The shooter world is dominated by first-person efforts, and that may well be that any third-person fragfest would feel too much like a clone of a Gears of War game. Since the Xbox 360 years, the series has carved out some defining traits that it did so much better than any other game out there, that it came to thoroughly own them. From moving cover-to-cover to screen-splattering executions and cooperative Horde mode multiplayer, Gears has done its thing so well that it’s chased off the crowd of wannabes to stand alone. So as the most anticipated Xbox One exclusive of 2016, Gears of War 4 will be both celebrated and chided for being more of the same. From the first instant, everything about the game nails that distinctive Gears feel. If that’s not enough to get you pumped, you just may be a decapitated Locust.
Game: Gears of War 4
Consoles: Xbox One (reviewed), PC
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Developer: The Coalition
Release Date: October 11
The campaign opens up with a rundown of the series’ highlights, giving you alternate perspectives from major events in humanity’s battle against the grotesque, insect-like menace it has battled throughout the decades. Told from the perspective of flashbacks at an event honoring war veterans, the kickoff hits just the right notes to initiate new players and ignite a rush of exuberant memories for experienced players. Once the story proper gets going, 20 years after previous events, you find yourself getting to know the four main characters you are among at all times, in a design that naturally lends itself to four-player online co-op. Even when playing solo, these squadmates are invaluable allies. You can swap weapons with them, call upon them to revive you when you’re down or draw cover fire as you rush through to infiltrate an enemy encampment.
Past Gears games — especially the first two — shamelessly pandered to the dudebro set, with high-fives and goofy chants that were straight out of early 2000s frat flicks. The later games moved away from such silliness, and Gears of War 4 continues that trend. While this is still a game squarely for the male audience, the inclusion of a tough, stereotype-shattering female co-lead helps keep things grounded, resonating much more than Halo 5‘s addition of female Spartans whose femininity was buried underneath opaque visors. There’s still plenty of rah-rah spirit, but the main protagonist — franchise favorite Marcus Fenix’s son, JD — is less a Vin Diesel or Dwayne Johnson clone like his daddy and more of an everyman, Mark Wahlberg type. As a result, the dialogue has relatable human moments in addition to halftime speech maxims.
The campaign lives up to the rock-solid precedent set by previous Gears games, and remains an absolute must-play before you get serious about multiplayer. Adversarial multiplayer is bolstered with varied, creative maps and a matchmaking system that vets the unwashed masses to stick you with comparable opponents. The most intriguing draw is still the marathon-style war of attrition that is Horde 3.0. Teaming with a squad of you and your buddies, or strangers the algorithms decide to throw you into the fray with, the onslaught of increasingly vicious and powerful baddies — combined with between-match adjustments — make for an MMO-style thrillride that can easily eat up entire nights of your focused scowls and fist-pumps. No other mode in all of gaming does a better job of making you feel like you and your allies are brothers in arms. The sacrifices you make for one another and heart you display in backing each other up can forge bonds that extend to the real world.
Stylized visuals maintain the vaguely comic book-style feel of past Gears games, but this is unsurprisingly the most visually striking game in the series. What truly makes Gears of War 4 click, though, is its heart. There’s a reason the series continued to thrive on the multiplayer scene, even during weaker entries such as Gears of War: Judgment. Developers The Coalition passionately embraced every aspect about what made the past games work, while subtly modernizing the franchise as a whole, moving it to a place in which it can be as seriously as a sci-fi wartime drama you’d find in literature or film. Gears of War 4 is the best game in the series because of course it is. Microsoft gave the developers the time and resources it took to do the series justice, and the way they not only listened to criticisms of past games, but applied what they learned as superfans themselves, shines through in every aspect of the game. Gears of War 4 slays with the brutal precision of its trademark chainsaw bayonet executions.
Gears of War 4 Reviews Around The Web:
“Some might even say that the game plays and looks too much like its predecessors.” –GameRant
“The new game changes a lot — mostly for the better — but it still feels like classic Gears of War at its core.” –TechnoBuffalo
“This is the Gears you know and love with more refined gameplay.” –Tom’s Guide
Gears of War 4 Screenshots
The publisher provided a review copy.
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