After my playthrough of Gears of War 4, I had some trouble figuring out how to review the game. I was worried that my nostalgia would interfere with how I grade the game. Admittedly, the Gears of War franchise is one of my favorite franchises of all time. At the time, I was blown away by the game design, Xbox 360 graphics, and powerful story. The story has a lot a memorable characters and moments of joy and sorrow. Dom seeing his wife still resonates with me on an emotional level. The Gears, let by Marcus Fenix, overcoming all odds to finally defeat the Locust after YEARS of war is a fantastic gaming moment. Now, The Coalition takes on the challenge of continuing the legacy that was created by Cliff Bleszinski and Epic Games. I’m happy to report that The Coalition knocked it right out of the park with Gears of War 4.
Gears of War 4 tells the story of JD Fenix, son of Marcus Fenix. What starts as a simple raid of a newly built settlement with your friends, Del and Kait, quickly changes into a fight for survival. The crew have a lot of their plate. Not only are they trying to survive against the COG, but they are also dealing with the new main enemy, the Swarm. I can’t go into any more detail without completely spoiling the story. All I will say is the Swarm are an enemy that are not to be taken lightly, and once again, you fight to protect the entire planet.
There are a lot of positive aspects to the single player campaign. The story is fantastic. You don’t move very fast through the game, and that is a good thing. The game has you move methodically through each stage. There are some really nice twists and turns throughout the story. I really enjoyed the fact that the story lets you get to know the new characters through great writing and banter. I was worried that they would rely too much on including some old characters. While we do see Marcus Fenix (who they showed off in the launch trailer), the main focus is on JD, Del, and Kat, which is the right move by the developers. They are voiced incredibly well and are compelling characters on their own. The ending is pretty thought provoking and sets up future Gears games.
There is a real sense of uncertainty with the new enemies. Compared to the previous games, the AI in Gears of War 4 is vastly improved. There are distinct differences between each type of enemy. You can’t stay put behind cover with this game. Movement is key to winning every skirmish. The enemy moves is a variety of different ways, making it a good challenge for fans of the shooter genre. Not only do you have to deal with armed Swarm grunts, but you also have to deal with several different types of larger enemy. One specific enemy will snatch you and take you away. If your team doesn’t free you, then you fail the mission and need to restart the checkpoint. The enemies can be really tough. I played the entire campaign by myself, and luckily the companion AI is really well done. I never had any frustration with my teammates during any of the battles. The worst thing that they did was get in the way of my bullets on a couple occasions. Other than that, they stayed safe behind cover, picked me up in times of need, and moved from one area to another with smarts and great care.
The classic Gears gameplay is in full effect here. This 3rd person shooter hasn’t changed a lot of the basic controls or gameplay. You can cover behind obstacles to protect yourself. You can roadie run to get to places quicker. The same reload mechanic is the same (with an achievement for reloading perfectly a specific amount of times). You can still perform brutal close up kills with the chainsaw and other weapons. The team added a couple new features that were a lot of fun. First, you have the ability to reach over a barrier to grab your enemy and bring him over to your side. He is stunned for a tiny bit, which allows you to get a close up kill with your knife. Also, you are able to vault over a barrier and kick an enemy, which also stuns him for a few seconds. Keep in mind, the enemy has the same exact ability, so be careful! The development team added barriers that can be shot up and destroyed, which was a nice feature. While the level layouts are about what you can expect from a Gears game, The Coalition added environment features that bring a whole new set of challenges. The Windflares hit at inopportune times, with strong winds that blow objects towards you and cause your grenades to fly in weird directions. Lighting strikes will hurt and kill you unless you carefully navigate towards safety. The Windflares are a really cool new feature that changes the way you play.
Of course, this wouldn’t be a Gears game without multiplayer modes. The Versus mode has your classic Gears multiplayer modes, along with some new additions. Dodgeball, Arms Race, and a competitive multiplayer mode called Escalation. The maps are great and on par with previous Gears maps. Versus is really competitive. I do feel like the multiplayer could be balanced a little more, but that is only a minor gripe. Personally, I prefer the Horde Mode 3.0. You and 4 other players compete against wave after wave of enemies. A new feature is the inclusion of classes, so you and your friends can pick the best mixture of classes in order to survive. Luckily, you have a handy dandy Fabricator to build defenses and help you survive the Horde. The replay-ability factor for Horde mode is off the charts and a ton of fun. The best part? You can play Horde mode cross network, meaning console gamers can play with their PC friends in Horde mode and vice versa. Gears features a multitude of Packs that you can purchase with in-game or real currency. These packs open up new character and gun skins as well as bounties that you can fulfill for extra XP.
Graphically, Gears of War 4 looks really impressive on Xbox One. The lighting and detail looks really clean. The facial expressions pair really well with the excellent voice acting. Of course, it looks better running on a high end PC. However, I was impressed with what I saw on Xbox One. One of my favorite aspects of Gears of War 4 is the ability to turn on or off the gore and profanity. The graphics and action still look awesome with gore switched off. I enjoyed playing the campaign with the gore turned on and off.
I am so thrilled with how Gears of War 4 turned out. Kudos to The Coalition for not only bringing back the classic gameplay and amazing storytelling that we have come to expect from the franchise, but also adding new elements to keep things fresh and fun. This is a must buy for fans of the franchise as well as fans of the shooter genre. I purchased and played the Ultimate Edition for this review. At $99.99, you get the game, season pass, character skins, gun skins, and (for a limited time) all 4 of the previous Gears games! That’s a hell of a deal if you ask me. Gears 1-3 and Gears: Judgement are all backwards compatible on the Xbox One. If you just want Gears 4, it is available for $59.99 at your local retailer. Gears of War 4 is part of the Play Anywhere program. If you buy it digitally, it will work on both Xbox One and Windows 10. You can start the game on console and pick up right where you left off on PC, and vice versa!
What did you think of Gears of War 4? Let us know in the comments below!
New additions to classic gameplay
Top notch multiplayer (and cross network Horde Mode!!)
Wonderful graphics and voice acting
Love to see a little more balance in Versus