There comes a time in every franchise’s life where the creators must decide if the product should remain the same and become obsolete or create a newer version of the product to appease older customers while drawing in new ones. This is a simple rule of business that is especially true for the video game industry. Gears of War 4 is a perfect example of The Coalition adhering to this idea.
Almost four years ago, Epic Games and People Can Fly released Gears of War: Judgment on the Xbox 360; this was Microsoft’s first attempt to continue the Gears of War franchise after the original trilogy had concluded. Although Gears of War: Judgment received mostly positive reviews, it is often considered the black sheep of the franchise due to control and weapon changes that had been previously been established.
Upon the announcement of Gears of War 4, the gaming community was concerned on how The Coalition would continue the franchise without using Marcus Fenix as the primary character and would bring back the traditional controls. The Coalition would put Gears of War fans minds somewhat at ease with the release of Gears of War: Ultimate Edition which showed that they had heard the communities complaints and were determined to set things right. Gears of War 4 released worldwide on October 11th, 2016 and would rekindle many fans’ passion for the franchise.
Gears of War 4 is one of the first Xbox exclusive titles to be cross-platform compatible allowing Xbox players to play with their PC counterparts. At launch, Gears of War 4 featured 10 maps, each with their own special feel with fan favorite Gridlock returning to the line-up. Players can test out the eight new weapons in either Horde or Campaign. The eight new weapons are: the Dropshot, Overkill, Enforcer, Embar, Shock Grenades, Salvo, Trishot, and the Buzzkill which were designed by Dameon Baird and Clayton Carmine.
Gears of War 4 also introduces two new mechanics to the franchise that will help players to survive or kill their enemies. The first new mechanic allows players to close over cover without stopping by holding the “B” button. Players can use a high-risk, high-reward grapple that pulls an enemy over covering using the “X” button. Players can then use the “Y” button to execute the enemy with a knife but be wary, if the player is not fast enough the enemy can hit the “B” button to counter the action.
Although Marcus Fenix was not one of the primary characters of the game, he still holds a significant role. Gears of War 4 is the Story of J.D. Fenix, Del Walker, and Kait Diaz as they seek to discover what has become of Reyna Diaz and other settlers who have gone missing. After seeking the help of Marcus Fenix, the trio discovers that the Locust that was thought to be eradicated twenty-five years prior have returned and are looking to reestablish their ranks.
Gears of War 4‘s campaign can feel repetitive at times with the trio fighting wave after wave of enemies. Gears of War 4 returns to its dark roots focusing on the surprise factor and chaotic environment that occurs throughout. Players can use the objects in the landscape to their advantage but need to err on the side of caution when doing so. The campaign features a diverse pool of enemies; at first, the players must deal with killer robots who seek to capture them for accused crimes and then deal with the Swarm and the robots as they seek to clear their names while trying to save the lives of those they care about. The campaign is a linear thrill ride with diverse Easter Eggs that will appease the Gears community in several ways. The Coalition has also brought back the mechanic of if you go down, you die while playing on the insane difficulty.
If you are not a campaign player, Gears of War 4’s multiplayer may be right up your alley, offering eight different game modes, most of which have appeared in previous games. The Coalition divides the game types into three categories Core, Competitive, and Co-Op vs. AI. The versus multiplayer features a rank system in which players can place into certain divisions to compete against those with a similar skill level. For Core matchmaking, players can choose between Arms Race, Dodgeball, Guardian, King of the Hill, Warzone, and the overused Team Death Match. The Competitive modes offer less variety with only two game types (Escalation and Execution) but are predominately for the diehard competitive players.
Dodgeball and Escalation are new to the Gears of War franchise, each offering a unique spin to the multiplayer experience. Dodgeball players will find a 5v5 battle for supremacy, where a player cannot respawn unless a teammate kills a player on the opposing team. The exciting game mode Escalation, features a King of the Hill type match, where players battle to control three rings for a certain amount of time. At the end of the allotted time, the team that has the most points at the end of the round wins the round, whereas the losing team gets to determine what weapons are placed on the map in certain areas, but at round 7 all weapons that have been placed prior to half time are removed from the map. The game is over when one team wins seven rounds and can no longer than thirteen rounds. Each game type has its own rules and objectives to diversify the Gears multiplayer experience, often preventing stale gameplay.
If one does not feel like player versus player, one can play against different levels of difficulty AI in the CO-OP vs AI lobby, which features every game mode. Overall multiplayer can be a brutally gory time like its previous counterparts and on certain occasions, feature event themed game modes that will liven up your multiplayer experience.
If killing waves of enemies is your prerogative, while working with other Gears players to complete objectives, then Horde 3.0 might be the game type for you. In Horde 3.0, players can choose between one of five classes to play as before the match. These five classes are: sniper, engineer, heavy, scout, and soldier. Each class has their own special abilities that add an additional level of strategy to Horde. Players can also build fortifications to help protect the team or set up traps to damage the enemy. After a certain amount of power is spent, the fabricator levels up, providing high-quality fortifications, but at a higher cost.
All classes start at level one and as the player completes waves of the horde, the class levels up and allows for additional skill slots to help the player complete Horde Mode with ease. Skill slots can be filled with different skills based off of the player’s preference and cards acquired. Cards can be leveled up by having duplicates of the card, making the card more proficient as it is leveled; there are three types of card rarity which determine how valuable the card is worth. Players can use scrap to create additional versions of the card in order to level them up, but green cards are much easier to level up than purple cards. Each class has their own unique special ability that they can call in during rounds for a specific amount of power as long as the player has equipped the special skill before the match.
Overall, Horde 3.0 brings back what players loved about Horde in Gears 2, 3, and Judgement, while improving on certain features and changing others. Sadly, the Silverback mech does not make its return to the Gears of War franchise, which would have been useful for boss waves. If you like killing robots and the swarm then you will enjoy Horde 3.0.
The Gears of War 4 store features six pages of items so that players can purchase new content to increase their experience. Players can buy and open packs or use supply and air drops to unlock new weapons skins, character skins, bounties, or class skills. Players can purchase packs by using credits or with real life money. Supply and air drops can only be purchased through actual currency. Players are able to purchase additional maps or get them as they release through the Gears of War Season Pass ($49.99). If you a fan of the Gears of War E-Sports scene, you can purchase a teams’ weapon pack to represent your favorite team on the field of battle.
Although Gears of War 4 may not be the best game in the franchise, it is still a great game by itself. The campaign feels like it is trying too hard to introduce the new characters, while not establishing an emotional bond with any of them. The Coalition does a great job of giving the fans what they desired by returning Gears to what the community knew and loved, while even improving on some features. The campaign’s story also does a good job tying in the events of the past, while introducing players to a whole new story. With the different Easter Eggs and challenges that can be found, players can replay many levels of the game over to discover new easter eggs. The Coalition should work on developing more of an emotional connection to the characters in Gears of War 5.
Gears of War 4 multiplayer can be frustrating at times putting inexperienced players against seasoned veterans. Escalation can feel rather one sided, especially when teammates quit out of the match. Horde can be a lot of fun but beginners may feel frustrated at times due to the games focus on skill cards. Gears of War 4 horde focuses more on the long game rather than each 50 waves of horde. Gears of War 4 focuses a little too much on the bounty system giving players a majority of their experience from bounties and offering very few credits for the completion of challenges. However, there are a lot of skins the player can unlock through credits.
The Coalition did a great job by bringing back the controls that the Gears community loved while improving them for the elite controller users. If a player wants to go for Seriously 4.0, they will need to complete a majority of the other achievements beforehand and put in a lot of hours to obtain it. Gears of War 4 Graphics and sound effects were probably the best in the franchise creating a realistic feel throughout the game. Hopefully, they will bring back Beast Mode in a later game. The Coalition did a great job with Gears of War 4 and look to be taking the franchise in the right direction; I look forward to seeing what they have planned for Gears of War 5 and Gears of War 6.
Gears of War 4 is available now for both Xbox One and Windows 10. It’s also compatible with Play Anywhere.