It’s been half a decade since we last saw Delta Squad finally rid Sera of the Locust. Now the Gears of War series starts a whole new saga that not only takes the best elements of the previous games but iterates up them smartly and brilliantly. Gears of War 4 is not only a excellent return for the franchise but has built a foundation that will no doubt allow for exciting new directions.
The campaign takes place 25 years after the events of Gears of War 3 and stars Marcus Fenix’s son, J.D. After a raid on one of the cities, the team are accused of taking people away from new the C.O.G. Obviously not responsible for this, the team then discover what has happened as a brand new threat has come to Sera. J.D. then knows the one person who could help, his father Marcus.
The campaign starts slow as you take on robotic enemies with limited ammo and weapons that don’t naturally feel like staples of the series. Thankfully, once you get through the opening hour or two, things really start to gain traction. You can almost feel the developers, The Coalition grow in confidence as the campaign goes on. They embrace what made Gears of War 1-3 so great in its moments and set pieces. There are sequences that not only feel like the most memorable moments from previous games and improve on them but there are new water-cooler moments that were fantastic. Some moment can go from slow and atmospheric like the first Gears game to bombastic heart-thrilling moments that would be found in something like Uncharted. What’s even more impressive is the fact that it all feels seamless. Nothing feels like a drastic change but it all flows into each other really well while also keeping things feeling fresh.
By the end of the campaign, you would have experienced some great call-backs to the series as well as moving things forward enough that the next game is going to feel entirely new. The gameplay is also a great mix of tight corridors with small areas and also massive set-pieces that feel epic and thrilling.
You will be facing two types of enemies: The Deebee robots and the Swarm. Deebee’s are relentless and will simply just walk toward you with no reactions from being shot. The Swarm are much smarter as the try to flank and even pounce on you. Sometimes, a player of the party will be taken by a snatcher and you must free them within a set time or it will result in that player being taken away and will result in Game Over. Both enemies are fun to encounter and both largely feel different from the Locust.
Controls feel familiar but even more refined. Players can now not only mantle the cover and attack the enemy but also mantle the cover while running as well as pull the enemy from there cover over to you. You can now also push the Y button to execute the enemy. This feels much more final than before where if you mantled, you still had to finish the job with one of your guns. It led to some frustration as you felt like you outsmarted your enemy but a kill still wasn’t guaranteed and doing that left you in a vulnerable position.
Apart from the enjoyable campaign, Gears of War 4’s multiplayer, both competitive and co-operative is better than it ever has been. Horde 3.0 has taken the best aspects of creating a defensive base and given they players choice as to where to set up camp. The fabricator is the new star of the mode as it’s a chest that can create fortifications as well as class-specific weapons. As you kill enemies, they drop energy. By collecting energy and banking it in the Fabricator, you can then create new fortifications that will help against the DeeBee robots and the Swarm.
In Horde mode, you choose a class. This is where players may divided as each player in the game will choose a class and in turn play different roles within the mode. There are five classes: Soldier, Sniper, Engineer, Heavy, and Scout. Each one has skills that will help the team in many different ways. These skills can be upgraded to improve your role within the squad. It adds a dynamic that didn’t exist before and asks for co-operative gameplay that requires the best communication.
The competitive multiplayer is better than it ever has been. There are the modes you expect from previous Gears of War games like Warzone and Team Deathmatch. What’s most impressive though is how brilliantly the new modes are implemented. Possibly the most fun mode in Gears of War 4 is Dodgeball. How the game can flip on its head in a moment is thrilling. Should you be the only one left against 4 players, isolating two and taking them out turns the tide and then it is 3 v 2 in your favour. It means that once you out, you’re not out for the rest of the game. Arms race feels more casual as each team must get three kills with each weapon starting with the Boom Shot and Ending with the Boltok Pistol.
Gears of War 4 is excellent in every way. The campaign is a great beginning for the new story of the saga as well as both multiplayer modes being the best versions of them there ever has been. Despite the bleak world, the future for the Gears of War series is bright. This is the best return of the series fans could have hoped for.