Its been some time since I took on the Locust and experienced the Saga of Marcus Fenix in the original Gears games. Now we have moved on, the story is taking place years after the events of the final chapter and there is a new developer in the mix for this one too. Our Gears of War 4 Review looks at all elements of the game in true Gears fashion.
Below you’ll see my review broken into three acts focusing on the new story mode, updated Horde mode and how the whole package comes together.
And boy, does it come together to bring one amazing package. The game is excellent throughout and really brings back that action-packed Gears of War feeling.
Whoo! Bring it on Sucka!
You are the son of a legend, the prodigal son. You are JD Fenix, and you have walked away from the COG to pursue something else.
Only, not everything is as it seems, and soon you will learn that family is just who you fight for and loss is par for the course.
– Act 1: Story Mode –
So, if you weren’t aware or perhaps were in denial about it, this week Gears of War 4 came out on Xbox One and Windows 10 PC. There has been a fair bit of anticipation for this release as it marks a ‘New beginning’ for the franchise, and of course, such things tend to be divisive.
Halo 4 & 5 being prime examples of games that are (depending on who you ask) deserving of their place in a franchise, yet derided by die hard purists.
JD is the protagonist this time around, and he seems a little more ‘human’ than previous Gears leads. He is more emotive and has both serious and fun moments, where his predecessors could be a little one dimensional.
His compatriots are predominantly his love interest, Kait. Kayt, Kate? Anyway, there’s her and Del, the wisecracker of the trio. You will meet up with JD’s dad, Mr. Fenix himself – who looks more silver fox than grey old man, it must be said. As the story begins to develop, you are soon re-introduced to more than classic characters.
The gameplay is back in a big way.
What the developers have really delivered on here is that feeling of a Gears game. The combat is fast and frenetic, with enemies of many shapes and sizes coming in at you constantly. Some of which behave unlike anything in Gears previously, and putting seasoned players through new tests.
The game is beautiful. The characters are well designed, and the heroes of the piece look more ‘proportionally accurate’ than their original trilogy counter parts (not to discount Judgement of course, I personally have never played it).
The game presents many opportunities to use the environment and weather itself both to your advantage and to your detriment. All of which is done with the effects and prowess you would expect of the Xbox One. Even when the weather is really making a tough situation worse, you can’t help but be impressed how amazing the game looks through it.
As for the people in the game, all the character interactions feel more fleshed out, while managing to make some great nods to the originals. As for the main man in the game now, I think he really delivers. When I heard that Gears was going to be set around a new character I was unsure. But JD Fenix is a likable man, and the opening prologue does enough to give you a reason to buy into the new world of Gears.
Playing Like The Originals
This is a Gears game. It continues to use the same systems and styles of Gears 1, 2 & 3 in the campaign, and as a formula, why would you change anything significant?
Don’t get me wrong, there are a number of surprises to be had (excluding the ones shown off in trailers), and some of the games tones and sub plots will genuinely surprise experienced players.
One element I found refreshing is that Gears 4 has turned back to Horror as a core element of its game and story. The new monsters (known as the Swarm) are imposing, and present a whole heap of new challenges, but also are enough of a nod to the Locust of Gears gone by to feel familiar.
There fast enemies, flying enemies, enemies with big damage outputs and enemies that will climb over barriers in relentless pursuit of you. It’s all exactly what us fans would expect and new players to the game will really enjoy.
Yes, Gears is back.
– Act 2: The Horde –
Horde mode became 90% of my Friday reviewing, where me and my Gears buddy set about beating down some Swarm punks.
The monsters are robust and tough, and come in a variety of different types, some of which challenge you to play a new gears way. And these enemies are present in horde, so when you are bunkered down and trying hard to fend off the standard human size enemies, a leaper may land atop a barrier you are using for cover.
Old tactics work, but not always. Some enemies are only vulnerable at certain times, while other enemies can be easy to dispatch, but move faster and others being able to boost damage of the enemies around them.
There is plenty to shoot at, and plenty of bullets to dodge.
One thing that always stands out about Horde mode is the addictive quality. It’s here in abundance and gives so much more to the package you’ll experience. It’s just right once again, be ready to lose some hours here.
– Act 3: Conclusion –
It’s clear from the moment you begin the game that Gears 4’s story is darker, more emotional experience. The enemies and tone this time around is something taken somewhat more seriously than before. But this all sits nicely around what is, effectively, a gorefest shooter and is just as hard hitting.
It also does some bits which fill in the gaps between 3 & 4 and, at the same time manages to pose some interesting questions.
The first question I will loosely touch on is the existence of the Swarm. The game does explain the how and why of this through character juxtaposition. Each character adds a theory as the game chugs along, until it begins to seem like the explanation is as offered by the protagonists.
However as this is a slow burn of a story, it does take a large section of the game to get there, and this feels right.
In the end Gears 4 is a great game. It serves as an excellent jump in point for new fans, whilst building on the tried and tested Gears of old. It also feels harder, not just because the enemies are tougher, but because it seems happy to use the way you’ve played Gears before against you.
Sure, if you are like me, you’ll get smashed online by the die hardiest of fans, but this is a great game, that does a great job building a new, horror driven chapter in Gears.
If I had just on criticism of the game, it is in the AI, you will ALWAYS be better off playing this game, as with all gears games, with a buddy. The AI is pretty hopeless in most regards, at one point I shot out a part of the destructible environment and the AI ran out, despite the obvious hazard and was crushed to death, so I had to redo the section.
This kind of thing wasn’t as common as in some games, but is a massive design issue, especially when trying to enjoy an otherwise fun and challenging experience.
Time to Gear up gamers, this is one not to miss. My feelings to sum up this Gears of War 4 Review? In the words of the awesome Cole Train: “Bring it on, sucka! This is my kinda shit!”