Gears of War 4 marks the return of one of gaming’s most celebrated franchises. Also, it is probably the most robust and ambitious Gears of War game ever made, but it’s not without its faults.
While I do like Gears, I didn’t enjoy the last one very much. But when I saw the trailer for Gears of War 4, and played it during the Xbox showcase in Singapore last month, I simply had to give it another shot.
Gears of War 4 picks up 25 years after all Imulsion (the stuff that powers things) on the planet Sera and the Locust and the Lambent (the bad guys) get destroyed. Unfortunately, since the planet now has no power socitizensurce, humanity needs to find new ways to survive. That’s not all that’s changed though, Windflares, powerful windstorms have started to form across the planet, making life on Sera even harder, leaving only hundreds of thousands of humans left.
To prevent the population from dwindling further, Coalition of Ordered Governments (COG) built walled-off cities to protect people from the dangers outside. The COG then also goes ahead and declares martial law, preventing any travel outside the walls. Not everyone likes being locked up, so the COG faces some pretty intense opposition – cue J.D. Fenix.
J.D. Fenix, the son of Marcus Fenix from previous Gears installments, is now the focal point of events, together with best buds Delmont “Del” Walker and Kait Diaz, form the new core team that carries the franchise forward from the old guard. In a sense, it’s actually quite significant and poetic when you take into consideration that this is the first Gears game that EPIC hasn’t worked on (or at least not completely – they started and then the rights got bought out) and the lance has been passed on to The Coalition – a Microsoft in-house studio.
Graphically, Gears of War 4 isn’t a leap forward in any direction. I’ve been told how good the original looked when it first came out in comparison to everything else that was out there. This latest installment though, does not give you the same sense of awe. The character models still look great, and I especially like way the windstorms tear across the terrain, there isn’t any graphical breakthrough with the Unreal engine.
Much like the graphics, the gameplay and controls are relatively unchanged. While you do have to employ different tactics every now and then (especially on harder game modes), and new tactics for new mobs, it’s the same cover-to-cover style that you either love… or don’t. While i’m not a big fan of the style, especially since I find myself running from wall to pillar to monster every so often, I can’t fault it because it’s a Gears’ trademark.
While I thought the story arc initially was bland, it does get better and I found myself rushing to complete just to get to the next part. I do love the way Del and Kait actually do help you out, and aren’t mindless drones… or stormtroopers. I found myself enjoying the banter between the characters and it really did make me feel part of a “team”. You also get quite few cut scenes that can go on for a while, but do their part to tell the tale.
One of the standout improvements in Gears of War 4 is definitely Horde Mode, which you can play on multiplayer, and is integrated into the single-player campaign as well. Horde mode is basically tower defence, where you handle wave after wave, that decides to throw a spanner in the works every now and then to totally screw up your plan. Just when you think you’ve got it, you get hit by mobs that need you to completely switch your strategy, scramble around and keep your cool.
Gears of War 4 is a passing of the torch in terms of storyline, where you have a new generation of heroes, and development studios. It is a Gears of War game through and through and isn’t shy about it. While there aren’t any great leaps, and it isn’t going to be an industry changer, it’s a solid upgrade from the last edition.
Gears of War 4 is available on the Xbox One and Windows 10.