A new Gears of War game for the current generation has finally arrived, and it does so with style. Not the ridiculous spectacle seen in the second and third games of the previous trilogy, but as an excellent homage to the original game. For those who have played the Xbox 360 original or the excellent Gears of War :Ultimate Edition remaster, you will feel right at home. Regardless of whether your interest lies with the campaign, the cooperative “Horde” mode, or the many competitive modes, there is a ton of value to be found in Gears of War 4.
Gears 4 kicks off with a short but entertaining prologue. This provides a basic tutorial while introducing many characters and key events. The Pendulum Wars, Emergence Day, and the defense of Anvil Gate all make an appearance.
Gears 4 picks up 25 years after Marcus Fenix and the remnants of Delta Squad rid the world of the Locust and Lambent threat. During this time, the world of Sera has been rebuilding under the new "Coalition of Governments" (the COG), a government that just can’t seem to shed its fascistic ways. A short but exciting prologue highlights some of the key moments in Gears’ history, while introducing the player to the major characters and gameplay mechanics. It also provides a great opportunity to see the classic Locust rendered in Unreal Engine 4 and had me yearning to replay the original trilogy.
Back in the present, we find James Dominic Fenix has gone AWOL from the COG, and is now raiding under-construction settlements to assist a non-aligned group known as the “Outsiders”. He is accompanied by fellow renegade, Delmont, and Outsider Kait. In a radical departure from the grim and devastated locations seen in the previous games, the opening act gives the player an idea of how a prosperous, peaceful – albeit rigidly policed – Sera could look. It also quickly introduces the player to a new environmental hazard, “wind flares”, huge, lightning-spewing tornadoes. Lastly, it introduces the current COG leader, First Minister Jinn, who serves as a minor antagonist and the overseer of the amusingly-voiced “DeeBee” robot peacekeepers.
While not the star of this new trilogy, Marcus is reintroduced early on and his mood has not improved substantially in the past 25 years.
After a relatively light-hearted first act, the story takes a darker turn when an entire Outsider village is kidnapped by the “swarm”, fleshy beasts that appear to be led by an all too familiar looking creature. This event kicks off a 24 game-hour adventure, similar in structure to the original Gears of War campaign. Moving away from mass military deployments and increasingly ridiculous set pieces, Gears 4 instead focusses on the chemistry between the young protagonists, JD’s relationship with his father, and the emergence of a new threat for a new generation. As much as I enjoyed the original Delta Squad, JD, Del, and Kait are much younger and combine many of the personality traits of Cole and Baird – equal parts enthusiasm and sarcasm. A pleasant change from Marcus and Dom’s incessant dour moods, although this does produce some cringe-worthy dialogue at times.
After a relatively light-hearted first act, the story takes a darker turn when an entire Outsider village is kidnapped by the “swarm”, fleshy beasts that appear to be led by an all too familiar looking creature.
The experience only improves with cooperative play and you can tackle the campaign with a friend online or together on the couch in split-screen mode.
…Horde 3.0 rewards aggressive play and punishes excessive turtling.
If you are looking to spend hundreds of hours accumulating experience, ribbons, customization items, and climbing up the global rankings, Gears 4 has you covered…
For those who have played Gears of War: Ultimate Edition, the visual design remains similar, but with much more detail and - most importantly - a colour scale that stretches beyond grey-to-brown.
Enjoys games with awesome stories and characters, along with new and interesting hardware. Dislikes day-one patches and driver updates.
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PC, Xbox One
7 October 2016
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