I’ve been a Gears of War fan ever since the infamous “Mad World” teaser trailer back in 2005. Since then I have accumulated 800+ hours in the Gears-verse, battling through locust scum, tearing though the glowies, and testing my courage against the gargantuan Brumaks. Long nights and many energy drinks secured Gears of War as my highlight of the Xbox 360 generation. Now, their devoted fan base stand ready to fire up the chainsaw screaming lancers and head onto new battlegrounds with the Xbox One and Gears of War 4. Fortunately I was able to participate in the Gears of War 4 closed multiplayer beta, and for fans of the series, put your fears aside and get ready to settle back into Sera.
Before development, Gears of War 4 received a facelift that was well needed to bring back the core of the series. First, Microsoft acquired the franchise from Epic ensuring that this pivotal IP stayed first party and would receive all the love and care it needed to prosper. Second, Gears veteran Rod Ferguson returned to helm the creative and directing process of this new main series entry. This was more than welcomed news in the newest Gears favor after 2013’s flop, Gears of War: Judgement. Ferguson’s main vision for Gears 4 was to bring the title back to the gameplay and feel of Gears of War 3, which was exactly where many fans of the series felt was its strongest.
I eagerly put my beta key into my console and began downloading. Dropping into my first match, I was instantly impressed with how smooth the gameplay had become. Unlike the days of slow and clunky Gears past, Gears of War 4 speeds up the pace of combat. It felt modern, more responsive, and more accurate. Popping in and out of the series infamous cover system has never played better. Your arsenal is comprised of the classics, including the chest busting Gnasher shotgun. Which feels more tight and spot on compared to any other Gears. I was happy to see the newest weapon, The Dropshot, make its appearance. The Dropshot reminds me of a mix in between the Digger Launcher and the Boomshot. It can be tricky to get a grasp on at first, but a devastating piece this can be when mastered. My favorite new feature has to be the never ending active reloading. Now instead of having to shoot a little to reload, you can roll into any firefight with a fully active damage boosted clip. Oh the humanity.
The closed beta allows 3 maps to choose from. Dam, Harbor, and Foundation are excellent examples of how great map design can influence great multiplayer action. These maps are a bit larger than what a Gears fan will be used to, but fit right into the ecosystem. Maybe it’s the faster combat, but traversing these maps never really make you notice its size. The design is superb with plenty of cover locations and great high ground spots. Everything feels just so well balanced. Whether it’s cover, controls, or shooting, this is the upgrade that Gears has been needing for a while. I can honestly say that during my entire time with the beta I never experienced getting stuck on a wall, for any Gears fan reading this you know the gravity of that statement.
A new addition to the leveling system are Bounty Cards. Basically they are side tasks given to the player to be completed in matches that will give you and XP boost. This is refreshing because one thing I remember is how grueling the leveling process can be when seeking those glorious COG wings. It also adds a deeper layer of fun to the gameplay and allowed me to challenge myself more. Instead of just running and gunning the whole time, I had to focus my skills in combat to cash in on my bounties.
Gears of War 4 as of now is doing a magnificent job of blending new and old. During my time in the beta I’ve heard some gamers complain that it replicates the prior entries too much and lacks innovation. I find this to be Gears 4’s strong suit. For a series with such a diehard community, it’s important to not alienate your fanbase. You want to be invited in and still have that old familiar feeling. Too many changes can overwhelm the players and begin to lose an identity within the Gears of War series. The story is new, the characters are new, the weapons are new, for an avid fan, that’s more than enough to get me excited to start smashing through the Swarm come October 11.
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