Gears of War 4: Review

Gears of War 4 now has a home on the Xbox One as the fifth instalment in the Gears of War series. Not only is this the first Gears of War game to be published on the Xbox One, it is also the first in the series to not be developed by Epic Games, the creator of the first four games. So not only does Gears of War 4 need to prove the concept of the current generation of consoles, the new developer 'The Coalition' also need to make a point that they're up to the challenge that Epic Games set before them.

Before we get to the nuts and bolts of this, I'll cover off on the burning question that all new comers to a series will inevitably ask. "Do I need to play the previous games to understand this one?". The short answer to this is no. Like all good sagas, each instalment will have its own unique story arch that will be told independent from the others in the series. However, a powerful series like Gears of War will also have long overarching references and story lines that only those that have experienced the previous games to the fullest will appreciate. You won't get lost without prior knowledge, but there will be a lot more feeling and emotion behind some of the themes in Gears of War 4 should you play the previous game first. One of the best things about this release, is that if you so wish to go back and play them, thanks to Xbox One's backward compatibility and the previous four games being bundled in with Gears of War 4 (no matter what edition you buy), you will be able to do so at no extra cost.
25 years has passed after the events from Gears of War 3. The game opens showing off a 25th anniversary commemoration that is being televised, all the while cutting to game play which doubles as a tutorial. You will play through significant events that lead towards the defeat of the Locust's in the previous games. Once you have completed the obligatory part of the game you get to kick off with what you're really here for.

Enter J.D, and his best friends Del and Kait. You play through the game as J.D, the son of Marcus Fenix, the hero from the previous games. JD and co. have deserted the COG and are wanted by Jinn, the leader of the COG. You will start off fighting your way through robot enemies known as DeeBee's (who are being controlled by the COG) in an effort to steal a fabricator to help with defending your home town from enemies. The COG have blamed your outsider's settlement for "taking" their people and have waged a war against you and yours.

The story eventuates back at your small settlement where the game play takes a turn from the normal Gears style. Those that have played Judgement will be very familiar with how these wave defence portions of the game go. You will have to use the fabricator to create defensive weapons to hold your own against several waves of progressively harder enemies. The wave defence part of the game is only used about three or four times throughout the entire game which is a good thing that is was never over used. It was nice to break up the game play style a little bit. If you're not aware, Gears of War is an over the shoulder third person shooter.
As you progress through the game the story evolves and can really reel you in with moments full of 'feels'. The story won't blow your mind with complexity, but on the bright side, it won't lose you in a convoluted mess either.

The game play won't be foreign to fans of the Gears series with all of the controls returning from the previous games. There have been some small additions to the abilities that your player has but there's not a lot that strays from the norm. There is a more streamlined vault system in play now which gives you the ability to seamlessly vault over cover objects while running towards them by pressing the 'B' button as you approach. Doing this while an enemy is on the other side of cover will initiate a kick which will stagger your enemy for a short time leaving them open to a knife attack finisher that is new to the game. The quick reload mini game returns again which is still satisfying to nail perfectly which results in an immediate reload with extra punch to your reloaded rounds. The rest of the game play remains untouched which is the right thing to do for a Gears game.

New weapons in the game add a new level of impressive gore. Some of the favourites are the 'Dropshot' which is a grenade launcher that fires off a mini bomb in a straight line that drops onto enemies when you release the trigger, blowing them to bits. The 'Buzzkill' is a nice new machine that looks like a concrete cutter, but fires off saw blades horizontally towards your enemies. These deadly blades will mince your enemies with minimal effort. Finally another favourite is the 'Overkill' which is essentially an overpowered four barrelled shot gut that fires off when you pull the trigger and then fires off again when you release the trigger. Boom! Splat.
The campaign progresses well showing off new enemy types and massive boss battles. You can play in single player or two-player co-op. Unfortunately Gears 4 has ditched the four player co-op that made me happy with Gears of War 3. The developers have stated that this choice was made to go back to the roots of Gears when there was only two player co-op. I don't buy that hogwash and I would say this was a business decision more than one to pay tribute to the previous and original games.

The story has a satisfying end to it but it was also a little abrupt. The game climaxes towards the end with a severe drop off in the story. It would have been a little more impressive to have some form of wind down mission or cut scene, rather than the end credits rolling after a short and insignificant video.

Beyond the story of the campaign, Gears 4 offers plenty of replayability for those achievement hunters out there. There are a lot of collectibles to chase as well as tricky and downright ridiculous achievements to unlock too. Although that stuff will be fun for some, the big ticket items are the Horde Mode and Multiplayer modes.
Horde Mode brings back the big 50 wave slog that can take a long time to plough through, but depending on the difficulty that you set, it can be a fun adventure to have with your friends. Team up with four mates to play a five player wave defence that has been perfected in Horde Mode. Build defence traps and new weapons to help you carve through the relentless waves of DeeBee bots and Swarm. Online multiplayer is what it has always been. Hard but rewarding fun. It has a delicate slower pace when compared to other multiplayer games but this lends itself to a different player.

Searching for online games is a bit hit and miss early on in the piece. The one downside to the Gears of War games is that they're not your run of the mill Call of Duty game with millions of players to join. It's a niche multiplayer game that attracts the almighty kings of the game which can make it hard for the average Joe to find a win. There is a ranking structure in place which places you into different divisions depending on your skill and abilities, but like all games that attempt this kind of matchmaking, there is still always those super crazy good players that slip through the cracks.
Gears of War 4 is a solid entry into the series and I was impressed with everything along the way. I played through on "Hardcore" mode which is said to be the way the game is meant to be played and I can see why. Anything lower would be too easy and offer no challenge, but on Hardcore mode there was enough of a challenge without breaking the game by being impossible. The new development team on this game have proven that they can make a Gears game that the fans want and love which makes me excited to believe that there may be another trilogy on its way starting with this game. The graphics are beautiful, regardless of whether you're on a 4K monster PC or if you're playing on the humble Xbox One. Definitely a game for the fans.

Aussie Gamers Express
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