Gears Of War 4 is the welcome back party for the franchise as a whole.  I say that cause it's been just over 5 years since part 3 came out.   The last Gears I played was part 2 as I just never got around to picking up the 3rd installment.  And others don't remember or try to forget about Gears of War: Judgement.  

Within the actual story of the game, it's been 25 years that has past.  Although I miss the antics of Cole, Dom, & Baird throughout the journeys; you gotta switch things up a bit.  This time around we got JD, son of Marcus Fenix, his best friend Del, and their new friend Kait.  After playing through a few flashbacks, you dive into the future of Sera and the new adventures.  

This is also one of the 3rd games to support Xbox Play Anywhere behind Forza Horizon 3 & ReCore.  This allows PC gamers can play w/ Xbox One gamers and vice-versa within the same match or co-op session.  So this will raise the number of players on their servers to match you with.  So how does Gears Of War 4 feel in a world of newer franchises & next-gen consoles?  We've been playing for almost a week now so let's talk about it.  



 

A new war, same foundation.

I gotta give the Coalition team kudos for the intro.  While at a ceremony discussing the triumphs of the Cogs throughout the years, you actually get to play as characters within the flashbacks.  This was a cool way to get into the game as I have yet to see other games do something like that.  

For me and probably a few others, Gears has always been about the story. The future world of Gears Of War is kind of not as you might expect.  While it has been peaceful, there are some other things happening below the surface (both figuratively & literally).  Believe it or not, the COGs (Coalition of Ordered Governments) have gone from a peacekeeping military organization to kind of a dictatorship.  With everything on the quiet side, their focus is on procreation & preserving human life.  

So of course when you have that, there will always be rebels against the cause.  Not really fighting against the Cog but not falling in line and doing their own thing.  If you're not w/ the Cog or living in a Cog settlement, you down w/ 'The Outsiders'.  This is where we see JD and Del early on who once upon a time were enlisted in the Cog.  And the game starts from there or that's when hell begins to break lose - depending on your perspective.  

 

It feels like the entire planet to trying to kill you.  From robots, bad guys, and even electrical windstorms.  More so than usual.

They definitely do a good job of changing the pace every here and there.  There's still shoot a bunch of bad guys while taking cover, opening doors, chainsawing through things ( and sometimes people), etc.  There's a part where you're riding a motorcycle and have to do some dodging gunfire while shooting.  Another part is where you're riding a cable up a chasm and have to dodge falling debris while shooting at it and some baddies.  So if you feel the typical Gears can get monotonous, there are events within the game to help break that up.  

Also, there is a box that takes 2 people to carry called the Fabricator.  Think of it as the 3D-printer of the future.  You can create weapons out of it as well bigger things to hold down the fort like machine gun turrets (manned & unmanned), spiked barrier and more.  This is really useful in Horde mode but more on that later.  

There's a construction Dozer suit to get to have some brief fun w/ as you push stuff out of the way and literally bulldoze through baddies.  The new Mech suits are awesome.  They're pretty tall too.  Think of them as Sentinels from X-Men lore (not the crap from the Days Of Future Past film) but w/ guns and the ability to call in airstrikes.  

If there's a new Gears Of War game, then that means new weapons to kill the baddies with.  
  • Buzzkill - a heavy-duty weapon that shoots round blades that can ricochet off walls and such.  Think of it as a gun that shoots circular saw blades.
  • Drop shot - another heavy-duty weapon that shoots a projectile into the air w/ a laser sight aiming down to literally drop a shot on top of the target.  
  • OverKill  - something new from the Cog robots that is pretty much an automatic shotgun in a small form-factor.  
  • Embar - also from the new Cog robots is their version of a sniper rifle.  
  • Combat Knife - a new toy to do new melee attacks executions as well as stabbing into the skull or ribs.  
But if you played Gears before and already had your favorite weapon, don't worry.  From the Boltok to the HammerShot to the Gnasher (Shotgun) and more.  All previous COG & Locust weapons are accounted for. 

Powered by the Unreal Engine 4, developers really took advantage fo that w/ the graphics.  On the cutscenes, you get to see tons of wrinkles/scars on Marcus' face, Kait's freckles/jewelry, and Del's hair texture and piercings.  While playing, you also get stunning visuals like when you're fighting at a location during sunset or the lightning bolts of the reddish windstorms.  Just simply marvelous.  

Multiplayer

This is an area where Gears isn't particularly known for, it has everything online gamers would want.  They even beefed up the performance over the campaign w/ a 60-frames per second over a 30fps.  The maps are dope where you have enough places for cover and strategy in variety.  It will be up to the fans to decide where if it's a true hit or nah.  

They added some new modes like Arms Race where 2 teams go at each other w/ 13 different weapons starting w/ a Boomshot and finishing w/ a Boltok pistol.  Get 3 kills w/ a weapon and your weapon switches.  Then we have Dodgeball where it is a 5 on 5 structure that you get one life and when you kill an opponent, a downed teammate comes back to life like the game: dodgeball.  Which might be one of my favorite modes.  I spent most of my time playing the campaign as there really wasn't anyone else to play multiplayer with.  But the short time I did play it, I had a good time.  

Horde 3.0

Horde is about testing your skills & mettle to combat waves upon waves of bad guys to see how far you can go.  You can pick a class that specializes in different strengths/weapons along w/ it like Soldier, Scout, Heavy, Sniper, or Engineer.  Of course, this would mean that you would have to be specific w/ your style as there is only one class per player.  So there won't be 2 snipers on the playing field at once.  

Now back to the Fabricator, there is where you will really utilize it (for those of you who don't finish the campaign).  It utilizes a point system to gain after every wave as everything you obtain from the Fabricator costs in points.  So being on the same map for as long as you can last, bringing out turrets and barricades to keep the baddies at bay.  As well as re-upping on weapons if you prefer COG weapons over the bad guys.  So within the 30 seconds in between waves, you breathe and stock up w/ enemy weapons or at the Fabricator.  

Prior to getting a review code, I was able to play it w/ 5 other players going up to wave 12.  Definitely had a great crew as we didn't die once other than a few teammates (including myself) needing to get revived.  Next to the campaign, this is my favorite part of Gears Of War 4. 


gow-4-review-grade

Gears Of War 4 is still fun and gory after the franchise took a long break.  



TG 2 Cents

Man, I definitely missed the perfect reload, reviving wounded teammates, and the guitar riff of when you cleared an area.  Stepping back into Gears 4 feels like reuniting w/ a long lost friend who has only changed for the better. There is definitely enough new elements involved while retaining the same feel to keep Gears Of War fans happy.  But it doesn't go too in-depth to the point where newcomers will be completely lost.  You could always Wikipedia the premise from previous games anyways.  
I didn't really come across any real weak points ( or at least not enough to persuade you to not buy it).  From the campaign to the multiplayer to the new Horde 3.0; all provide a great replay value as I'm sure more content for will come down the line as well.  Good job Coalition team w/ reviving the franchise.  Man, I can't for Gears Of War 5 now.  Hopefully, the wait won't be a 5-year wait for it.