Tomorrow marks the the release of Gears of War 4 (the 5th Gears game) and it’s first (non-remastered) appearance on the X-Box One. If you pre-ordered the $99 Special Edition you’ve probably already been playing the game like I have all weekend so this review probably isn’t for you, but feel free to read on and leave a comment about what you think, no this review is for those of you who are waiting to buy the game tomorrow for the low price of $59.99, this review is for you.
As of writing this, the metacritic score for the game is an 84 (which is pretty damn good) and I only bring that up because it seems the majority of the less than stellar reviews are because the game doesn’t really do anything to innovate, however I would say there are a few innovations to the game. For instance Horde 3.0 has some nice changes to it like the Forging system where you return to a box to get supplies (this is also used in one of the levels of the game which acts like a few rounds of Horde itself). As far as the story mode and and multiplayer mode goes this is your basic Gears of War, a few added weapons and maps but not much has changed and for me personally that’s not a bad thing. In Gears of War: Judgement they went out on a limb and tried new things with the formula and it just didn’t feel like Gears. It wasn’t bad but it didn’t feel right. This however feels like Gears of War, from the cover based action, third person perspective, to the exaggerated gore and muscled out bodies.
Game Play: Like I said in the opener this is Gears of War, a third person cover based shooter with very simple controls. L trigger for aiming, R trigger for shooting, A to run, duck behind cover, and jump over cover, and B to either melee or rev up your chainsaw and cut a mofo in half. If you’ve played the first three Gears games you’ll be right at home with this one, and if you like them you’ll like this one. It’s been a few years since a proper Gears release and it was a long time coming. The remastered Gears that came out last year felt like a tech demo for this game and even though it had everything the original game had it lacked the changes that 2 and 3 brought to the series and it just felt incomplete. Gears 4 though is a complete game and it’s a blast.
The story mode which leading up to the release seemed like a rehash of the original Gears game, but upon playing through it, it serves as a nice continuation of the Gears story. It’s as logical as can be expected for a game in this series and it’s fun to play. Without giving away anything, you play as JD (James Dominic) Phoenix, son of the original trilogy’s Marcus Phoenix and in the game we pick up with JD and his friends Del and Kait. JD and Del are COG deserters and Kait lives in a colony outside of COG jurisdiction. The game starts with you and your group raiding a COG colony that is being built, you’re trying to get a fabricator for your colony. Here the city is uninhabited at the moment and you do battle with COG robots. Towards the end of this you meet up with the leader of the COGs Commander Jin and she accuses you of stealing her people. You make it back to your colony and Jin and the COG attack, this level plays out like Horde, which is pretty cool because it acts like a tutorial to Horde mode for you.
After you complete this you’re treated to a cut scene of the “SWARM” attacking the colony and taking people. This leads you to go back “home” and seek your father’s help. After that you all set out trying to figure out where the SWARM has come from and to rescue your colony.
Multiplayer plays just like Gears multiplayer should. Run, gun, take cover, revive downed allies, repeat. If you like Gears this is for you. We also have new multiplayer modes like Dodge Ball, which is a play on elimination, you start out 5 on 5 and you can eliminate opponents but when you get a kill you bring back teammates just like Dodge Ball. Then we have Horde 3.0 which is a lot like the previous horde modes but you also have the fabricator to make your defenses and with each enemy you kill you get power to bring back to the fabricator as basically currency to build more devices for defense. Also in Horde 3.0 you can choose between one of five classes to help your team out.
Graphics: The game looks gorgeous and runs at a flawless 60 frames per second and in my extensive amount of game play (even with couch co-op) I never experienced any frame rate issues or glitches. The Coalition (who took over developing duties from Epic Games) has done a great job with the series. I for one was very worried about a new studio taking over the franchise. When 343 Studios took over Halo after Bungie, the game wasn’t the same. Halo 4 and 5 are still good games but they feel slightly different. Gears of War 4 feels like the previous games. They made a great game and really pushed the Xbox One to it’s limits and graphically and frame rate wise really show what the system is capable of.
Verdict: I have very few complaints when it comes to this game. It feels and plays like a Gears game should. The new characters fit into this world and are very likable much like in the previous games. As I said above this game has couch co-op (which is a rarity these days) and it even offers Lan connection which I thought was dead outside of PC tournaments. However, the downside to couch co-op though is that it compresses the screen for some reason so you get black bars on the side of the screen. This might be my only complaint about the game. Overall it’s a great game and a wonderful addition to the series and if you were a fan before you’ll still love the game, and if you haven’t tried it yet this is a good jumping on point. For all that we’ve mentioned this game gets our score of 9.5 out of 10.