Gears of War 4 has finally come out, a much needed flagship franchise for Microsoft after the flop of Halo: The Master Chief Collection tarnished the good Chief’s name. Does Microsoft sink or swim with the next installment in the Gears of War line? Actually, it’s a pretty good Gears game.
To those who may be concerned with Gears of War moving development from Epic to The Coalition, don’t worry. Gears of War 4 feels just like any other Gears of War game (aside from Judgement, but that’s kind of it’s own thing anyway). Gears of War 4 maintains the same tight third-person shooting mechanics we’ve loved over the years, along with everyone’s favorite: chest-high walls.
Having played through all four Gears of War games prior to Gears of War 4, the latest installment does a pretty good job of taking the trademarks from the series and reinventing them for a new group of protagonists. Instead of Marcus, Cole, Dom and Baird, this time we have Marcus’ son JD, his fellow ex-COG buddy Del and the Outsider Kait. The trio are joined by a host of other guests along the way, with many familiar faces returning for old fans of the franchise.
The story kicks off 25 years after Gears of War 3, with humanity rebuilding from the destruction of the Locust. Despite cities being built up at an alarming rate, some of humanity is left outside, forced to fend for themselves. This wouldn’t be an issue if it weren’t for the new group of monsters called the Swarm coming out of nowhere to capture and kill humans. Naturally, it’s up to JD and his friends to save the day from this new onslaught. Like father, like son, right?
With all this familiarity, you start to get a sense that you’ve already played the game before. Sure, there are a few new enemies, but you’ll find yourself up against recognizable foes again as well. The weapons don’t do much to make you feel like you’re playing something new either, as you’ll be playing with the Lancer, Gnasher and Hammerburst like you have already.
That’s not a terrible thing, as Gears of War is fun. More of a fun thing is still fun. It doesn’t feel all that fresh or unique, but it’s still fun. Thankfully, split-screen co-op is back, letting you play through the game with a friend. Co-op works just fine, with no noticeable drops in framerate when playing.
The campaign has its high and low moments, but feature a few strange on-rails segments that feel inspired by endless runner mobile games. Those games are fine as time wasters on the subway or at an airport, but I don’t need them in my AAA video games.
There’s also the overhauled multiplayer and Horde modes for players to dig into. I’m not a big fan of playing online multiplayer, but those who are can expect another Gears of War online experience like what has already been played. Horde Mode is the biggest change, this time allowing players to pick from five different classes.
There are a few issues with the story as well. The majority of it is fine and a pretty classic “fight against a seemingly unstoppable force to try and make things better” plot we’ve seen many times before in gaming. Humor doesn’t ring through as well as it did in previous games, but there’s still a bit of a light-hearted tone through the whole thing. It’s when you start looking a little closer that you start seeing strange plot holes.
One of the biggest problems I had, story-wise, involved JD and Del’s relationship with the government. There is clearly more to the story than what is told in the game, but it’s still pretty obvious JD has some bad blood with the President (or whatever political title she has). This is apparently such a big rift that JD doesn’t bother to tell the government about these new monsters attacking people. Instead of getting help from an army, we have to try and save the world in secret as a small group of people. That just feels silly, knowing help is easy to get, while the heroes actively choose not to get it.
While it’s pretty obvious Gears of War 4 is setting up for a sequel and probably its own trilogy, the ending also leaves much to be desired. The game builds to what feels like a big peak in action in the middle or maybe two thirds of the way through the game, but it’s actually turns out to be the ending. It kind of comes out of nowhere, all but leaving a huge “TO BE CONTINUED” message slapped across the screen.
The thing with Gears of War 4 is that it doesn’t really do anything different from the previous entries. It felt like there was more of a change between the original and Gears of War 2 than there was between Gears of War 3 and 4. You’d think 25 years later, there would be some new sights to see and guns to fire (that aren’t the terrible new Enforcer). Instead, it just feels like The Coalition played it safe, choosing to highlight what fans liked about previous games instead of trying something new.
Gears of War 4 comes to Xbox One and Windows 10 PCs on Oct. 11.
So what do you think? Are you excited to try the new Gears of War for yourself? Are you more interested in the multiplayer and Horde modes? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.