When Gears of War originally released on Xbox One, (Following an amazing trailer featuring Gary Jules ‘Mad World’), it rocked the gaming world. The only 3rd Person Shooter I had played up to that point was Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell so this new addition blew me away and made a serious move against Halo as the Xbox One marquee franchises. Halo is great, if you have been following my previous articles you will know that I am a HUGE fan, but I feel like Gears of War has a much more sincere storyline to it.
Last August, Microsoft’s dedicated Gears of War development studio, The Coalition along with Splash Damage, brought back the glory of the original game with a remastered Ultimate Edition with new achievements, redesigned levels, completely re-recorded cut scenes and five additional campaign chapters taken directly from the PC version of the game. Gears of War 4 could easily be considered a risky move, giving a franchise with such a passionate fan-base new life can easily fall flat, however, that is definitely not the case.
Gears of War 4 is set 25 years after the events of Gears of War 3 and introduces new characters, JD (Marcus Fenix’s son) and his two friends Kait and Del. Gears of War 3 ended with the defeat of the locust invasion leaving Sera to figure out how to return to normal pre-Emergence Day life.
Gears of War is still very much a run-to-cover shooter. You need to fight through groups of enemies while moving forward to your next objective, all the while avoiding fire. Gears 4 brings back many of the classic weapons such as the Lancer and Gnasher, but brings quite a few newer weapons too. The movement enhancements from Gears 3 are still present, so you can vault cover more easily and stun enemies for melee attacks and executions. Fans of the franchise are going to feel right at home when it comes to Gears of War 4’s combat system. Timed reloads are still very much a huge part of playing effectively, cover is still elegantly scattered throughout each mission, and you’re still making liberal use of the Y button to direct your camera to whatever set piece is going on while you’re busy cutting down monsters.
A (very) new feature to the new Gears addition are Windflares; a massive, violently rotating vortex of air containing large amounts of electrical discharges that build up until they are released as large electrical strikes. This affects EVERYTHING! Think of it like Razorhail on steroids. These Windflare moments happen throughout the 5 acts and help create an intense moment were you have to find shelter fast or end up getting torn to pieces. It also severely limits movement and plays havoc with your aiming abilities.
Gameplay also drastically changes during these windflares as attacking enemies are increasingly difficult to shoot because of the extreme wind. Bullets will not go where they were intended to go, and you’ll need to think even more about your aiming during a Windflare outbreak. Movement is also restricted during a Windflare as you’ll be much slower moving forward, and unable to make the kind of movements you can make when not in a Windflare. It makes confrontations that much more intense and although these are scripted into the campaign and not random events, you still wonder when the next Windflare will occur.
Gears 4 also introduces destructible cover, if you get pinned down behind a wooden barricade you only have a short amount of time before it get’s destroyed by bullets and forces you out. These new additions greatly challenges player skill and forces the player to think strategically.
The weapon variety has grown drastically, nearly doubling in size compared to the previous offerings. It has done so by taking a nod from the Halo franchise. Just as we have seen human COG and Locust weapons in the past, that almost mirror one another in terms of their various weapon classes, Gears 4 sees the introduction of a new line of weapons from the new robotic COGs. They have their own brand of sniper rifles, shotguns, and assault rifles. They feel different enough to provide their own unique tactical advantages in battle, but at the same time allow them to feel familiar to those picking them up for the first time.
Gears of War 4 adds a huge range of new enemies. First off you have robots which are called DeeBees. You encounter these in the opening act. This brings a new freshness to Gears Of War 4 because now it isn’t all about fighting monsters all the time. Gears 4 also introduces a new faction of creatures called the “Swarm.” Some of the Swarm’s enemy types are similar in behaviour to a few of the Locust enemy types from past series entries. For example, the Swarm’s “Drones” tend to attack/defend just like its Locust brethren.
“Pouncers” are armoured enemies that fire quills from their tails and are capable of pouncing onto humans. “Juvies” are swift moving baddies that are particularly vicious in packs; their blood-curdling screams can break open pods that birth more enemies you’ll have to contend with. These are just a few examples of the many types of monsters that are aligned with the Swarm.
The Swarm are shrouded in mystery which you will learn and found out more about their origins in this very interesting campaign. Both DeeBees and The Swarm offer unique challenges with both having different enemy types.
The soundtrack is scored by Ramin Djawadi, a veteran composer of film, television and video games. He is the genius behind the music from the Game of Thrones series and movie soundtracks such as Pacific Rim.
Gears of War’s storyline has definitely had it’s fair share of pitfalls, especially when it comes to the narrative. AHEM (Dom continuously whining about Maria anyone?) However, I found it hard to find any fault this time around. Gears 4 begins with a flashback to the Pendulum Wars, and right away the depth of the underlying story becomes obvious. This is a scene that was never seen before in a Gears game. While past games stuck to the main story, Gears 4 shows a little more “lore” behind the main dialogue.
The main story begins with JD, Kait and Del as they explore an old COG factory looking for tech. The village our heroes are delivering the goods to gets attacked and Kait’s mother and uncle are taken, along with any other villagers who weren’t brutally murdered. Throughout the main campaign the plot opens up and develops the characters at the same time. As the son of Marcus Fenix, I had thought that JD would have had much more depth, but I felt his character was very lacking and plain with a non-existent personality. He makes a few good jokes and funny sarcastic comments along the way but nothing that really made me warm to the character specifically.
If you are in any way a fan of action games you are going to love Gears of War 4, especially if you are a veteran to the series.
A strange combination of both familiar territory and a fresh feeling, Gears of War 4 provides and enjoyable and robust experience. While there isn’t much new ground broken in the experience, it does a lot to remind us what was so great about the original games in the first place.
Gears Of War 4 is another incredible entry in the Gears Of War series. I’m happy the team took the extra time to get their first new Gears Of War title on the Xbox One as the extra time seems to have paid off. I feel Gears Of War 4 brought forward some great changes without moving too far away from what made the series so successful. Fans of the old games will be pleased with this entry while new fans will be impressed with what’s being offered in Gears Of War 4.
- Platform: Xbox One
- Also On: PC
- Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
- Developer: The Coalition
- Medium: Blu-ray
- Players: Multi
- Online: Yes
- ESRB: M
Note: At the time of review, we couldn’t connect an online Horde 3.0 match or any other competitive multiplayer. We’ll update this review with full thoughts closer to release when services are operating more smoothly.