Many fans have been wondering what would become of the Gears of War franchise since Epic Games stepped away from it after completing Judgment. Well, last year at E3, that question was answered with not only the introduction of Gears of War: Ultimate Edition (which came out last year), but an all-new Gears game, scheduled for release in October 2016.
While Gears of War 4 still has a few months left before its release, Microsoft has kicked off a multiplayer beta to help players get used to what action lies ahead. If it’s any indication based on what we’ve played thus far, the series is certainly in good hands, as it feels much better than the previous Judgment delivered. That’s not to say it’s perfect, but it’s definitely a step up.
First off, the balanced difficulty system, which isn’t entirely in play yet, promises to offer something for players of each skill level. Thus far, we got shredded quite a bit, but it does feel good, and it helps you adapt to be a better player, deciding whether to use the Gnasher Shotgun in a full-blown firefight, or going with your Lancer and risk sawing someone in half (or becoming shredded beef if you get a little too close to a Locust with a shotgun – ouch).
Throughout each match, you’ll be able to earn experience points and level up accordingly, just like in any given multiplayer match, but there are also in-game rewards that you can earn, as well as cards that provide booster bonuses if completed, like Exotic Bounties for additional points.
Durables are probably the best bonuses available, as you can unlock retro-themed goodies, as well as Emblems. However, Consumables aren’t half bad either.
For the beta, there aren’t too many weapons available, but the ones included pack an old-school punch. The Lancer is reliable as ever, and the Gnasher Shotgun still delivers the kind of thunderous blow that can turn a soldier into sashimi with one well-timed shot. The Longshot is also ideal for sniper types that like picking off from a distance, and the Snub Pistol isn’t bad if you’re low on ammo. The Torque Bow is also ideal, if you can place explosive shots with good aim. If not, um, stick with something more consistent.
Then there’s the Drop Shot, which is easily one of my favorite weapon in the game. It works along the same lines as a grenade, as you launch it from your gun while holding down the fire button. You let it go when you want it to drop, and it explodes wherever you choose to drop it – making it lethal for anyone hiding behind cover. I have a feeling that a lot of Gears fans are going to love this.
As for the rest of the gameplay, the roll/cover system feels more dialed in than ever before, although you could make a mistake if someone comes running up and you roll right into their Shotgun range. Hey, live and learn. Well, die and learn, but whatever, you get the point as you respawn.
The Team Deathmatch mode is always fun, though you have a limited amount of respawns before the match is eventually called. Still, that’s enough to prompt you to stay alive as long as you can. However, the new modes are worth trying, particularly Dodgeball. With this, you’re in a full-on contest where, if you manage to kill a rival player after your team is taken out, you can bring another player back into the fray. That’s probably the best mode of the beta, if you want to check it out. Just make sure you’re good enough to bring back other players. Got it, Chuckles?
The three maps featured in the game (thus far – the final will have at least ten) are Harbor, Dam and Foundation. Thus far, they look fantastic, as the maps run at 60 frames per second throughout with a lot of detail, both inside and out. Perhaps my particular favorite is Dam, with huge waterfalls running in the distance as you try to keep the blood flowing in the foreground. The animations also look good, and the bloodshed is more satisfying than ever, especially as you splatter someone with a brutal melee finish. Yikes.
It’s still just a beta, and the final game will no doubt have a lot more to offer, but Gears of War 4’s multiplayer set-up delivers on a lot of promises thus far – and shows us that the team at The Coalition is certainly up to task with it. Be sure to check it out before it ends its run on May 1st.