Gears of War is all about small scale, personal combat and that feeling of truly beating someone one on one. Based on the fact that Gears is not really a customizable game, and I doubt that will change in the next game, so we need to look to alternative ways to add our own personality and customization into Gears. Presenting my idea:
The Gears Career Record and Accolade System
Imagine being able to click on a gamertag and have a full Career Record pop up. This includes kill death ratios overall and in various game modes, time played etc - kind of like the GearsofWar.com site offers now, but in the game itself and with a little more depth. This also includes showing your Rank insignia, Rank number and total experience bar for example. You could also tab right to get the game stats from them, which is offered now.
But here's where the "Accolade System" comes in. This would show on your Career Profile, have a full list of your earned accolades on the site, and your Top 5 Accolades (as selected by you) would appear under your Avatar and such on the forums. The Accolade system is like mixing Halo 3's medal system with Call of Duty's challenge system, small images or icons with challenges tied to them. By doing certain things in game, you can earn an accolade but they don't (mostly) come easy. For example, your not going to get an accolade every headshot you get.
Here's a couple of examples of the challenge based accolades I threw together with the first one being easy difficulty, the second is medium difficulty, and the third is a tough one.
1) Waste Not, Want Not
Get a kill with every power weapon you pick up in one match (minimum of two pickups)
2) A Head of the Competition
In one match with the Longshot, get at least 3 headshots and finish with an 100% accuracy rating.
3) Team, You Can Thank Me Now
Win a 1 v 3 or more situation without using a power weapon.
So that offers a wealth of challenges for people to work towards, some easy, some very tough. And obviously a number would be next to each accolade to show how many times you've earned it. But that's not the limit to the accolade system.
You can also have various ones for each weapon, so you can put your favorite weapon (and how good you are with it) in your Top 5 accolades, showing your skill with your best weapon. That'll let people who are awesome snipers, fantastic shots with the Torque Bow or ninja grenade taggers (on people not walls!) to get their recognition and share that across their Gears identity wherever they are in the community.
Here's an example of my idea of how the weapon system would work. Please bear in mind this is purely an example system, so don't look so much at what I say, rather than the idea. Here is the idea under the Sniper Rifle progression:
Sniper Grade 1 (Bronze)
1) Get 50 headshots total with the Longshot in public matches.
Sniper Grade 2 (Silver)
1) Complete Grade 1 Requirements
2) 150 Headshots total with the Longshot in public matches.
3) Get a set amount of headshots with the Longshot in one public match with the sniper rifle. Requirement to achieve in non-Respawn modes is 4, Respawn modes is 8.
Sniper Grade 3 (Gold)
1) Complete Grade 2 Requirements
2) 300 Headshots total with the Longshot in public matches.
3) Kill a set amount of other players using sniper rifles in one public match with a headshot only. Requirement to achieve in non-Respawn modes is 3, Respawn modes is 6.
Sniper Grade 4 (Mastery)
1) Complete Grade 3 Requirements
2) Achieve 500 Headshots
3) Complete all Longshot Challenge Accolades
This method supports the many of you who I have seen gagging for Gears 1 style achievements based on weapons to show off your skill or love for that weapon.
So this system covers not only showing off your extra skill level in various areas to separate you from the crowd, it also shows your playing style and allows you to share that community wide both in the game and outside of the game. On top of this, this could be combined with a Rank system that Gears 2 currently has, and the achievement list Epic would put together to offer a true sense of achievement, personality and progression all in one.
Accolades provide the challenge, personability, and challenge progression.
Rank provides the progression and tracking of your progress in the game.
Achievements provide the general pushes and challenges for all players.
Your Career Record pulls this, along with your stats, into one location. This injects personality into your Gears gaming without modifying the core of the game based on the current system of using normal character models (rather than customizing them) and no weapon unlocking.
Combine that with the fact you could proudly display your top 5 or so accolades on the forum under your profile, and you have a real TRUE representation of how you play Gears both in and out of the game. I think that would be much better than any kind of character customization, and any kind of progression system, in terms of it's reflection on you as a player.