Gears of War 4 is set 25 years after the events of Gears 3, with game favourite and all round bad-ass, Marcus Fenix, playing the mentor role to his son J.D Fenix who is joined himself in this adventure by long-time friends Kait and Del. The inclusion of Marcus reassured me that this was still the Gears series I had come to know and love but with the excitement of seeing the new generation take over.
(Time to make Daddy Proud!)
Now onto the Gameplay, while I was not expecting a complete reinvention of the tried and tested system, there have been a few tweaks here and there to keep things fresh, not so much to alienate veterans of the series and not too daunting for the Gears newcomer. However, the controls do feel closer to the original Gears as oppose to Gears 2 and 3, which was a wise choice as this, and the introduction of a new enemy, gives the game a more horror survival feel, along with a certain grit which has always been a trademark of the Gears series.
Gears 4 sticks with its cover based shooting formula, the missions still require a certain amount of cover fire and the use of defensive and offensive positions (i.e. teamwork) is essential to make sure you remain bullet hole free against your new foe. Updated and improved from previous Gears titles but still a solid base.
(Shit, shit,shit, shit!!)
On the campaign side, Gears 4 has a few new enemies, one is the new DeeBee robot army (I didn’t notice at first either) and of course the Seran Swarm who have replaced their locust predecessors that we had come to know oh so well. This means having to employ a new offense and defence fighting style, which is a welcome and refreshing change of pace.
For example, the heavier DeeBee robots will self-destruct when they take enough damage, making you consider at what distance you want to engage these formidable machines. Then we have The Guardian, which can fly and activate an energy shield, requiring your squad to flank them in order to deal damage as opposed to a direct assault. The Swarms newest “pet” named “The Pouncer” (with good reason) launches deadly quills from its tail and if you remain still for too long will Pounce on you like a middle aged divorced cougar after last call. There is a lot more pressure on players this time round, giving a new challenge to experienced players and letting new comers feel the combat, pressure and gritty fights of the past (we miss you Dom).
(Ever seen weird Japanese anime? No, then this will be quite new to you)
Now with all these new enemies we are going to need some new weapons to bring the fight and defend our beloved Sera from yet another foe. Thankfully Gears 4 isn’t short on these, and oh boy are they fun, we have our trusty lancer and friends in the campaign and multiplayer. And a new addition, “the buzzkill”, which fires high speed, jet force sawblades which, when it connects with an enemy, will instantly separate them from every other part of them.
A short but wicked blast from the overkill, which has that sawed-off shotgun feel to it, comes in handy in Multiplayer mode. And last but not least we have the DeeBee wielding Embar, a fantastically quick paced rifle that seems like a spiritual upgrade/successor to the longshot, the word cathartic comes to mind.
(You’ve got something in your eye!)
The overall design of Gears 4 is heading in the right direction, the revitalised campaign has you moving through a different range of environments, with different tasks/objectives to complete, all of which spares the player from feeling like they are repeating the same thing over and over (except for one small part in chapter iv). The campaign is also playable in split screen or online, and “horde mode” is still as good as ever.
The Level design is very colourful, vibrant and just feels alive, which makes a change from the war-torn Sera we had been so used to seeing. However, as you move through the levels you will see they still bear the scars of all the previous conflicts, making the world feel expansive. There is colour and hope in some settlements you come across but reminders that war was, and still is very much part of this world.
The weather is by far the most stand out design feature, we are now treated to solar storms which not only look good but effect the bullet drop and directions of some weapons, adding yet another layer to combat and how you approach different enemies.
(So murder bots and ugly aliens wasn’t enough of a challenge? Fuck you God!)
The multiplayer still shines with all your favourite modes such as Arms Race, Horde mode (which is now playable in 5 player mode) which can go up to 50 waves and escalation with new maps, weapons and enemies, making sure you aren’t left feeling unfulfilled.
Gears of War 4 had a lot to live up to, from keeping the old guard happy, to making sure the unseasoned players weren’t alienated, but I will now try to sum up what I saw and felt during the game. I saw a world desperate for respite from the darkness which had taken so many souls since E-Day, I felt the scars of previous campaigns and how they are still etched into my memory, I saw images of my brother Dom giving his very life so we may defeat, rebuild and achieve peace. I saw a new enemy but I also saw the Fenix rise.
(Son, get me my ass kicking boots!)
Lancer Revved up, shotguns locked and loaded, my pace quickened, Delta squad by my side I charged into a Game that has been a big part of my own gaming experience for 10+ years. I found that Gears of war 4 is still pleasing to all its players, new and old which is no easy feat. It still tells an exceptional story and finally It reminds us this game has shifted into a new Gear and a new War.
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