Platform Reviewed: Xbox One
Platforms Available: Xbox One, PC
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Developer: The Coalition
Release Date: October 11, 2016
MSRP: USD: 59.99
When the original Gears of War came out for the Xbox 360, people loved the over the top gore, along with a well written storyline, and great multiplayer to put the cherry on top of a great game. Then continued to please gamers with the follow up Gears of War 2 and Gears of War 3. Now with The Coalition taking over the franchise, Gears of War 4 has just been released with promise to continue the legacy that has been paved by the original trilogy and Epic Games.
Gears of War 4 takes place 25 years after the last game; the world is at peace, slowly rebuilding and repopulating. You play as James Fenix, the son of Marcus Fenix, who has abandoned his post of Lieutenant and is now living in an outsider village along side his childhood friend, Del Walker. One night when trying to get the power back online for the village, it is attacked by some creatures and take most of the villagers away including Kait Diaz’s mom, the leader of the town. With a crystal left behind the trio decides to ask the help of Marcus Fenix, who reluctantly agrees. Now the four of them take on a journey to try to save the residents of the village.
The run and cover gameplay stays true for Gears 4, tucking behind walls or barriers are the key to success. You have old classics like the Lancer returning along with some new weapons to bulk up your arsenal when fighting the enemies you encounter. During the game you run into certain areas that you will have to bunker down in and hold down for several waves of enemies.
During these times you are given a certain amount of currency to make barriers, auto turrets or give new weapons to yourself or your allies. These can be pretty intense depending on how you lay out your base, but can be pretty fun as well.
One time, we were bunkered down pretty well until a massive wave of enemies came from the right and just overtook the barriers and turrets that were set up there, leaving us opened from the back causing us to lose and having to restart. During another of the missions we had several barriers put up towards the left and two turrets guarding the right side, while having Marcus man the turret. It was a breeze even when elite enemies showed up, in the end its how you decide to bunker up that will lead you to victory or seeing the game over screen.
The multiplayer in Gears 4 has received more attention than any other Gears game. The classic team deathmatch mode is still around along with other favorites of the franchise. Having the option to either play casually or enter into competitive versions of those modes. Dodgeball being a personal favorite is simple on paper but is a wild game from start to finish. The rules are just like dodgeball. You get hit or in this instance killed, you are out until the next round unless a teammate kills an enemy, bring you back into the game. At times, you could be the last person left on your team but securing a kill can change the outcome of the whole round and vise versa.
This time around there are three factions, The Outsiders, COG Soldiers, and the Swarm. Each having unique playable characters. The characters themselves can be customized with skins that can be unlocked by opening chests. Chests are the rewards in multiplayer, and can be acquired in multiple ways. Each chest has five cards ranging from common to legendary, you can find anything from character skins, weapon skins, and even exp boost in forms of small missions. A mission can be as simple as winning any game mode with a certain skin equipped or as hard as having to get an X amount of headshots with a certain weapon. The harder the mission the more experience is awarded for it to balance them out.
Horde mode has returned and is better than ever in Horde 3.0. You start the game with a fabricator, which is indestructible and can 3D print all the things you will need to stay alive while fighting off 50 waves of enemies that get harder over time. The fabricator won’t spit out anything without power, which can be found on the dead bodies of the enemies you kill during that wave. The fabricator will auto upgrade itself during set points of the game to pump out stronger versions of your defenses. Getting a small amount of time between each wave to either set up new defenses, move your current defenses around or repair them.
The true key to victory is communication with your team and how you set up your team’s defenses. Just when you think everything’s going smoothly the bosses will show up at set points and just demolish your team if you are not ready. Horde mode is hard, and can feel like it is unforgiving but after a certain amount of time playing it you will find your footing and get further and further into the waves.
The graphics and visuals in Gears 4 are absolutely stunning and are some of the best the Xbox One has to offer. From the underground tunnels to the open sights of a garden, everywhere you look there is so much detail that went into the environment.
Some people were concerned that the graphics would fall short of the PC version, or just be set to one of the PC graphic settings. It’s safe to say that both of those are wrong. The Xbox One version falls somewhere between the High and Medium settings for the PC. It’s clear to see that the Xbox One is giving it all it has to render everything so nicely and fresh.
The character models don’t fall short either, the detailing of every person in the game is wonderful and full of life; the same can be said for the enemies in the game. The way the models move around and interact with environments makes the world feel more immersive and alive.
The cutscenes in the game are also wonderful to watch and help move the story along between acts and chapters, it feels like you are watching small movies with how well the cutscenes are made. The voice talent in the game is spot on with each voice fitting their character perfectly. You can feel the sadness in their voice or the anger they have when yelling enough that you feel for the characters, showing the passion that these actors have for the job.
Though the campaign is roughly 10-12 hours for a run through, having four different difficulty setting along with collectibles scattered throughout the game and 75 achievements; Gears 4 will keep you busy. Whether you are playing through the campaign with a friend on split screen or over the internet, it’s a blast. The multiplayer will keep people playing for a long time with free balance updates to make sure the game never gets too off putting. Alongside new maps and modes for at least 12 months, people who purchase the season pass have a lot to look forward too.
Gears of War 4 delivers on all that it had promised, a wonderful campaign with twist and turns, leavings us wanting. The multiplayer feels fresh and is worth playing to get better at for competitive modes; along with a horde mode that will test you but make you feel accomplished when it’s all finished. The Coalition has done a masterful job for its first outing with the Gears of War franchise and I can’t wait to see what it has in store for the future. Until then, killing swarm and trying to get that one skin I want will happily keep me busy.
This review is based on a review copy provided by The Coalition and Microsoft Studios.