Having whet their whistles on Gears of War Ultimate Edition, The Coalition got stuck into the first brand new Gears game for Xbox One. Gears of War 4 sticks pretty true to the fundamentals that are a staple of the franchise but manages to throw in some much needed new elements to breathe some fresh life into Gears of War.
Gears of War 4 kicks off with a trip down memory lane that also serves as a brief tutorial. We are celebrating the 25th anniversary since the Locusts were defeated from Gears 3. As we go from looking back on those events into seeing the world 23 years later it is immediately obvious that Sera is a changed Planet, and not for the better.
Those guys that were once admired, the COG, yep they’re the bad guys 25 years on. The COG are under the supreme control of their female First Minister, Jinn and assert their authority with the help of a robot army, the DB. At the commemoration ceremony our hero, Marcus Fenix is nowhere to be seen as it seems the legend has decided to step out of the limelight and live a life of peace, quiet and solitude.
As we move into the start of the game proper we take control of James Fenix, son of the legend, known as JD. Growing up with Marcus as your Dad you just know their are going to be issues between the pair and that will soon become obvious. Before we get to that point though, JD is joined by Del and Kait on a raid of a COG stronghold in order to steal a fabricator and hopefully make their lives a wee bit easier since it can make weapons and help fortify positions. Of course the raid doesn’t go as planned and we are some thrust head first into battling wave upon wave upon wave of robots. As we finally get what we are looking for it’s back off to the village to battle an incoming front of enemies sent by First Minister Jinn. Moving on we finally encounter Marcus enjoying his solitude and that’s when the adventure really kicks offs and the family issues start coming to the fore.
The cinematic moments are blended well with in game action to create a cohesiveness that doesn’t detract from the action unfolding before our eyes. The world itself isn’t as bleak as in previous Gears games and presents a slightly more vibrant environment that makes good use of the Xbox One. The graphics are once again top notch, it’s pretty hard to make a bad looking game on the current batch of consoles but at the same time it’s clear that The Coalition went to a lot of trouble to make this a rich detailed adventure.
Gameplay wise this is classic Gears of War. The franchise is built to be on rails for the most part and Gears of War stays true to that, keeping the action focussed and not allowing much openness to explore. In this day and age open world adventures are all the rage but there has to be something said for a linear story driven campaign, it keeps players focussed and drives them to their end goal without being constantly distracted.
Gears of War 4 remains a cover based shooter, if you want to defeat wave after wave of robots and eventually overcome bosses then making use of that cover is essential. Unfortunately the cover based system is let down in two areas, predictability and sluggish controls.
In terms of predictability, the layout of the environments makes it very obvious that you’re about to get into a fight. As you go from one place to another you’ll quickly see an area open up that clearly has a bunch of cover laid out, that is your cue to prepare for battle. It isn’t a major issue because overall the campaign is pretty strong and makes for a good adventure but there were times where I wished that it wasn’t as obvious that I was about to enter into a gunfight.
The are of more concern for me is the sluggishness of the controls. Being a cover based shooter the mechanism for entering cover should be quick and snappy, unfortunately it is often the opposite. Many times I thought the game hadn’t registered my button press to enter cover so I pressed again, only to find that I then went in and out of cover and was left exposed becoming an easy target. After a while you kind of get used to waiting for a response to enter cover but it’s something that really should have been fine tuned given it’s the core gameplay mechanic in battle. Every other aspect of the control scheme is spot on, shooting, changing weapon, aiming, all are responsive enough to make battles fun but the sluggishness for entering cover detracts from that. Gears 4 is a Play Anywhere title so it’s available on Windows PC. Whilst we didn’t try out the PC side of it, it’s plausible that the controls are more responsive under command of a keyboard and mouse than a controller.
Moving on from the campaign mode, it’s the online side of Gears 4 where the game really shines. To go with the standard versus style multiplayer there is a mode called Horde 3.0 which is fantastic (more on it shortly). 10 multiplayer maps are available on launch with more coming as free DLC in the future (big ups to The Coalition for providing free DLC multiplayer maps). Each map that is available right now is extremely well thought out and looks great. Regardless of which multiplayer mode takes your fancy the maps are going to provide an excellent Gears experience that is (so far) free of lag and provides good stable framerates.
Rather than spend time talking about the standard multiplayer experience I want to focus on Horde 3.0. Horde 3.0 is The Coalition’s take on one of Gears fans favourite modes. Where it differs and improves is the inclusion of the fabricators. The fabricators will allow you to prepare for incoming waves by placing weapon turrets, decoys and fences around the perimeter. The fabricators add a welcome level of strategy to Horde but there is a compromise so that you don’t have everything your own way. There are classes that you must choose from and your choice of class, like most multiplayer shooters, affects your loadout and skillset so choose wisely.
All things taken into consideration, The Coalition have done a wonderful job on Gears of War 4. The cover based system could be better and less predictability would be nice but all of that is well and truly forgotten once the story engrosses you and beyond that, the likes of Horde 3.0 takes grip on the multiplayer side of things. In a time where games are moving forward and given weight to massive open world adventures, Gears of War 4 manages to refresh the franchise while staying true to its roots.
- Impressive Graphics
- Excellent Multiplayer
- Player Action and Cinematics blend well
- Sluggish Controls particularly going in and out of cover