The release of Gears of War 3 and Gears of War: Judgment several years ago marked the end of Epic Games’ involvement in the series. Since then, many fans were worried if the series will continue. Through Microsoft’s new internal studio called The Coalition, the much-beloved series continues with Gears of War 4. The pressure is high for The Coalition as Gears of War 4 is the continuation to the award-winning series and many have doubts they are able to surpass what Epic Games started. After spending so much time with Gears of War 4, It’s safe to say that the Gears of War series is in safe hands as The Coalition indeed continues the legacy that Epic Games left behind.
Gears of War 4 takes place twenty five years following the events of the third game. With the Locusts and the Lambents finally gone, the people of the planet Sera have been living peacefully under the rule of the reformed Coalition of Ordered Governments, aka COG. To protect its people from any dangers that the planet might give to the people of Sera, the reformed government declare martial law which prevents people from going outside from their built settlements. Unfortunately, there is that one resistance group who defies the government called Outsiders and that’s where Marcus Fenix’s son, James/JD, comes in. With him not being able to live in the settlements provided by the COG, JD and his friends; Kait and Del, must find a way to survive on their own and this starts their perilous journey as a new threat arises.
Without spoiling anything about the game’s story, there are two new threats that JD and his group will face; the COG and the new type of enemy called the Swarm. With the Locusts and the Lambents gone, just who are these Swarm? Through the five Acts of the game that takes about 12 hours to beat (under Insane difficulty), JD will uncover the secrets of the new threat that might once again threaten humanity. Getting help from many familiar faces from past Gears of War titles, there is hope for JD and the people of the planet Sera.
Storywise, Gears of War 4 has a new story to look forward to and new characters to meet. The first couple of Acts in the game were painfully slow and a bit of a drag but it picks up at around the third act. When all things start to reveal itself about the Swarm, that’s where the game gets interesting and fans of the series are guaranteed to get excited. One of the things that gave me a nostalgic feeling is when I saw several old characters from the past games and yes, expect them to have a big contribution to the plot. As for the ending, it’s not that explosive compared to the third game. This is forgiven since this is a first of a new trilogy and the story will continue in future games.
Fans who have played all Gears of War games in the past, not much has changed to its gameplay in the campaign mode. The mechanics and the combat system is almost identical to past games where JD and his friends must go through waves of enemies to proceed from one area to the next. The popular over-the-shoulder and cover system is back. Make no mistake, the combat system is phenomenal and I find them to be more solid and refined. If there’s one thing that’s been added to make the combat better, that would be the addition of trading weapons between the two other characters in your team. At some point when the game gets too tough, you can invite a friend to join you in a co-operative play. As always, a Gears of War game is best played with a friend and it’s not any different from past titles.
As far as collectibles go, they are back and there are plethora to collect in all five acts. For those who wants to learn more of the new lore in Gears of War 4, I suggest collecting them all as some collectibles give more information like what happened to previous characters in the series and more.
In addition to the campaign mode, one of the biggest features of Gears of War 4 is the multiplayer mode. The fan-favorite Horde mode makes a return in Gears of War 4 and they have been greatly improved it. Through the new multiplayer card system, everything now relies to it when it comes to customizations. Depending on what you get from the packs that you receive or buy from the in-game store, you can change your character by changing the cards from your loadouts. The things that can be customized varies from characters, weapons, skins, or even bonus stats that can give you when you are playing online. The more you play the Horde mode or any other modes online, the more credits you get to purchase packs from the in-game store.
When it comes to the Horde mode, the gameplay is more of the same compared to past games. You and three other people will be put into a map and fight enemies through many waves. Through the Fabricator box, as seen in the campaign mode, weapons and other materials that you use to slow enemies down can be bought from it. Thanks to the card system, it’s possible to get your character stronger when playing and make them survive longer. Not to mention your characters can now equip an ability or change class (Soldier, Engineer, etc) by using the cards that you get. Depending on what difficulty you pick, rewards and credits that you get varies, so it’s important to keep on playing and hope you get more credits or rewards later on.
Progression is a big thing in the multplayer mode of Gears of War 4. Similar to past games, players earn experience points at the end of each match and level after certain experience points were reached. With the inclusion of the cards, it makes the progression more diverse. For those who have bought the Ultimate Edition, you have a lot of packs waiting for you to open. These packs contains cards that you can use in either the Horde or Versus mode. As mentioned earlier, these cards are essential in playing the multiplayer portion of Gears of War as you will need these cards to change characters, your weapons, skins, and costumes. Also, there’s a chance to earn more EXP points by choosing a bounty before a match starts. These bounties can be found in a form of cards where it varies from doing an assist kill five times to get 1,000 bonus experience points. For those who don’t have any cards, they are available for purchase in the game’s in-game store where you can use real money or points that you get after each match. It’s certainly possible to buy cards without spending money but it will take you a long time to rack up those points needed for one pack.
Aside from the Horde mode, there’s also a Versus mode where modes like Team Deathmatch, King of the Hill, Dodgeball, Guardian, and the classic Warzone. Fans who have played the multiplayer modes vigorously in past games, more of them are the same. One of the new modes exclusive to Gears of War 4 is Dodgeball. For those who knows how to play Dodgeball, the mechanics in Gears of War 4 is almost the same, except you shoot enemies instead of throwing balls at them. If at some point you are killed, the only way for you to respawn is when someone from your team scores a kill and survive for five seconds. From the many modes available in Gears of War 4, I would say my favorite is the new Horde mode and the Dodgeball under the Versus mode.
Thanks to Microsoft’s PlayAnywhere promotion, those who purchase the game digitally on the Xbox Live Marketplace will get a digital copy as well on the PC. Throughout my playthrough, I played the game on my PC. For the most part, I am running the game at 2K resolution with an average 50fps. I suggest to play the game on PC if your hardware can support it. As for the Xbox One version, it’s run pretty good as well. All of its textures load pretty smoothly and I rarely saw any pop-ins. Compared to the visuals in Gears of War 3 and Judgment, Gears of War 4 improves a lot in terms of visual fidelity. Using the Unreal Engine 4 makes the game look more lively and realistic compared back when Unreal Engine 3 was used. More emotions can be seen in the characters and lighting/shadows are much better.
Gears of War 4 brings everything you loved about the original trilogy and adapts it to a new story arc. The campaign is captivating and offers an interesting storyline and an enjoyable combat system. This system makes the multiplayer mode even more addicting, along with plenty of new features for fans and newcomers alike to enjoy. Needless to say, Gears of War 4 is a great title for newcomers and an absolute must for returning fans. Those who doubt The Coalition’s direction with the game will be relieved to hear the franchise is in good hands.
[Editor’s Note: Gears of War 4 was reviewed on the PC and Xbox One platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]Gears of War 4 Review,