Gears of War 4 is now available for those who purchased the Ultimate Edition of the game, which means outlets like us get to share our reviews of the game. I decided to do a video review to give Gears of War 4’s visuals and content justice, so rev up your lancers and strap on your COG armor Gears, because this game is one of the best to release in 2016. Please note that the footage in the review is from b-roll provided to reviewers by Microsoft.
For those who prefer to read I have included the script for the video below. You can also check out some campaign screenshots in the gallery preceding the script.
Listen up COGS Matt Heywood here from EntertainmentBuddha.com and it’s time to get learned on the latest Gears of War title to grace Microsoft’s platforms, and that’s Gear of Freaking War 4!
Why is it freaking you might ask? For starters, it just sounds cool, but in all honesty it’s the biggest, baddest, and most brutal Gears game to date, and if you have the right equipment, it’s also one of the best looking games to release this console generation, but more on that later.
Gears 4 takes place 25 years after the end of Gears 3, and humanity is slowly rebuilding its population on Sera. The planet is slowly recovering from the Locust war that was won by the COG thanks to Marcus Fenix and his squad, but the effects of the Imulsion weapon have really taken their toll on society.
The COG still exist, but now instead of pumping out steroid fueled Gears, its focus has been put on creating automatons to do the government’s dirty work. Many citizens still don’t trust the COG, so they have formed settlements outside of COG control and have been labeled Outsiders.
Thanks to a recent bout of mysterious disappearences the distrust between the COG and Outsiders is at an all-time high, which is right about where the campaign kicks off.
You play as JD Fenix, the son of Marcus Fenix and Anya Stroud, two heroes from the Locust War. Like his old man JD is a hulking individual and a bit of a rogue, which leads him and his Gears buddy Del to go AWOL and join an Outsider faction led by Reyna Diaz, who’s daughter Kait has captured the attention of JD in a boy meets girl type of way.
Early on you raid a COG base to steal a fabricator, which is a portable 3D printing machine of awesome for the Outsider settlement. Before long the COG catches wind of the plan and dispatches it’s new robotic forces affectionately dubbed DeeBee, which you eventually learn are the creations of a Gears franchise favorite.
After the COG attack Reyna’s settlement and are successfully defeated, the settlement is attacked yet again, but this time JD and his buddies are up against a much more intense threat than a few COG automatons.
The Locust, or what appears to be Locust, but is in fact a new species called the Swarm, obliterates the Outsider settlement and carry off its inhabitants using Snatchers, which are big ass ugly looking things that have a massive vagina on their underside to carry away and process human flesh.
While the attack is going down Reyna locks Kait, JD, and Del in a barn and they have to watch the horrors taking place outside though a tiny viewport. Poor Kait watches her Mom tussle with a massive Swarm soldier called a Sion, but rather than snatching her up for processing, the Sion beats her down and carries him away on his person.
Of course the three new heroes get out of the born, but it’s too late. Reyna and everyone else in the settlement is either dead or taken, so after examining a swarm corps, which curiously has an imulsion crystal on it just like the dead Locust got from the Imulsion weapon at the end of Gears 3. This prompts the gang to begrudgingly partner up with the one person on Sera who knows the Locust and their kind inside and out, Marcus Fenix.
This is about the time that the main story kicks in, which is all about the fate of JD and his crew, but also the legacy of the heroes that came before him. Unfortunately JD and his Dad are a bit at odds, because after all when you eat steroids for breakfast, you’re bound to be a little cranky.
For the sake of spoilers I’ll leave the rest of the plot alone, but I can tell you that it’s one of the best campaigns to date thanks to the mysterious narrative, and plenty of callbacks to the original franchise that long time fans will air chainsaw too in jubilation. Let’s just say there’s plenty of fan service, but not so much that the focus is taken off of JD and the new breed of heroes that this inevitable new trilogy will feature.
In terms of gameplay not much has changed campaign wise, which may or may not be cool with you depending on what you want out of a third person shooter. There are five acts to tackle, each with around 4-5 chapters to literally brutalize the Swarm and occasional DeeBee units through. It easily provides around 10-12 hours of solid gameplay, which can be played locally in split screen, through matchmaking, or cross play with gamers on Windows 10 PC. I didn’t have a partner to roll with, so luckily the AI is competent enough to have your back when you’re healed and shoot like stormtroopers to help you whittle down the seemingly unending horde of Swarm scum trying to shred your body to pieces.
For the most part you work your way through checkpoints that entail the familiar pop and cover gameplay first made famous by Gears 1. You’ll hit a new area, enemies begin to attack, you shoot back, wait for the now Iconic guitar rift to signal you’ve killed them all, then move on to the next area. Of course you get to do all of this with classic Gears weapons, but there are some deadly new ones such as the Overkill, or a Buzzsaw gun, which can turn a skirmish into a deadly match of ricocheting rusty saw blades that can cut down the Swarm in one shot, as well as yourself if you’re not careful.
There are also Horde-like segments, which throw waves of enemies at you while you wait on a character to do something to progress the game. During each wave you can hit up a fabricator to create new defenses, so there’s a bit of strategy during these moments, but ultimately they end up being a more chaotic blood bath than the standard pop and cover segments.
Gears 4 also has some pretty fun on rails sequences, and one of the most powerful feeling mech segments I’ve ever experienced in a shooter. The on rails sequences are actually quite fun and frenetic even if it’s a tired video game trope in the shooter space. There’s one that is entirely unique though, so overall I really enjoyed these little changes in the gameplay formula, and they definitely embrace the over-the-top nature of the Gears of War franchise.
The campaign also features a few boss battles to keep things exciting, although the final boss is a bit of a let down even though it’s a menacing site to see. It just feels a bit too easy and convenient, but I imagine it’s much tougher on the two hardest difficulty settings.
Overall the pacing of the campaign is fantastic and keeps you on the edge of your seat from start to finish, but it does falter a bit in Act 5, which seems a bit rushed, so before you know it the credits start to roll and you’re left feeling like there should have been another chapter to get through to help tell a bit more story and provide a bit of resolution to the plot.
With that being said though the end throws a major reveal in your face, which you really don’t see coming, at least not the implications it has for the sequels, which will happen based on how open Gears 4’s ending is. The ending definitely made me go, “say what,” and it led me to do a bit of Gears lore brushing up over at Gearspedia. To me, if a game’s narrative can get me speculating on what may happen next and study lore, I consider it to be a stellar one, so outside of the rushed climax I absolutely loved the campaign’s story.
Now what makes Gears 4 better than its predecessors is its amazingly crisp and vibrant visuals. If you own the Xbox One S and a HDR capable 4K TV, you will be blown away by the visual fidelity. Thanks to the game’s support of HDR it provides deep dark tones, bright light tones, and some of the richest colors I’ve seen in a video game to date.
The lighting is exquisite, while the textures are very detailed, so the world comes to life unlike any Gears game before it. Now if you don’t have the right tech to pull this off it still looks phenomenal in 1080p, but it is a damn gem with upscale 4K and HDR. It’s easily one of the best looking, technically executed video games I’ve played, so The Coalition really outdid themselves in the visuals department.
The sound design is equally impressive thanks to a masterful score by Game of Thrones composer Ramin Djawadi. Like the first Gears even the menu music is catchy, and there are more than a few musical themes spread throughout the campaign that capture the essence of Gears while putting a new spin on its score.
Of course the sound effects and voice acting are badass too. With every kill you can feel the carnage in your soul thanks to the brilliant foley work and sound design. The main cast is also expertly voiced, which brings an authenticity to the characters, which allows you to become emotionally invested in their journey.
In all honesty if Gears 4 just shipped with the campaign I’d be happy, because it really is riveting even with the somewhat tried and true Gears of War franchise gameplay tropes. The story is mysterious and intriguing, while the characters are just as interesting and will have much more to them in the sequels. I definitely want to continue this new foray into the Gears-verse, so here’s to hoping Gears 5 already being greenlit.
What makes the Gears 4 package even better than what I just described is its full on multiplayer component, which has all sorts of gamers covered in terms of how they like to play games online. I do want to point out that I didn’t have issues connecting the the game’s dedicated servers, but considering that I had an early review copy I was treated to guided multiplayer sessions with the dev team, so I can’t comment on what multiplayer will be like once the rest of Gears Nation comes online, but I do expect it to be robust enough to keep on churning during the inevitable launch crunch.
There’s the traditional Versus Multiplayer mode that contains a mix of social and competitive playlists and 10 maps to wage war on, nine of which are brand new. There are also a few new match types to experience, such as Dodgeball and Arms Race. In Dodgeball you can get your fallen teammates back into action by killing enemy forces, while in Arms Race everyone starts with Boomers, but the weapons swap for the entire team every three kills, which keeps things very interesting.
Horde 3.0 is also included in the multiplayer component, and it’s one of the more fun co-op experiences in the game. There are 50 waves of increasingly harder enemies to wade through with boss fights every 10 rounds. Fabricators can be moved around the map, and can also be pumped full of credit you earn to buy new gear or defenses between rounds. It can also be leveled up to provide even better equipment to help you during the later waves, which get brutal as a mother humper.
The biggest change to the Gears multiplayer formula though is the introduction of a Halo 5-like REQ system. You can earn credits from any type of multiplayer match, which in turn can be used to buy Gear Packs, which when opened can yield cosmetic changes in the form of skins, or booster cards that can be used in multiplayer to increase XP or credits earned in a match. Basically everything in the game can be earned by racking up credits and just playing, but you do have the choice to accelerate your loot.
Gears of War 4 is without a doubt a gem of a game, and a more than worthy entry in the proper Gears franchise. The story is intriguing if not a bit unresolved by the end, but it definitely sets the inevitable sequels to be shocking. The gameplay is as solid and tight as ever, but a bit stale when compared to the other Gears games. Although, thanks to the near perfect visuals and sheer fun factor, popping and covering your way through the game still feels rewarding. Of course you have the multiplayer modes, which thanks to the Gear packs and a focus on social and competitive play, will give the game long legs in terms of replayability. Even if you’re not a Gears fan, or haven’t played the others, I still highly recommend picking this game up, because it’s just loads of fun and a game that will keep you and your gaming buddies hooked for quite some time. It may feature a new cast of heroes, but they’re ones worth taking a gamble on, and like I mentioned earlier, there’s plenty of fan service for the Gears faithful. Thank goodness Sera is such a jacked up world, because it keeps providing excellent gameplay experiences 10 years after its first introduction.
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Review Statement: The author of this review received a copy of the game from the publisher for the purposes of this review.