The team at GameOnDaily previously discussed our hopes and fears for Gears of War 4 and now that the game is out, it is interesting to see how the final game fared with the various expectations of the team. There are some minor plot details in here but I shall leave any second or third act stuff out and certainly nothing that’s not in the trailer, so the following should be spoiler free. So does the new generation of Gears do the series proud in this much awaited sequel to the seminal third person shooter franchise? Read on to find out.
After the somewhat enjoyable but more forgettable than a shit-faced fumble with an old school friend in a night club toilets that was Gears of War Colon Judgement, Gears of War 4 represents a sort of semi-remake of the first Gears. Told over the course of 24 hours, Gears 4 is set 25 years after the defeat of the Locust in Gears 3 and charts the story of JD, Kait and Del; three scavengers (or ‘Outsiders’ as the game calls them) who get pulled into a war after a chance encounter. One of our heroes may have a connection to at least familiar series face, and there’s at least 18 thousand references to everyone else and their uncle.
The new lead characters are slightly less archetypal than previous Delta squad members, but which isn’t to say they are 3-dimensional HBO characters. JD and Del are basically both gruff protagonists with a sideline in Baird-style snark and Kait is the sort of brittle yet kick-ass heroine that tends to occupy geek media, however all of them are like-able enough.
The winning thing for Gears is as always the actual minute-to-minute gameplay. Although other games may do spectacle, story or substance better, Gears is still pound-for-pound the best exporter of third person cover shooting mechanics.
You couldn’t confuse Gars with ever taking itself too seriously; sure some bits are pretty dark but there’s always a really bad quip waiting around the corner. The series commitment to recreating the overblown 80’s style mega-violence and jokes is adhered to by the letter.
The 10 hour run through (at Normal difficulty, Hardcore and Insane are likely to be longer) doesn’t mess around, it’s pretty much; go here, fight these things, go and find this new place which we never mentioned before (rinse and repeat). Then again Gears has always been a series of short, tense firefights interspersed with sweary banter and plot exposition. At least everything isn’t grey or brown this time; sure there’s the usual mix of abandoned old buildings, creepy woods, caves and industrial estates there always was (By this point, I’ve been in more disused industrial estate than that cousin of yours who likes dogging) but the palette at least has green, blues and a few pinks now.
…whilst Gears 4 screams “Sequel Plug!” out like a drunken stag attendee shouts at female students on the street, it at least has the decency to tell a (mostly) satisfying story.
The enhanced memory and graphical capability of the new generation also means that Gears 4 includes some Uncharted style cinematic action sequences. Whilst never reaching the heady heights of Naughty Dogs USP, they are fun and work as good pallete-cleansers for the incessant cover action.
Bar a few exceptions, Gears 4 is a solid shooter campaign. Although it sorta finishes all of a sudden, like most games do now, it’s much more narratively engaging and at least 322% less stupid than Halo 5’s “I hate you Spartan man…Lets be best friends now” nonsense. Fan service is on the cusp of being too much but never steps over. Plus whilst Gears 4 screams “Sequel Plug!” out like a drunken stag attendee shouts at female students on the street, it at least has the decency to tell a (mostly) satisfying story. It’s in no way the series best campaign (that would be Gears 2 IMO) but its is workable enough.
The winning thing for Gears is as always the actual minute-to-minute gameplay. Although other games may do spectacle, story or substance better, Gears is still pound-for-pound the best exporter of third person cover shooting mechanics. Intuitive and satisfying, Gears 4 is a joy to play, and stands as a clear example of why refining the same concept over years and years can bear impressive fruits. Strangely though the updated control system introduced in Judgement has been dropped quicker than a baked potatoes covered in hot dog turd and it’s back to the classic gears configuration, i.e. with an emphasis on the D-pad.
After a break Horde is back too, yay! And although its not really altered drastically since Gears 3, some minor tweaks have been made. Firstly your base is now mobile, and can be placed wherever you like; secondly points from dead foes now have to be collected and deposited at your base/fabricator to be used for your selection of upgrade-able defences or weapons.
…it’s the same gameplay over new maps… not that that is a bad thing when Horde is still the best wave-based gameplay available.
That’s it really, from here on out it’s the same gameplay over new maps; not that that is a bad thing when Horde is still the best wave-based gameplay available. Probably best enjoyed with a full squad or at least 1 more person, the boss waves in particular are a form of majestic chaos where best laid plans go to shit quicker than Sean Penn can punch a journalist.
The only slight disappointment is the collection of 12 maps which vary wildly in quality. Some are fantastic to be sure but some are plain boring and it would have been nice to see a little more asymmetry built into environments like in Plants Vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2.
Now we leave my comfort zone. I’m really not that great at Gears PvP and although I have dabbled in it, it never really hooked me. In my (admittedly limited) time playing online versus games, I found it to be fun enough but my reservations regarding the difficulty gradient and the subsequent frustration which comes with it, compared to other shooters remain in place.
…there are still a good selection of modes to play on and its all added value to an already good package
Regardless, there are still a good selection of modes to play on and its all added value to an already good package and it has a nifty Coop mode where you can play with friends online vs Bots and set your own difficulty. Tough to see how you could get bored with all this going on.
I would hesitate to say that Gears 4 is one of the best looking games of this generation but it is certainly by no means ugly. The most impressive leap forward from the 360 version is the use of lighting effects which help to add more atmosphere to many of the environments; plus as previously mentioned this is the most varied looking Gears title.
The most impressive leap forward from the 360 version is the use of lighting effects which help to add more atmosphere to many of the environments…
The voice acting and music is generally up to scratch; or as up to scratch as a macho story about army people chainsawing monsters to bits can be. It’s certainly a few notches above the hastily concocted English versions of Japanese games which usually sound like they have been cast, recorded and written whilst on the commuter train to work.
As you would expect from a franchise this established, the menus are clear, slick and easy to navigate as well. Bravo. Gears 4 does dabble in micro-transactions which manifest like the Halo 5 and PvZ cards and perks do but as always they are not essential. The only irk is the lack of character skins which seem to be like gold dust.
Gears 4 does not reinvent the wheel, nor should it; it has simply added a few fireworks to the wheel, then got it drunk and that’s fine by me. Playing to the core strengths of the series with fantastic cover shooting, chunky weapons, and satisfying reload mechanics, it is a pleasure to play. The decent story mode is bolstered by a further refined version of horde, a solid PvP and the brilliant continuation of split screen. Gears 4 won’t convert the non-fans/haters and it is starting to show signs of fatigue but for now, it’s a belter of game and one of the best Xbox One exclusives out there.