Feels like the first time.
With this generation of consoles Microsoft tasked a lot of its first-party developers with continuing their most popular franchises. First it was 343 with Halo, and now the team at The Coalition are given the keys to the Gears of War franchise. It has been a long time coming, and with the previous entry, Gears of War: Judgment not receiving the same praise as its predecessors, expectations were high. After rummaging through the campaign and spending healthy amounts of time with both multiplayer and Horde 3.0 I can safely say, that this is the best the series has been in years.
The Coalition has nailed everything that makes a Gears game, well a Gears game. The cover-based shooting feels like it should, characters are gritty and yet somehow charming at the same time, and the enemies are extremely fun to encounter. There are lots of call-backs to past games, while also bringing in fresh new takes such as enemies and weapons to further expand the universe. This team nailed it, which is certainly good news for fans of the series.
Platforms: PC (reviewed), XB1
Price I’d Pay: $59.99
Gears 4 takes place 25 years after the end of the war against the Locust. The Imulsion Countermeasure weapon has been destroyed all Imulsion on the planet of Sera, along with any fossil fuels the people needed to survive. Things have changed. Cities are barricaded off to protect its dwindling population, and large windstorms are now a constant threat due to using the weapon. It is a dreary time.
Players take on the role of JD Fenix, son of the main protagonist from the original trilogy, Marcus Fenix. He and his friends Del and Kait are the main focus, but there are certainly many familiar faces along the way. The story feels like the natural progression of the series, and while it didn’t have a ton of “surprise” moments along the way, it tells a great story. Also old-man Marcus is simply the best.
The campaign runs roughly 8-15 hours depending, of course, on difficulty. The downside is that this entry only offers two-player co-op, albeit it works both online and in splitscreen. It makes sense for the story they are telling, but I really was looking forward to hammering it out with three buddies instead of just one. The new enemy types are also a blast to fight. The DeeBees are robots designed originally to help the humans. The biggest pain in this group is the Guardian, who has a shield that needs taken down before players can damage it.
The new monsters are called The Swarm and are pretty similar to the Locust, except they are much smarter. These enemies will flank and use tactics, alongside having heavies that carry larger weapons. There are also enemies called Juvies that are not fully formed, and pose more of a nuisance than anything else. The larger enemies are well done, such as the Pouncer, who moves so fast around the battlefield, it is almost impossible to keep track of them.
Combat feels delightful. Active reload feels like it should, the Torque Bow sounds like it should, and the chainsaw on the Lancer is still super satisfying. There are a host of new weapons such as the Dropshot, which takes some time to master, and my personal favorite, the Buzzkill, which fires saw blades at enemies, and they even bounce off the environment. Weather also plays a factor in combat, as Windstorms will blow debris and cover right out of the way, making encounters more exciting than the standard stop-and-pop formula.
In addition to the campaign there is also the staple multiplayer modes everyone has come to know and love. Here is a quick list of the Core modes:
- Team Deathmatch (self-explanatory)
- Dodgeball (teammates can be revived by killing opposition)
- King of the Hill (again this is a standard mode)
- Arms Race (various guns, and guns switch up every three kills)
- Guardian (kill the leader to prevent respawns)
- Warzone (one life per round)
- Escalation (a capture and hold mode)
- Execution (execution kills are the only ones that count)
Much like Halo 5, Gears players are required to play five placement matches before getting into ranked. They are quick and pretty painless, and I guarantee that before I am done writing this review, there are hundreds of thousands of people ten times better at this game than I am. I royally suck at Gears MP, and playing pre-launch has made me feel pretty good, but as soon as this game hits the market, it is over for my Gears MP career…unless…
Gears of War 4 features bots for multiplayer, as well as private matches with friends. This is a great option for people like me that simply cannot compete with the Gears elite. Bots are no joke either. Some fellow players and I took on a host of “Normal” difficulty bots and barely squeaked out a win. I cannot imagine how hard bumping them up will be. There is also a co-op playlist where players can team up with randoms to compete against AI bots. Needless to say there is something here for everyone.
Finally Horde returns with 3.0 and it has been expanded nicely. Gears of War 4 adopts the same card system other titles like Halo have already established. Players earn credits along with XP as they play MP, and those credits can be used to buy packs of cards. Of course they can also be purchased with real money, but that aspect seems fairly non-intrusive here.
These packs contain everything from skins to bounties and there are a ton of them. The team at The Coalition seem to have done a great job of proofing this game for a while. The season pass offers up all maps available at all times, but maps in the core rotation will always be free to those playing ranked matches -again, something for everyone.
Horde comes in and delivers the same experience we have come to know and love -50 waves of increasingly difficult encounters, with a twist. Players now have what is called a Fabricator (this is introduced and explained during the campaign.) This device takes in credits from fallen enemies, and in exchange will also produce weapons and defenses. It is a great push and pull method that makes each wave unique. Strategy is important, and to make it more so, there are now classes in Horde mode.
Five classes to be exact: Heavy, Soldier, Sniper, Scout, and Engineer, which should all be familiar to anyone who has played a class-based shooter before. Thankfully roles are dynamic, and an engineer can pick up a sniper rifle during the match, just like a heavy can opt for smaller weapons. The differences are in the perks, which each class has, and again are tied to the cards. There is a lot going on here, and I could see myself hammering with Horde for months to come. This type of co-op game play is right up my alley, and The Coalition has delivered the best the series has seen to date.
One of the things Gears has always been known for is its visual fidelity. Gears 4 is the first game on the new Xbox, and the first in the series to launch simultaneously on PC and console. With the new Play Anywhere system (which I have discussed in previous reviews) players are able to switch between the two versions seamlessly. The PC version stands out of course offering 60fps game play in the campaign, something the Xbox One is limited to 30fps in. Both versions are absolutely stunning though.
Now the Xbox One version does run at 60fps in multiplayer, which can be jarring when switching between the two on console. It is also worth noting that PC and Xbox One players can join up in Campaign, Horde, and Private MP sessions, but not in ranked. I tried out this feature through all three modes and it worked flawlessly. I used the Xbox App on my PC to join a party chat with someone on Xbox One, we then joined a squad and tested all three main modes, all of which worked perfectly.
Everything about Gears of War 4 is as polished and perfectly executed as I expected. The Coalition have done an outstanding job in continuing the series, and I am genuinely excited to see where the series goes from here. This new trilogy has opened up a brand new story that is sure to entertain for years to come, and now PC players can join in on the fun. The series is in good hands, and anyone who enjoys Gears is in for a treat when the game launches.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.
This game was reviewed on an ORIGIN PC
- Motherboard: Gigabyte Z87N
- Liquid Cooling: Origin Frostbyte 120 Liquid Cooling
- Processor: Intel Core i7 4770K Quad-Core
- Memory: Kingston HyperX 8GB 1600 MHz
- Graphics Card: Single NVIDIA GeForce GTX TITAN (6GB)