I guess it’s time I sit down and tackle this Gears of War 4 review. After playing through the campaign, devoting hours to the many multiplayer modes and fighting off waves of The Swarm in Horde, I think I’m ready. The Coalition had an epic task ahead of them, taking the much loved Xbox franchise and making it their own, and I think they have done a superb job.
Gears of War 4 is set 25 years after the end of the Locust War which we all took part in in Gears of War 3. The jump in time means a lot has changed on Sera, but unfortunately we don’t get too much information about the changes that took place. Imulsion is no longer the source of energy, and vehicles have been replaced by horse-like creatures. Very western, but with assault rifles and laser beams.
We play the role of J.D Fenix, Marcus Fenix’s son, as well as his friend Kait and Del. Kait is part of a rebel group called The Outsiders, who don’t want to be involved with the COG way of living. J.D and Del used to be Gears themselves but chose to leave and instead joined up with The Outsiders. Before we get to their story though, we get a bit of a history lesson in the Gears universe, which is told in a very cool way.
Players will fight through the Pendulum Wars, a civil war that took place for decades before the Locusts first attacked Sera. Then we experience the first attack on E-Day, followed by another moment showing the end of the Locust War. It’s a great way of getting players up to speed, whether old or new, and serves as a tutorial, teaching you the basics of movement and combat.
Gears of War 4’s story takes a while to get going. I felt somewhat unexcited by the idea of The Swarm, and wasn’t really excited for this iteration’s campaign. Little did I know that I would be fighting off waves after waves of ‘DeeBees’, the robotic police force new to the series. Throughout the first part of the game, you spend much of your time fighting these AI COG soldiers, and it can get very repetitive. Some of the battles feel like they’ve been added just to pad out the campaign and make it longer. Seeing a COG Condor fly overhead and dropping more enemies onto the battlefield caused me to sigh more and more often. All these helicopters and planes attacking three or four individuals constantly felt a bit silly. I won’t explain why they were attacking us, I’ll let you find that out for yourself.
The story began to pick up for me about half way through the campaign, as we began to learn more about this new threat to the planet. Where did The Swarm come from? Who are they? Who is their leader? Are they in some way related to the Locust? We bumped into some familiar faces like Marcus, and a few more memorable personalities later on, but no spoilers, don’t worry.
Some of the missions featured some Horde-like defense missions which was interesting, asking you to build defenses to hold off enemy attacks, but again, you could see it as padding, as some of the attacks just took so long to end. I don’t want to sound so negative, I’m just being honest. Throughout the campaign, there would be some fun ‘mini-games’ or events that broke up the regular gameplay. The motorbike scene was a bit come and go. Again, vehicle missions in Gears of War are a common thing, but it was just a bit over the top when the mission hit its climax.
The game’s finale was great though, and the ending, which I won’t spoil, won me over. The last couple of missions were fun and intense, and the cast were great. The game gave Gears fans some teasing reveals, but didn’t leave the ending wide open for a sequel, but you know we’ll have more Gears in a couple of years. I have started playing through the campaign for a second time, not on Hardcore this time, and maybe I’ll like it more on this play through. We’ll see.
Lancer vs Gnasher
Having spent some time with the multiplayer suite in Gears of War 4, I am happy to inform you that it is what you expect from Gears of War multiplayer. There are loads of modes to try out, such as Team Deathmatch, Warzone, Execution, King of the Hill, and Guardian as well as new modes Dodgeball, Escalation and Arms Race.
Dodgeball is one of my favourites, seeing two teams of 5 go at it in a traditional manner. However, if you get killed, you can only respawn if one of your team mates kills an opposing player. Watch how a side dominating the battle suddenly find themselves on the back foot after a lucky comeback move, going from 5-2 to 4-1 in a matter of seconds. It’s intense!
Arms Race sees all players start out with a boomshot, and after a team gets three kills with it, the team’s weapons change to something less power, and again, after three team kills with that weapon, they move down to the next weapon. It’s like Call of Duty’s ‘Gun Game’, but in reverse, and team based.
The Gnasher shotgun still dominates on the battlefield in Gears of War 4. While some hate it, it’s certainly the most efficient way of taking the lead. I have had my fun with the Lancer though, hanging back and supplying suppressing fire to my team. The Retro Lancer is now a pickup as opposed to a loadout option, but it’s more accurate and great for headshots this time around. It’s still super satisfying to Retro Charge into enemies though! Some new weapons have been added including the Buzzkill, which fires out spinning buzzsaw discs that bounce off walls and ‘pinball’ around the map. Then there’s the Dropshot, which is like the Digger Launcher from Gears 3, but instead hovers across the map until you press the button for it to land and explode.
Horde makes a return again, and thankfully with a bunch of changes that actually makes it much better than the last one. I was personally hesitant about the addition of Classes again, after their appearance in Gears of War Judgment, but having spent some time with it, the Classes in Horde 3.0 are great!
Whether it’s a soldier, a scout, a heavy, a sniper or an engineer, each class starts with a different loadout, and have access to special abilities. Enemies now drop ‘power’ when they fall in battle, and this power must be collected and brought back to the Fabricator – which is the new HQ as such – to build fortifications and weapons. The scout class receives more power than other classes when they pick it up from dead bodies, while the engineer class can build things for cheaper. They also have access to a repair tool to fix damaged fortifications, and can reload sentry guns for a price. The soldier class gets 20% damage buffs for assault weapons too, so you can see how team work and planning can help you progress through the 50 waves.
The bonus rounds return too, asking you to headshot seven enemies, beat a wave in a set amount of time, chainsaw or execute a number of enemies, and so on. Completing these grant you bonus ammo and weapons for future use.
Microtransactions of War 4
Gears of War 4 also introduces premium card packs. Similar to Halo 5, you can unlock these during play by earning experience and ‘coins’, or you can spend real money on a variety of packs. Prices start at $5 and there was one available recently for $100. No thanks! These packs include bounties such as ‘kill 10 enemies in a versus match’ to ‘get 10 headshots’ or ‘score 1,500 points in Warzone’. Beating these challenges gives you extra XP towards leveling up. The packs also include weapon and character skins, emblems and Horde mode bounties as well. Earning these packs naturally through gameplay can take some time, with about 80 coins per game (if you win), and the cheapest pack being 400 points, or 1,000 if you are hoping to get new skins.
Overall, I’m really happy with Gears of War 4. The campaign started a bit slow, but the buildup to the last half of the game was worth experiencing. The multiplayer is fast, frantic and competitive, sometimes frustrating, but overall a good Gears experience. Horde 3.0 is brilliant fun, as long as you communicate with your friends and plan out your actions and defenses.
I miss the old Delta squad, and with the new characters taking center stage, I found myself beginning to like them. There was a bit of humour here and there, and some good story elements. But why is Marcus so angry towards J.D?!! Tell us more about that!
If you’re tired of first person shooters and want something a little different, but still competitive, Gears 4 is a good option, with its use of cover, team work, and gruesome finishers. The controls are slick, the new additions are great, and there’s plenty to explore in terms of modes and features. It’s also worth noting that Gears of War 4 is an Xbox Play Anywhere title, meaning if you buy it on Xbox, you can play it on Windows 10. It’s also cross-platform friendly too, but is limited to co=operative modes. So, campaign, Horde and co-op multiplayer. Just not the competitive stuff.