This weekend, through good old nepotism and a little bit of luck, I got to play the Gears of War 4 Beta an entire weekend early. This flooded me and others with a stream of emotions; I was overjoyed. My household was very busy this weekend as my friends all wanted in on the action. The rest of my friends, either hundreds of miles away, or envious Xbox cronies, were sullen. I received a few “I hate you” messages, with good reason. Gears of War is a cherished series for Xbox gamers. It’s probably one of my favorite game franchises of all-time. New developer, The Coalition, has a certain standard to live up to, and with a highly critical and passionate community it might be hard. People will be divisive, but after nearly 13 hours of playing this beta this weekend I can tell you that this game is in good hands. Not everyone will agree with me, but Gears of War 4 is a beautifully polished game that borrows much of the core gameplay from Gears 3, while still appeasing fans with the crucial elements of the series that has made it so beloved.
So what’s new with Gears of War 4? Here is a list of all the new additions that are present in the beta:
- You can instantly active reload any gun once the game starts to have an entire round of active reload bullets.
- When in cover, if an enemy is on the opposite side of the same cover, you can grab the enemy and pull them over, temporarily disorienting them, and giving you a chance to knife execution them or just kill them in whatever way you desire. If you’re being grabbed there’s also a brief time window where you can counter this move.
- The Dropshot is currently the only new weapon available to use in the beta. A word of caution when using this weapon, it’s rather deceiving. To fire, pull the trigger, to increase the range of the shot, hold down on the trigger and let go once you see the shot at the desired distance.
- Dodgeball is a new mode where you start out with only one life in a 5 v 5 game. If you kill an enemy, this will revive a fallen teammate.
- Bounty cards are displayed at the end of each match and able to be used for the following match. Bounty cards are essentially Titanfall burn cards, but rewards for completing a certain objective. An example: if you get to a certain point count or win a match, if you have an active bounty, then you’ll get an extra 300 XP for that game so long as you fulfill the Bounty.
- Currently you cannot choose your character preference, there are brand new characters for both the COG soldiers and the Swarm, but your character is randomly selected at the beginning of each game. It’s unknown if this will transfer to the main retail game.
- You can switch guns and choose your load out prior to a game starting. If you want to start with the Gnasher Shotgun rather than the Lancer, you can do that before you’re even allowed to move in the game.
- A self revive takes much less time to complete as opposed to previous Gears of War games.
Here’s the list of some returning features from previous Gears of War games
- Grenade wall tags are enabled.
- Executions are enabled.
- Vaulting over cover will disorient your opponent.
- Meat-shields are enabled.
- Ribbons make a return.
There’s plenty more, but these key features have stood out to me.
As I’ve stated, the game takes a huge amount of influence from Gears of War 3. Some people will write the game off for this, others will instantly breath in the familiarity. Normally, I’m a person that condones change and innovation in any medium, but the gameplay in Gears of War 3 is pretty damn sharp and defined. It didn’t really need a lot of tweaking or tinkering because it works so well. Naturally, that gameplay has just been fine tuned. The game feels like it’s at a quicker pace. There’s slightly more cover than in previous Gears games, to me, this renders AR guns like the Lancer and the Hammerburst, relatively ineffective for casual use. That’s something that’s pleasing to a die-hard that predominantly uses the Gnasher Shotgun. In my 13 hours thus far, I’ve only gotten two chainsaw kills and possibly three lancer kills. It’s an iconic gun for the Gears games, but one that can really aggravate players or be too one-sided.
What of the classic Gnasher Shotgun? It’s brilliant. The gun has a crisp shot that is centered and has little spread shot damage, so you know where each shot is going. These battles are always the most intense in Gears of War, and usually the most fulfilling as well, this game is no exception. Other weapons like the Torque Bow are just as good as ever and the Boomshot only has two bullets, making it a more balanced power weapon. The Longshot is also more balanced and takes more precise aim to get a headshot.
The three maps that are given are all fantastic for showing off the game and its environments. Dam, Foundation, and Harbor are in the spotlight in the beta, they all offer excellent areas that are all symmetrical, and are littered with good sources of decay and cover that will make for some excellent firefights. As with beta testing, not everything is perfect. Of the biggest faults, I’m a big frag grenade fan, but the radius for the frags to detonate is just ludicrous. I’ve had a frag go off, I’ve been behind cover that should shield me from the impact, and it doesn’t. Also you can see enemy frag tag spots with the Tac-Com, which essentially defeats the purpose for tagging frags on walls. The bots are also incredibly powerful and precise. I used to enjoy bot games, they were easy to rake in kills and improve my K/D, now however, it’s just annoying and unfair how overpowered they are and makes me appreciate full PvP games so much more. Naturally this is a beta and there will be issues, they will be mended, hence the purpose of a beta.
I’ve really enjoyed my time with the beta and it’ll be fantastic to have it opened up tomorrow to the masses as the community I’ve played with has been very few. It renews my faith in multiplayer gaming, I don’t say that as Gears of War 4 being the end all great game that will sell Xbox Ones like hotcakes, but I say that as someone who hasn’t played too many compelling multiplayer games and is returning to a franchise that I love most. I’m a very happy fan and this game has some great potential and I can’t wait to continue playing. Let us know what you think of the beta and of Gears of War 4.