Since the killing of Queen Myrrah, and the end of the Locust war in Gears of War 3 back in 2011 it seemed clear that the trilogy would finally come to an end leaving everyone both heart-broken yet satisfied that the story ended with a proper conclusion; however after years of peace and tranquility it would appear that time of peace was unfortunately beginning to run out and a new war was with new enemies was starting to unfold. From runaway soldiers, to rogue robotic soldiers, to creepy human-like crawlers hatching from large cocoons, Gears Of War 4 answers the question, “whats left?” and keeps the story alive with new faces, new enemies all in its own new fashion, but without disrupting the emotions that were carried on from the last installment. But did it do the game justice as to how it extends the game’s plot, or should have we been left with Gears 3’s gut-ranching conclusion that left everyone emotionally relieved?
Gears of War 4 tries to go back to its roots as it is a dark and grim style game that continues the saga after the end of the Locust war and it’s starts off rather strong, much stronger than the previous games (including Judgment) combined and that’s pretty much the set tone throughout the entire game. From beginning to end there is never a dull moment that leaves you bored, on the other hand there isn’t a lot of information for you to take in through most of the campaign either — at least not till chapter 4 — where then everything soon begins to come together. The story takes place 25 years into the future after the events of Gears 3 where our beloved characters of the past have rebuilt and grown old; Marcus has a son named JD whom he named after to memorialize his fallen brother, Dominic Santiago, Baird owns his own industry of robotic soldiers, and many others who weren’t specified on what they were up to but age is clearly a factor for the most part.
As character development progresses throughout the game you soon begin to understand the new characters for who they are. It’s a little odd to get use to a new team and new faces in-game that has history too it, but Gear of War 4 forces you into the driver seat without allowing you to get your feet soaked like the previous games did in the past; no walk-through, or weapons tutorial can be difficult for someone who has never play Gears before in their life, but even then at this point who hasn’t already had a chance to play? whether you’re new to Gears, or not the fact that you’re being jumped into the fight in a shoot-fest is actually kind of fun to say the least.
Although, there aren’t many moments for you to take a break and comprehend the situation that’s at hand, and at most times you almost find yourself feeling exhausted with the characters, because there’s just that much going on, still it doesn’t take away the thrill of actually playing it. In fact, I think it’s even more thrilling that your forced to learn as the characters learn what is happening as well rather than you having a hint of what is to be expected next, or that you’re aware of the objective and now you have to get from point “A” to point “B”.
Enemies in Gears of War 4 are fairly new and quite unique, but they aren’t exactly as impacting or thought out when it comes to its authenticity — at least for The Swarm it doesn’t. For majority of the first half of the campaign you’re introduced to the new high-tech super soldiers, DeeBees, a creation by Baird who were the replacement for human Cog soldiers but unfortunately are out to arrest JD and his friends for going AWOL on the cog. Although DeeBees are a new threat to YOU they aren’t exactly threat to society itself; although they play a threat for the Outsiders they aren’t the main focus of the story which for the most part the time you are fighting them its pretty much nothing more that fighting a bunch of terminators with a completely different name. DeeBees however are nothing more than AI with firearm in which most cases you find yourself caught in a shoot-fest. They have no general features that makes them feel at the least bit challenging; they do however have little gadgets such as Trackers that are mechanical balls that follow you to your location and inevitably explode similar to how a Ticker would charger at you and trigger its explosive to kill their enemies.
The Swarm on the other hand are relativity new, and unique but they aren’t exactly as “new” as you would think. They have similar traits to them feel an awful lot like how the Locus once were, and although the game does explain how they came to be, it’s still a little disappointing of how much effort of diversity was put in. And it’s not just by their appearance that makes them feel similar, but their entire persona just feels almost like a copy and paste hybrid form of the original Locust. Juvies play like Wretches that travel with a little more speed and aggressiveness that mutate overtime and crawl into nesting holes — which another form of an E-hole — and form into bigger, more intelligent enemies known as Drones which is self-explanatory enough. Snatchers are no different form Reavers with a sack underneath to snatch their victims away, and Scions are pretty much identical to grinder that carry weapons from machine guns, to Dropshots, and of course Buzzkills. Carriers though are a little interesting mixture of both parties combined since they don’t have any similar actions from the previous Locust enemies, they do shoot out Nemesis or a similar from of Nemesis out from bodies much like how Seeders shot out Nemesis to draw off attention as they would drain out your radio connection. In spite that fact that majority of the new enemies have identical characteristics, Pouncers are actually quite new with no connections to the Locust what so ever, in fact their like the guard dog of the Swarm, traveling in packs to corner you with a massive webbed tale that shoots multiple sharp projectiles are at once and if gets a hold of you it could possibly get a chance to rip your head clean off. It might look cute from afar, but up close if it gets a hold of your face it won’t be so cute anymore.
Game-play wise The Coalition decided to return the game back to its original control scheme from Gears of War Judgment’s Call Of Duty/Halo type scheme, and feels just as smooth and balanced as Gears 3 was if not better. Gears of War 3 added mount kicks to make it easier to attack your enemies from behind, and in Gears 4 they’ve an all new feature where you not only kick your enemies out of cover, but also snatch your enemies out of cover before taking them out with a well-timed knife execution. On the flip side of that if you’re on the receiving end of the mount kick, if timed correctly, you can move out of cover to give yourself the advantage of stealing the kill with a cheap shot of your own, or to just simply get out-of-the-way so you don’t end being the one who gets the lucky blade to the head.
Dodgeball mode and Escalation are both all new debut modes built from the ground up by The Coalition studious for competitive or eSports Gears of War gameplay to make online more exciting and challenging as they bring back the competitiveness of team based strategies where you’re forced to communicate with teammates if you want to get the win.
Dodgeball is a 5v5 best of 7 series game mode similar to the rules of Execution but now added with the initial rules of dodgeball. Much like how you would catch a ball in dodgeball to eliminate a member of the opposing team and bring back a member on your team onto the playing fields, here the objective is to eliminate your opposing team with various weapons across the map to pick up the win. Escalation is also a first of 7 series mode and is new form of King Of The Hill where your team has to take over three rings objective scattered across the map to get to an accumulated score of 210 points, or by dominating your team captures all three rings at the same time instantly winning you the round. Escalation truly caters well to the Gears multiplayer formula. It takes advantage of the core ingredients that make Gears multiplayer for what it is and that alone is why it truly is something special.
The Coalition has made some minor, but sufficient changes with Horde mode 3.0 this year that actually make the game mode challenging and exciting from the previous versions if they weren’t exciting enough. Combined with Gears 3’s Horde mode 2.0 style of cover and defend with various barriers and machine weaponry, Judgement’s Survival mode style that gave us different class types for teamwork combat, and survival tactics, Gears 4 delivers all that packed into one but not without adding in a little dose of its own. Unlike Horde 2.0 where you find a command post to set up your defenses prior to the start of each wave, Horde 3.0 gives you the freedom to set your defenses wherever you feel necessary taking with a fabricator that gives you access to a verity of weaponry, and defense barriers for you to purchase that make your chances of getting through a wave much smoother as you progress. With a selection of up to 5 class types for you and your teammates to choose from, sniper, engineer, soldier, scout, and heavy, each class makes for a more balanced war zone when taking on both Swarm enemies, and of course DeeBees. Interestingly enough during the campaign you get a dose of Horse mode so even before you jump into the mode itself, you get a feel of the system in the story as well. Lucky though unlike how Judgement added survival mode to their campaign nearly through every chapter, Gears 4 only does Horde mode at least three full times throughout the actual game so it’s not being forced on to you to a point where overwhelmed.
Unfortunately for modes such as Beast mode, or Overrun, there is official announcement on whether we would be seeing them back in gears 4, but a possibility that one or the other could make a return should come sometime in future.
Aside from the gameplay and fundamentals, Gears of War 4’s visual are quite stunning in both sides of the coin. The game handles well, though for PC there are set requirements for you if you want the best experience possible, both run smoothly on 4k resolution and 60 fps, though on the Xbox One some images appear a bit smudged compared to PC there’s hardly any noticeable difference that stands out from either platform.
Above all Gears of War 4 does not disappoint to deliver the best Gears of War experience to its traditional fans. Core gaming at its best and campaign feels grim and horrifying as it once was, although there is more shooting than actual story telling — even from a Gears standpoint — you’re still engaged in the madness that is around. As concerned as I was for this game seeing as Judgement took a major step backwards, and the fact that the Swarm are awfully to identical to the Locust, I’m actually pleased to say Gears of War 4 did not fail to keep my hopes for the franchise alive.
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