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Gears of War 4
Gears of War has always been one of my favorite games from the original 2006 release of Gears of War 1 right up to Gears 3. So I began playing this latest installment with a certain amount of trepidation, nervousness, and yes, for a series I have been invested in since 2006, a sense of not knowing what was to come.
Gears of War is set 25 years after the events of Gears 3 with game favorite and all around badass Marcus Fenix playing the mentor role to his son J.D Fenix who has joined in this adventure with long-time friends Kait and Del. The inclusion of Marcus reassured me that this was still the Gears of War series I had come to know and love, but with the excitement of seeing the new generation take over.
Now onto the gameplay, I was not expecting a complete reinvention of the tried and tested system as per previous Gears titles; a few tweaks here and there to keep things fresh but not completely unknown to veterans of the series and not too daunting for the Gears newcomer. However, the controls lend themselves closely to the original Gears as opposed to Gears 2 and Gears 3, which was a wise choice as it, and the introduction of a new enemy, lends a horror survival feel to the game and gives it a certain grit which has always been a trademark of the Gears series.
Gears sticks with its cover-based shooting formula and the missions still require a certain amount cover fire, defensive and offensive positions and teamwork to make sure you remain alive and well against a new set of enemies. Updated and improved from previous Gears titles but this still has a solid base.
On the campaign-side of Gears 4, one of the first new enemies you will be greeted by is the new DeeBee robot army (I didn’t notice at first either) and Seran Swarm which have replaced their locust predecessors that we had come to know oh so well. This means having to employ a new fighting tactic in both offense and defense which is welcoming and refreshing.
For example, the heavier DeeBee robots will self-destruct when they have taken enough damage. This makes you think of the distance you want to deliver the killer blow to these formidable machines, the guardian which can fly and activate an energy shield requires flanking by your squad to deal damage as opposed to shooting head on. The Swarms newest “pet” named The Pouncer (with good reason) launches deadly quills from its tail and if you remain still for too long will Pounce on you like there is no tomorrow. There is a lot more pressure on players this time around, giving a new challenge to experienced players and letting newcomers feel the combat, pressure and gritty fights of the past (we miss you Dom).
Now with all these new enemies, we are going to need some new weapons to bring the fight and defend our beloved Sera from yet another foe. Thankfully, Gears 4 isn’t short on these and oh boy they are fun and we have our trusty lancer and friends in the campaign and multiplayer. A new addition is the buzzkill which fires high speed, jet force sawblades which when connects with an enemy will instantly separate them from every other part of them.
A short but wicked blast from the overkill, which has that sawed-off shotgun feel to it, comes in very useful in Multiplayer mode. Then we have the DeeBee wielding Embar; a fantastically quick-paced rifle that seems like a spiritual upgrade/successor to the longshot.
The overall design of Gears of War 4 is definitely heading in the right direction. The revitalized campaign has you moving through a different range of environments and with different tasks/objectives to complete which saves the player from feeling like they are repeating the same thing over and over (except for one small part in chapter IV). The campaign is also playable in split screen or online, horde mode is still as good as ever.
The level design is very colorful and alive which makes a change from the war-torn Sera we had been so used to seeing, however, as you move through the levels you will see they still bare the scars of all the previous conflicts. There is color and hope in some settlements you come across but reminders that war was and still is very much part of this world.
The weather is by far the most standout design feature, we are now treated to solar storms, which not only look good but affect the bullet drop and directions of some weapons, adding yet another layer to combat and how you approach different enemies.
The multiplayer still shines with all your favorites modes such as Arms Race, and Horde (which is now playable in five-player mode) which can go up to 50 waves. Escalation with new maps, weapons, and enemies makes sure you aren’t left feeling unfulfilled.
Gears of War 4 had a lot to live up to from keeping the old guard happy, to making sure the unpracticed players weren’t alienated but I will now try to sum up what I saw and felt during the game. I saw a world desperate for respite from the darkness which had taken so many souls since E-Day. I felt the scars of previous campaigns and how they are still etched into my memory. I saw images of my brother Dom giving his very life so we may defeat, rebuild, and achieve peace. I saw a new enemy but I also saw the Fenix rise.
Lancer revved up, shotguns locked and loaded, my pace quickened, Delta squad by my side I charged into a game that has been a big part of my own gaming experience for 10+ years and found that Gears of War 4 is still pleasing to all its players new and old, which is no easy feat. It still tells an exceptional story and finally, it reminds us this game has shifted into a new gear and a new war.