Gears of War 4 is slated to be released later this year on October 11 with the beta taking place in just a few days. Last week Microsoft invited us to a preview event where we were able to get some early hands on time with some of the Gears 4 multiplayer as well as spend a few minutes with the Coalition to discuss Gears of War 4. The interview is below and the videos that you see are some of the gameplay that we got to experience during our time last week with Gears 4. We were able to play some Team Deathmatch as well as experience one of the new modes, Dodgeball.
Check out the videos below to see what each mode is like and, of course, be sure to check out our interview below with Rod Fergusson (Studio Head at Coalition) and Ryan Cleven (Lead Multiplayer Designer).
Gaming Target: Will the multiplayer use dedicated servers?
Coalition: Absolutely. Even the private matches when you host a private match it will be on a dedicated server.
GT: Can Xbox One and PC play together?
CN: We aren’t talking about PC yet.
GT: You mentioned earlier that there are going to be some classic maps in Gears of War 4. Are those maps going to be maps that are “25 years later” and will look a little different?
CN: Oh, yeah. Well that is one of the things that is nice about being being able to do a kind of remasters of maps is that it allows for the creativity of the multiplayer team to go and play with it because we don’t have any hard and fast rules about what we want to do there. So it is kind of like, what inspires us and part of it is as we saw with Gears of War: Ultimate Edition there is certain maps, certain legacy maps, that don’t necessarily match up with modern ideas. I think it will be a combination of things where we are bringing back a legacy map with ones that are focused on competitive play. We like symmetrical maps more than asymmetrical maps but then we have to think about whether this works for team deathmatch (TDM). Part of it will be like we have to sort of rebalance the map and then I think there is a open, creative question about like, what do we want to do visually? As you see Gridlock changing across all three games. Do we want to do a night one? A weather one? A completely different one? I think that is where we get to go have fun and play.
GT: What are some of your DLC plans for Gears of War 4?
CN: All of the maps that we are going to be releasing as DLC will be free to play in public matchmaking. So that means that over over time we are actually going to have a lot of maps, roughly 24 DLC maps with 10 that will ship with the game, so 34 maps. That means that is a lot of new maps for a new player to come in and sort of experience how they play so we are going to be curating those. So over time the public playlist will use different maps. It will start out with the 10 that ship with the game and then as we add new DLC ones we will be taking some out of rotation and we will be changing that over time. If one goes out of rotation that you want to play on privately, in a private match on dedicated servers, you can purchase that and then host it for your friends and only the host has to own that map. To be super, super clear the ten maps that come in the box you already own for private and public play, you do not need to buy those.
GT: So then being able to purchase maps for private play, is there going to be a season pass type of thing where you can get them at a discount?
CN: That’s a great idea. We aren’t talking about a season pass yet though.
GT: What makes Gears of War 4 better for the eSports community as opposed to something like Gears of War Judgment?
CN: A couple of things. We’ve designed an entirely new mode for eSports and we also tuned the game to be playable at both the competitive level as well as the more casual level. The new mode we have is called Escalation and it is designed with all facets of eSports in mind...the viewing, the playing, the casting...it creates moments that didn’t exist before inside Gears of War. So like the whole idea behind it is that the actions escalates and intensifies over time and players will make decisions about which weapons to place on the map and this gives casters the ability to sort of describe what is going on and help the audience understand the action. So we have really tried to make that mode as good as possible for eSports. I also think the notion of the really refined spectator mode that allows casters to have an easier job broadcasting and finding the action and highlighting the action, and then the fact that it is really focused on how do you make Gears of War more watchable. You know it is already more watchable than traditional certain shooters because it is third person. So now taking that idea that we already have sort of a head start on first person shooters, how do we take that advantage and escalate it by making sure we don’t have a jarring experience? That new spectator mode will allow for it to be a much more watchable game. We have taken sort of a page out of what MOBAs do and how they are watchable so you are looking at a MOBA you are looking top down on it and you see the players going around beneath you and and viewers can get a really good sense of the action. Gears has been fantastic for getting a visceral, visual experience as someone explodes on screen and people love that but then over time you lose where everything is and we have cameras inside spectator give us both ability to immediately jump into that action as well as pull back and gracefully give the audience a really well framed picture of what is going on in the battle.
GT: So I see that you are wearing a shirt that says Gears of War Pro League. Do you hope to one day have an esports championship similar to something like Call of Duty does?
CN: Well I mean, underscoring the word “hope,” and so the notion of “earning not buying your way in” and I think our goal is that I would consider that the “run” phase of Gears eSports. So as we saw with in the “crawl and learning” phase and Gears 4 is the “walk,” our hope is that we continue through the things like Escalation and our spectator mode and our involvement with our eSports team will be able to sort of grow the community even more in that space. But, yeah, at some point I would like to be able to fill a stadium, I’d love to have big prize pools and be on ESPN. But I’m realistic about where we are and what we are trying to do and how long it will take to get there.
GT: Which of the previous Gears games would you say is the most similar to Gears of War 4?
CN: It is Gears of War 3. We basically started with Gears 3 as the foundation when we were building Gears 4 and refining on top of that. If you look at the maturation of cover and all of the mechanics from one Gears 1 to Gears 2 to Gears 3, think of that as Gears 4 is the next logical step and taking the learnings from Judgement and the improvements and what the team is seeing so we can make Gears 4 the best Gears multiplayer experience.
GT: With that said, are there some improvements you would like to specifically highlight? Maybe something that can be done in Gears 4 that couldn’t be done previously?
CN: The 60 frames per second for multiplayer is a really big deal. Being able to have a 1080p image running at 60 frames per second is essential, it is what you have to do for console multiplayer. We’ve also added in close quarters combat which is the next logical extension for how to battle in cover which takes on the core of Gears and actually makes it more intimate. Before you had those guys shooting around the corners of their cover and now you can actually use almost fighting game mechanics to interact with each other and combine that with your gunfight. There are refinements to the active reload, to the stopping power, to the weapons, all of these things kind of like, how the game feels, and I think the people who care about these things really should experience them rather than simply hear them described in more detail.
GT: The Gears of War 4 beta is beginning soon. Can you talk about that?
CN: Yeah, so it starts on April 18 for anyone that has played Ultimate Edition on either Windows 10 or Xbox One and they get a weekend and then starting April 25 it opens up for all Gold members and the big thing that I want to underline is that this actually a technical beta. We’re stress testing our systems, this is all new code and our focus is really about making it, about having the best launch day possible and so if we are going to trip and fall I would rather trip and fall now during a beta then at launch. It is all about testing our backend systems, the telemetry and also one of the reasons why we are having it so early is we are actually able to take feedback in and incorporate it such as are the maps balanced, are the weapons balanced, do people like all of the little things we are doing and if not then we can have those conversations and do what needs to be done to have the best launch day possible.
GT: How many types will there be available at launch?
CN: We are looking at about nine-ish modes that will be available. There are still a couple of new ones that we haven’t announced yet but it will be around nine or in that range.
GT: Can you say if Horde mode will be there?
CN: We aren’t talking about Horde yet.
GT: With the shotgun in previous games, there are some that feel that it might be a little overpowered. Has this been adjusted at all?
CN: The shotgun is the core of Gears multiplayer and that is something that we have embraced. We have looked very, very carefully at it and meticulously recreated the shotgun from Gears of War 3. Then we looked at its role and we actually have really changed the relationship between the lancer and the gnasher shotgun. The lancers we are looking at as a support weapon but it doesn’t mean that it is underpowered, right? They are both very appropriately powered, the gnasher we made a little bit more intimate. We’ve actually said, well you can’t just use the Gnasher in every circumstance. You have to use it combining it with movement, combining it with cover to be the most effective and the mid to long range is where the lancer will dominate. We have tried to best understand each of their roles and kind of make them the best they can be in and of themselves.
I would like to personally thank Rod and Ryan for taking time out of their day to answer these questions. What did you think about about the interview? What are your impressions of the gameplay videos? Tell us in the comments below.