, thus promoting brotherly love. But might one also abuse this reward if friendly fire is enabled?
Halo 2 is cited by several forum members as having a matchmaking system that promotes teamwork, allowing you to play with a party of people. Halo 2 is an original Xbox title, however, and is therefore not bounded by MS's new policy. Will Halo 3 follow the same suit as Gears of War?