Gears of War 4 Review
Time to introduce the old COG to the new COG
For the past couple weeks I’ve become skeptical on the rise of sequels to games that we’ve come to know and love, that haven’t been innovative or released new IPs. When I initially saw that iconic COG symbol at E3 2014 I remained skeptical, initially excited, but skeptical. Now Gears of War 4 is out, and my god I couldn’t be any happier with this franchise. Running on a new engine with a new team behind it, The Coalition takes Gears into its own independent style while staying true to the original formula. In the end, it’s a concoction of blood, guns, and family, that makes Gears of War 4 one of my favorite entries in the franchise.
Welcome back to Sera, or what’s left of it. Plagued by massive storms and a COG army made up of the robotic DeeBees hell-bent on the principles of peace through order, you enter the shoes of JD Fenix. He’s the son of the COG legend Marcus Fenix who (with the help of his father and delta squad) eliminated the Locust and Lambent armies 25 years ago. When a new threat The Swarm takes your squad Kait & Del’s loved ones, it’s a kill or be killed journey to find them and figure out who the Swarm are and where their motives lie.
Different from other Gears of War stories this time around is variety. While Gears has always been one for marvelous set pieces, gameplay variations take center stage as you partake in activities such as riding motorcycles and many more (really, it’s better to experience it than to know what’s coming). The old COG and the new fighters partake in an exciting adventure full of twists and backstory begging to be unveiled.
New Friends, New Foes
New main protagonist JD Fenix is a great change from his dad Marcus, full of more optimism than his counterpart who has lost ones he’s loved and seen the worst. JD and Dels brotherhood feels very reminiscent of Marcus and Dom, while Kait’s love interest with JD is easier to swallow. Not having it being shoved in your face, but rather subtly hinting at it so nonchalant that you might not even notice it was mentioned.
The DeeBees, while spitting out their peaceful speech loops, are a force to be reckoned with. Standard shepherds, wielding the brand new submachine gun “Enforcer,” get up close and can be ruthless. The bigger variants take quite a bit of bullets, slowly approaching you with the brand new 4 clip double barrel shotgun “the Overkill.” Mixing up this pace is the Guardians and Sentinels, who fly either shooting rockets or a turret with a shield in its front, forcing you out of your comfort zone until you’re helplessly running into cover.
It’s difficult to not compare the Swarm to the Locust but in some respects it’s necessary. Juvies, who will run at you wall bouncing and vaulting over cover are much like wretches. Drones are…well drones. Scions replace the Boomers wielding either the Buzzkill, Dropshot, or Mulcher.
While at first I wasn’t sure if it was too reminiscent of the Locust, I encountered my first Pouncer. Jumping from cover to cover, this beast will shoot quills at you and if it gets the chance, pounce on you until your squad has shot it off you, or it’s devoured you. Snatchers soon came into play, much like reavers with their stabbing legs but with a twist, capturing and digesting teammates if downed. The only way to rescue them is if you shoot their stomachs and hopefully they puke your friends out before they’re turned to mush.
Combine enemies like this with drones, and juvies, and you’ve got an AI army that’s going to force you away from cover and make your life a living hell. While daunting, it’s fantastic and had me feeling on my first play-through that I really need to be trying, not just going with the motions.
With The Coalition emphasizing E-sports, this time around comes a range of competitive multiplayer and social modes.
Amongst the original modes like Guardian, Warzone, King of the Hill and Execution, Dodgeball became an instant favorite of mine. It starts out 5v5 and as the match goes on, every kill grants your team a respawn if someone is out. Theres nothing more exhilarating than being 1v4, taking out 3 of their guys and having your team come back to take the win.
Escalation is their new E-Sports emphasized mode, much like domination but with a catch. You’ll be able to take the round if you can hold all 3 points for some seconds, and the mode allows the losers of a round to place a power weapon on the map. While on paper this looks great, the mode takes way too long to finish, needing to win 7 rounds in order to win the match.
Horde is Back and Bigger than Before
Introducing class based skills, the Fabricator which lets you put fortifications wherever you please. Also, the more teamwork oriented experience, Horde mode has come back and sets itself apart from all previous iterations.
If you’re like me and not always in the mood for dealing with wall bouncing gnasher wielding menaces, taking out wave after wave of Swarm and DeeBees with 5 people sounds like a great way to relieve the stress.
The new classes consist of the Scout, who gets double power during rounds to build more fortifications, the Sniper, with a starting set of precision rifles and abilities to obtain in the future including explosive headshots, the Heavy, master of explosives and turrets, the Engineer, started with a repair tool and able to gain discounts on fortifications, and the Soldier, the all around COG gear with starting loadout we all know and love. They all change the way Horde is played, and create some wild combinations in order to achieve 1-50.
Credits and Loot Boxes
While previous Gears of War’s have included unlockable characters and skins, The Coalition brings credits and loot boxes in order to unlock their several skins and boosters. These include bounties and skills for Horde and multiplayer, helping you rank up faster or obtain those extra skills for Horde.
While this sounds like a reasonable idea, the payout is exceptionally low. The lack of unlockable content is a bit disappointing. While for the skins, you can discard duplicates or unwanted variants for “scrap” to build skins, horde skills cannot be crafted and force people to have to use all their credits towards Horde, in hopes that they can get a difficult to obtain skill.
The Coalition is listening and has issued a greater credit payout in match bonuses, but we will have to see in the coming months if this demand for changes with the loot system is met. Some people having opened hundreds of boxes and gaining no epic or legendaries are furious, most of those people having paid real money, due to the low payout for credits.
Blowing people to bits with the Gnasher and chainsawing through your foes has never felt this good. While the loot system is a troublesome burden, you can’t disregard this beautiful game The Coalition has created. Running on Unreal Engine 4 and holding up at a smooth 30fps in the campaign and 60fps online, Gears of War has reinstated me into the fight, making me believe that this franchise I once believed was dead, is alive and well. With wonderful new characters, exciting enemies, and plenty of backstory to be unfolded, The Coalition has me on the edge of my seat waiting for the next chapter in their bloody execution filled Gears saga.
9/10 – A Perfect Reason to Justify Purchasing an Xbox One