One of the biggest releases of the year is finally upon us, and it’s chock full of content. “Gears of War 4”, much like previous games in the series, has an action-packed campaign as well as an in-depth multiplayer and horde mode. Microsoft offered a Collector’s Edition of the game that gave those willing to pay an extra $40 a chance to play the game four days earlier than it’s originally scheduled release date. I’m one of those that caved and dropped the extra cash to be able to play (and finish) the campaign. This review will be dedicated to that portion of the game, and we’ll cover the versus and horde modes at a later time.
The story takes place twenty-five years after the events in “Gears of War 3” when the Locust and the Lambent were wiped out by the Imulsion Countermeasure weapon. Humanity survived (barely), but the countermeasure also caused severe windstorms to appear on the planet Sera. The reformed Coalition of Ordered Governments (COG) has created walled-off cities and enacted martial law, disallowing anyone from leaving the cities for fear of the population being unable to sustain itself due to the aftermath. Some of the survivors have rebelled against the new leadership and formed a group known as “The Outsiders”
(fitting for this community, I know). Our new younger heroes are J.D. Fenix (the son of Marcus Fenix), Del Walker, and Kait Diaz. They are members of The Outsiders and start the beginning of the game attempting to infiltrate a COG territory to gain resources for their people. From this point, the group faces a new threat and spend the rest of the campaign battling those forces.
But if you’ve played the rest of the games in the series, you know that the story isn’t the main reason you play them. The reason you’re probably reading this review is because you want to know about the gameplay and if it’s as much fun blasting enemies with a shotgun and popping heads off with a sniper rifle. I’m happy to say that “Gears of War 4” lives up to its legacy of fantastic cover-based shooting while introducing new, interesting weapons and surprising set pieces that are a blast to experience. I’ve yet to play a sequel to a game that feels so familiar while also delivering exciting, new features that work better than expected.
One of the more interesting features of the Gears series is the weapons, and Gears 4 continues this trend. You still have the standards: the Lancer, the Gnasher, the Boomshot, the Longshot, and the Torque Bow, but there are new weapons, some that feel like clever iterations on the classics and some that actually play into the story. The Embar is a combination between the Longshot and the Torque Bow, allowing you to fire charged shots while scoping out your enemies. The Overkill is a shotgun that fires two consecutive shells one after another. Both the Buzzkill and the Dropshot are construction tools that function as modified weapons; one fires saw blades that bounce around the environment, and the other drops explosives on top of enemies. Each weapon feels well-balanced and are satisfying to use, especially when you hear that glorious explosion of a monsters head exploding.
As good as “Gears of War 4” campaign was, there are a few things some people should know that might deter them from purchasing. The campaign is significantly shorter than first three (or four, if you count “Gears of War: Judgment”) games, coming in at just under eight hours. This might not bother some, especially since there’s such a robust multiplayer experience that offers many more hours of gameplay, but it’s definitely worth noting. Also, the story is just barely above the quality of the other games. The dialogue is a little cheesy, but it really wouldn’t feel like a Gears game without it. There’s also one very short segment of the game that is very frustrating because it takes more time than it should to figure out exactly what you’re supposed to do. These are very minor complaints, however, and didn’t keep me from enjoying nearly every minute of this game.
But the reason you’re reading this is to find out if this is a game that you should dedicate your time and money into. The answer is very simple: if you’re a fan of the first three games, then I see no reason that you wouldn’t enjoy this one as well. The controls are tighter, the AI is vastly improved, and the final act made me laughing and pumping my fist in the air at the realization of what I was seeing on the screen. On top of that, it’s stunning to look at. The graphics are crisp, and the weather effects are a wonderful addition to both the visuals and the gameplay. “Gears of War 4” perfectly balances familiar gameplay and environments with new characters, weapons, and set pieces. That combination of old and new makes for one of the better experiences I’ve played this year, and makes me eager to dive into the multiplayer in the coming weeks.
“Gears of War 4” released on October 7th via the Collector’s Edition and on October 11th via the Standard Edition. The game is exclusive to Xbox One and PC.