The Meat Shield is a slang term, coined by game developer Epic Games, for using an enemy character (either a player or a Non-Player Character) as a shield from enemy fire. Using characters as shields is a new gameplay mechanic introduced in Gears of War 2. In order for a player to take a character as a Meat Shield, the player must press the "A" or the "X" button depending on if it's GoW2 or GoW3 when over an enemy character who is down but not out; dead characters cannot be taken as Meat Shields. Players can use Meat Shields in both Campaign and Multiplayer. If a player is used as a Meat Shield, his/her character is considered dead and the player is sent to the spawn screen to spectate.
When a player uses a character as a Meat Shield, the player is limited to using only a pistol (such as the Snub Pistol, Boltok Pistol and the Gorgon Pistol), and cannot perform rolls or use cover. Possessing a Meat Shield does not make a player invulnerable. A player can still be damaged or killed from behind and on the sides, with a headshot, or with a direct hit (on the player, not on the Meat Shield) from an explosion (such as a Frag Grenade or Mortar). Boomers, Tickers, Wretches, Sires and Bloodmounts cannot be used as Meat Shields.
The Meat Shield can only take a certain amount of damage; if the body absorbs too much damage, it will disintegrate and leave the player vulnerable. Weapons that are particularly effective at destroying Meat Shields are the Scorcher Flamethrower and Mulcher. The meat shield can be instantly destroyed by a strong explosion (such as from a Mortar, Boom Shot, or Ticker) or a Chainsaw Bayonet. However, a player who uses the Chainsaw on a meat shield will be vulnerable as the enemy sacrifices the meat shield.
The Meat Shield is effective, in that it gives the player time to run for cover if hit by a Boomshot round or some other explosive. The Meat Shield will be blown to bits but the player will be unscathed, granting the opportunity to run into cover.
The Meat Shield can be "dropped" at any time by performing an execution move with the "X" button, in which the player's character will snap the neck of the Meat Shield and drop the corpse, or simply by switching weapons.
In Gears of War 3, players can "bag and tag" the meatshield. The player will stick a grenade on their meat shield's head before kicking them away. The grenade will then detonate, activating the effects of the grenade used. In order to perform the bag and tag, players must have a grenade on them.
If you chainsaw an enemy carrying a meat shield, you will chainsaw your teammate and lose points. This does not apply if they are stabbed by the Retro Lancer.
In Gears of War: Judgement, when a Meat Shield is picked up, your current equipped weapon becomes the weapon you use. The pistol no longer automatically comes up when you pick up a shield. For example, if you are holding the Lancer when you pick up the Meat Shield, your character will wield the Lancer one-handed without the chainsaw melee. Equipped weapons have decreased accuracy when held with one hand (pistols are the exception).
- Characters will sometimes talk when taken as a Meat Shield, but they are usually cries for help from teammates and orders to the holder to let them go or even kill them.
- There are rumors that there is a glitch to "save" a Meat Shield, but how to do so is unknown.
- If a player that is holding the Meat Shield fails at an active reload, the player will slam their weapon against the shield's head in aggravation of the weapon jamming, therefore un-jamming it.
- Locusts are better Meat Shields since they are larger than Gears, and a Locust holding a Gear as a Meat Shield often if not always has his/her head much more exposed.
- In the "Rendezvous with Death" trailer for Gears of War 2, Marcus is seen dragging a Locust by the vest collar behind him then views a large fight with the Locust and COG in the hollows, Marcus flips the Locust in front of him and then sprints with the Locust down a staircase. Sprinting with a Meat shield isn't seen in game but is in this trailer.
- Once downed, by being tagged with a Smoke Grenade, a Lambent Drone can be used as a shield.