It has been five years since Gears of War Judgement, let alone Gears 3, and yet the franchise still feels fresh and new with the addition of Gears of War 4.
In many ways Gears of War 4 feels like a continuation of the previous trilogy’s story, while also bringing in a new cast of characters that you grow to genuinely enjoy. In Gears 4 you take the role of James “JD” Fenix, son of Marcus and Anya. Coming along with JD is Del and Kait; both of these two side characters may seem like accompanying narrative for the player at first; but its more than that. This trio of new characters have a history, and through the course of the game little by little of their backstory gets filled in.
Though the informative dialogue is helpful, its also very comedic. Certain times throughout the campaign a few visual gags or self-referential quips detail moments of horror or frustration. For example; towards the later half of the story an elevator needs to be turned on to progress further. JD tries to turn it on, and his simple reply is “of course it doesn’t work.” These moments add for levity in what could otherwise be an overly serious game. I mean its a game about overly muscular characters shooting creatures, why not add little bit of fun to it.
Gears of change
The twenty-five years between Gears 3 &4 slowly but surely come to fruition as passing dialogue-sometimes in the form of banter-between the characters fill in the gaps from the years lost-mostly done by Marcus. This easily relates JD to the player, as both are relatively uneducated about this past history.When dangerous events start to unfold JD and co. must seek out the one man who can help make sense of their troubles. Speaking of Marcus, he makes a return in Gears 4, and with a new sequel comes a new level of grumpy. Marcus is more tame-and sometimes caring-due to him being wise…as well as older. Yet throughout the story he his level of grump is due only to him wanting to be left alone in peace. Is that too much to ask?
Marcus’ role doesn’t feel shoe-horned in, in fact, it feels very purposeful. The few familiar faces from the past that you do see feel aptly appropriate towards the pacing of the story. What the story ultimately comes down to is essentially a re-introduction to the world and a passing on of the torch from old to new.
Speaking of new, the introduction of a new type of enemy known as DeeBee’s-robotic soldiers that are tough and annoying (because they don’t stop talking). DeeBee’s manage to be both tough and smart. I initially underestimated their capabilities while playing on normal, thinking I could mow them down with ease; boy was I wrong.
Their personal arsenal of guns are just some of the cool new additions to the campaigns vast array of new and familiar weapons. While battling the DeeBee’s, player movement must be crucial since the smart a.i. can counter at any moment. Luckily for the player, environmental hazards are introduced in the form of wind flare’s. Wind flare’s can be either your friend or foe. Various times throughout the campaign battles take place during these storms. Some tend to be less lethal than others. On occasion gusty wind will effect the player movement as the storm passes in. With this wind, environmental triggers can be used to take out enemies at long range with glorious effect. In one particular firefight I was being pinned down and noticed a construction blockade holding what looked to be a few sewer pipes in place. I shot at the blockade, and the pipes came barreling down, wiping the enemies off the field with gory effect. Thank’s wind! When it comes to the wind flare portion, lightning strikes the ground streaking its way toward you. The only way to survive is to avoid.
Much like the first Gears of War; Gears 4 goes back to it’s horror roots-at least for a good portion of the game. About halfway through the story new enemies are introduced; the Swarm. Without going into too much detail about the Swarm, lets just say many of the characteristics of this new enemy are reminiscent of the Locusts. Thats one thing I noticed while playing the story, many of the elements found in Gears 4 are lifted from the previous installments, but just have a different wording. Many of the enemies feel similar, but also not too close to being blatant copies. These enemies may seem familiar, but don’t be fooled. Gameplay changes with the introduction of the Swarm. While fighting the DeeBee’s may be very linear in approach. Fighting the Swarm is a bit more tricky.
But where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Gears 4 features some impressive awe-inspiring moments; some of which I never thought to see in a Gears of War game. That being said, the campaign does get bogged down by some overlong sequences that halt the momentum of the story. Mostly being the use of the fabricator. The fabricator is a big box used to create defenses such as turrets or barricades. Through the course of the story the use of the fabricator plays a part in the progression of the game. In a way it acts as a mini-introduction to horde mode-which uses the fabricator; more about that later on. The use of the fabricator in these moments means wave after wave of defending. At first I was fine with this design choice since I understood the game was showing me the mechanics of horde. Until I had to do the same thing again later on in the story, at which point I rolled my eyes.
Multiplayer hasn’t changed much
The multiplayer in Gears 4 is typical Gears, which isn’t a bad thing considering the “if it aint broke don’t fix it” mentality. My first couple of matches felt odd, only because it took some time for me to get the hang of a 60 frames-per-second roadie-run. I played about ten hours of online multiplayer-mostly quick-play with ranked sprinkled in-and during my time playing, I began to sense a Gears 2 vibe. The different maps in the playlist felt bigger in terms of playing area for me than the previous games. Part of the fun with playing new maps is learning the layout.
The classic game modes we all know and love from the previous iterations make a return, with the addition of Gun Game-two teams kill their way up a weapon food chain, the first team to cycle through all their weapons wins. Speaking of well-balanced, weapons and spawn zones feel accurate and fit appropriately with each map.Those of you who like to mix and match your arsenal will be happy to know customization is back. There are a variety of character’s, weapons, and emblems to earn and choose from. These can be earned via loot boxes (because every game has them nowadays) allowing the player to earn various rewards.
As fun as the multiplayer is; it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. There are two instances where my enjoyment of playing-or lack there of-came to a halt. One instance being freezing. I noticed this in almost every game I played. Once the match began the game would freeze for about one to two seconds before continuing. The second deals with matchmaking time. To get into a quick match of multiplayer, it may take upwards of 2 to 3 minutes. In one instance I answered my doorbell, took out the trash, and yet I still wasn’t in a match.
The return of Horde
Horde mode returns but this time the design has slightly changed. The fabricator used in the campaign is your base of operation. Upon starting the match players can move the fabricator anywhere in the map. This means that choosing the correct location to bunker down in is crucial. I learned the hard way. The group I was partnered with online decided to put the fabricator in the middle of the map-despite my contention-resulting in a chaotic experience that went from fun to frustrating very fast. In many ways this is Horde mode in a nutshell: frustrating.
Once my group decided to wise up and start using teamwork-even though I fought not to say “I told you so”-we became more successful. We communicated, and started using the fabricator to build different defenses. Barriers, sentry’s, and a decoy became our saviors throughout waves 1-15; by then I began to notice a steady increase in the difficulty. To preface, I was only able to make it to wave 30, so I can only imagine how difficult it gets from there.
Different enemies in the campaign, both the Swarm and the Deebee’s, provide formidable foes in Horde, especially when it comes to their weapons. Teamwork is crucial in eliminating the enemies; some of which you don’t want to get close as it may be game over. The introduction of team classes such as engineer, scout, soldier, heavy and sniper all have different perks that vary from one another, but altogether are powerful. Players can choose which class they want to be, in some cases there can be more of one class.
Despite some small hiccups in online play; and fabricator sections in the campaign overstaying their welcome, Gears of War 4 is an impressive entry by developer: The Coalition. As well as an impressive start for a new story arc going forward.