Gears of War 4 is the beginning of a new saga in a number of different ways. Twenty five years have passed since the events of Gears of War 3 and while some things have changed, some things have also remained the same. You play as James Dominic (JD) Fenix, son of main protagonist for the original trilogy, Marcus Fenix. There are some weird things going on and it is your job to get to the bottom of it. Throughout your journey you will come across a wide variety of enemies. Both the enemy and the ally AI in this game seem to be improved in that they are much smarter and much more aggressive. The enemy AI will still do some dumb things every now and then like try and charge right at you allowing you to cut them down before they can get anywhere close to you but other times enemies will try and flank you, will jump over cover to try and get the drop on you and more. Then of course you have the popular Gears of War multiplayer and my favorite new mode, Dodgeball.
As I mentioned up above the story in Gears of War 4 picks up twenty five years after the events of Gears of War 3. Gears of War 4 is the beginning of a new saga with a brand new studio developing it and I have to say that The Coalition really nailed it. The game starts by having you go through some events in a prologue that help explain what has happened. Once you get through that you go back to present day where you need to infiltrate a base to get some important supplies. Once you successfully do that you begin to leave that base only to be confronted with an authority figure who accuses you of something that you didn’t do which results in a lot of enemies trying to eliminate you. That might seem pretty vague but I don’t want to give out any details and potentially spoil any part of the story for anyone but that scenario I described above is just the beginning of your problems as you make your way across the world of Gears of War 4.
As soon as you pick up the controller you’ll immediately notice how great the game feels. I picked up my Elite controller and immediately felt right at home having gone through all of the previous Gears of War titles. It has the standard control scheme that everyone is familiar with along with a couple of new tricks. For starters one of my favorite things to do when both myself and an enemy were in cover is reach over that cover and drag the enemy over to my side. Once I did that I would quickly hit the “Y” button and execute them with my knife. It is a brutal execution and it does leave you vulnerable to gunfire from other enemies so you have to pick and choose when you are going to do this. The enemy can do this to you too but you can block it by hitting the “B” button at the right time to stun them and hopefully take advantage in that moment. If you do happen to get knocked down by an enemy though the friendly AI is pretty damn good and will have you back on your feet, usually within a few seconds so you can jump back into the action. You can also run towards an enemy and slide into them which will stun them for a few moments and allow you to get in a devastating attack. There are some new weapons available as well in addition to returning favorites such as the Torque Bow. Like previous titles there are four players whether it be you and some friends or you and three AI partners. The campaign took me roughly eight hours to complete which is on par with the rest of the series and I had a blast going through it. It is even more fun if you go through the campaign with friends using the co-op feature.
Going through Gears of War 4 you will also immediately notice how beautiful the game is. The environments are absolutely fantastic and there were many times where I would stop to admire the view and take a screenshot while I was at it. The detail in the game is really nice too from the soldiers to the enemies, the different environments you go through and more. There are a few times going through the campaign where you have to fight through a big storm and it is here where you can see a bunch of things flying around on screen, including enemies once they are dead and the Xbox One handles it beautifully without slowing down. The campaign runs at 30fps so they can up that detail that I was just mentioning and then goes to 60fps for the multiplayer suite to have even more fast and fluid action when you are going up against human opponents instead of computer AI. The audio in the game is just as well done with the voice acting for the different Gears characters and others as well as the gun sounds and, of course, the chainsaw when you are sawing an enemy in half. The whole package simply looks, feels and sounds great.
The multiplayer suite is the second big part of Gears of War 4 and offers a plethora of modes for you to enjoy. There is the standard versus multiplayer where you can choose between the core modes, co-op modes, playing on LAN and much more. What you pick will determine the type of game that is available to you. For instance if you choose the core modes then you will have access to Team Deathmatch, Guardian, Dodgeball and more. If you want to go the competitive route you will have Escalation and Execution to choose from. Out of all of these modes Dodgeball is by far my favorite new entry. It is an intense game where victory isn’t guaranteed until your opposition is dead. While that might sound like a strange statement to make, allow me to explain. In Dodgeball you start out with five people and your opposition has five people. If you get killed then you have to wait on the sidelines until someone on the opposition gets killed. Once that happens then you are brought back to life and can rejoin the game. This makes for a chaotic game of “tug of war” between the two teams where things can change in an instant. You could be the last person alive on your team against five other people on the other side but all you need is one lucky shot or for something else to happen to eliminate someone on the other side and all of a sudden they only have four people available while you now have two. If the person that just returned happens to get a quick kill the score is then tied at 3-3 all within a few seconds. It makes it so no one is truly out of the game until the game is over. There have been many times where I have been on both sides of that equation and it makes for some tense battles. I can definitely see this being a really popular mode once everyone gets a chance to play it.
If you don’t want to do any versus right now then you will also have access to Horde mode 3.0. For those uninitiated Horde mode in Gears games is you playing with a bunch of friends (or solo if you so choose but it isn’t recommended) against waves of increasingly powerful enemies. There are 50 waves total with each wave being more difficult than the last. To proceed to the next wave all you have to do is wipe out all of the enemies on the map which is a lot easier said than done in those later waves. The game will end if you and your friends are all eliminated on the same wave. Going through all 50 waves definitely takes a little while to accomplish so if you are going to try and do it I would set aside a few hours to go through the whole thing.
For those who are familiar with the Horde mode from previous Gears titles you will notice some of the changes that were made for Horde 3.0. For starters there are now classes to choose from. There is now soldier, sniper, scout, heavy and engineer. There are even achievements to unlock by playing as each class and clearing the Horde mode on Insane difficulty so if you are someone who likes to get all of the achievements in a game then Gears of War 4 is going to keep you busy for a pretty long time. In addition to those new modes is the “Fabricator”. If you go through the campaign before jumping into Horde mode then you already know what this is. If you immediately went into Horde mode the Fabricator is where you buy defenses and weaponry to help protect yourself. In the previous Horde modes on earlier games items like turrets tended to be in static locations. In Horde mode 3.0 though you can buy a turret and put it anywhere you want. You can buy automatic turrets to cut down enemies before they get to you or turrets that you can control yourself to eliminate the opposition. In addition to weaponry there are also items that you can buy for defensive purposes such as a barb wire fence that you can put up to block access to the area you are in so it takes the enemy longer to get there. They can still eventually break through that obstacle but it does take them longer to do so which should hopefully give you enough time to eliminate them. You will have a budget (for lack of a better term) on things you can buy at any given time in the Fabricator so you need to plan accordingly and be able to determine what you need at that moment. If you already have to turrets covering the entrances then you probably don’t need a third and should instead think of fortifying your position to make it harder for the enemies to get there. You will also come across Gear Cards that will allow you to add bonuses to your character. These bonuses could be any number of things including carrying more ammunition, raising the damage a special weapon causes and more. These additions, in my opinion, help elevate Horde mode and make it even funner then it was in earlier Gears of War games.
As I am writing this review I am sitting here trying to think if I have any complaints about Gears of War 4 and I really don’t. The only minor complaint I might have is that the ending might be a tad abrupt but I love the direction that The Coalition is taking Gears of War in and now that I have finished the campaign I am anxious to see what happens in Gears of War 5. There are definitely some unanswered questions out there but you have to keep in mind this is just the beginning of a new saga for Gears of War and I have no doubt those questions will get answered in future Gears of War games. I will say though that you will want to stay and watch the credits because there is a small scene once the credits stop rolling.
Gears of War 4 is a remarkable game and a really great first step for The Coalition. The Gears franchise is definitely in great hands here and I look forward to seeing what happens in future entries to the series. The campaign is well done and multiplayer is a blast to play. During my time in multiplayer everything ran smoothly and I didn’t have to wait too long to find a game and that time should be shortened even more once more people have this game. Dodgeball is definitely my favorite multiplayer mode and the changes made in Horde 3.0 are welcome and help elevate the mode to be better than ever. If you are a Gears of War fan then be sure to pick this game up. Even if you aren’t a fan you should definitely find a way to give this game a try. I will say though that you probably want to play the original trilogy first. It isn’t absolutely imperative that you do but you will have a better appreciation for the events in Gears of War 4 if you know the history of the franchise.