It’s been 5 years since Gears of War 3 graced our screens, we had the Ultimate Edition on the Xbox One but Gears of War 4 is the first new generation title. It’s been worth the wait.
Gears of War 4 is set 25 years after the events of Gears 3, the game starts strongly as you revisit key moments from the previous game. It’s not long before you are back in the present and you get to meet a new breed of Gears.
Things are different now, the COG’s are now trying to look after the remaining survivors, a new army of robots known as DB’s are in place to help protect and build new settlements. It’s not all peaceful though violent storms known as ‘windflares’ are frequent and devastating.
You play as JD Fenix alongside his best friend Del. JD is the son of some guy called Marcus, he was in the previous games apparently They have joined up with Kait and Oscar, who are known as Outsiders, not willing to be overruled by the COG.
Gears or War 4 feels instantly familiar, one minute you are slowly make your way around a peaceful area, when all of a sudden you’ll see plenty of opportunities to get into cover. Except it isn’t always that obvious, which is nice. This time round you are trying to get to know the new characters so there is plenty of dialogue to take in. The gunplay is very familiar, the Lancer is still awesome and the noise that the exploding heads of the enemy make when you get them with the longshot is still hugely satisfying. There are a whole host of new weapons to play with thanks to the new enemies, the enforcer, the Overkill and the Embar are all brilliant weapons.
Likewise the new enemies are exciting and terrifying to take on; after battling with the DB’s initially it seems the real threat are the Swarm, they fight in a different manner to the DB’s – they are much more willing to get up close and personal and at speed too. Whether it’s the Juvies trying to claw your face off or Pouncers trying to rip your head off you’ll need to act quickly to deal with them. To mix things up with the gameplay, some of the places you’ll cover behind is destructible, some partly, others completely. The windflare sections will require you to adapt to the wind direction and power, grenades will fly back in your face, while other projectiles will easily veer off course, trying to roadie run through them is brilliant fun.
Little improvements to the gameplay have made a world of difference, movement feels faster, roadie runs feels like they have more pace to them, holding the B button at the same time allows you to seamlessly vault over cover. It’s a fiddly position to put your fingers in, but you could always map your buttons differently. The grab and shank move over cover position is awesome if you can pull it off, it’s a great way to execute enemies and makes you feel like a god in multiplayer. Throughout the game you’ll encounter horde-esque section which will see you battle against wave after wave of enemy. I felt they were a little shoehorned in at first but once I started playing through my co-op run I began to enjoy them a lot more, even if it’s a bit brutal!
Gears has always been quite dull in colour but impressive in looks, this time round The Coalition have worked wonders. Every level is spectacular, whether you are outside among the war beaten ruins or with the more industrial areas you encounter. The beautiful environments and the fantastic audio all complement each other perfectly. HDR comment. Although the campaign ends quite abruptly, it has managed to set itself up nicely for number five. As far as the characters go, JD and Kait are instantly likeable, but poor Del just seems to get in the way, Oscar is an interesting character too.
Of course, Gears of War is more than just a campaign. Horde 3.0 – hugely popular in the past and still brilliant thanks to some significant updates. Horde is all about teamwork as you and 4 other members battle against every enemy type available. In 3.0 your job is not only to survive, but to protect the Fabricator, Every enemy you kill drops points that you can collect and cash in. This gives you the chance to stock up on weapons, turrets and barricades to slow the enemy down. The new horde also brings in a class system. Each class had specific weapon loadouts but apart from that they don’t make a massive impact on the mode itself. The only exception is the scout and here is a useful tip; don’t collect the fabricator points until there is one enemy left, if the scout collects you get double points, you can thank me later.
Multiplayer is as good as it ever was, all the normal game types are there, Team Deathmatch, King of the Hill and Guardian. New to this year is dodgeball, the perfect party game. In this mode each player has one life, but for every kill your team gets, you get to revive one of your team mates, its superb fun. For hardened Gears fans the multiplayer is a continuation of days gone by, yet for newcomers it still very easy to get into. Gears of War 4 introduces a card system this ear, allowing to set bounties for challenges, or craft cards in the hope of getting a legendary skin for one of your weapons or characters. Thankfully it doesn’t affect gameplay as most people I play with won’t bother using them.
Gears of War 4 is a joy to play from start to finish, it plays brilliantly and the story is well put together. Older Gears fan will love spending time with a (still) grumpy Marcus and the new enemies mix things up nicely. The coalition have done a fantastic job.