The COG have returned in the next instalment of Gears of War. The fourth in the series introduces a new generation of bug stomping heroes with a story set 25 years after all Imulsion was eradicated from planet Sera.
The COG declared martial law after the events and required all cities restrict access to the outside world. Some groups disagreed with the act and created small towns of their own; becoming outsiders in the process. Two ex COG officers JD (Marcus’ son) and Del (JD’s squad mate) disagree with the COG’s approach and eventually join the outsiders. In raiding a COG settlement, JD and his crew cross paths with COG leader Jinn. Her attempts to stop the heroes is the focus of much of the campaign.
I was really hoping to see some changes in gameplay from previous Gears, but this certainly wasn’t the case. The saying ‘If it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ really makes a lot of sense after playing GOW 4. The third person cover shooter mechanic has always done well for the series and Gears generally sets the benchmark. In this newest addition, level design helps improve the gameplay vastly. Although the game is very linear, the landscapes help make it feel vast. Another part of the design I enjoyed was passing through some familiar locations. I had instant nostalgia while visiting some of these areas. The dialogue emphasises this experience with many nods to previous battles and experiences.
The only changes of note are some new weapons. I had a lot of fun with some of these, especially heavy weapons like the Dropshot. It fires an explosive that floats moves in the direction you aim and can be detonated remotely. Some new enemies are introduced including, evolved Locust hordes and robots. The robotic enemies are a real let down. Their tactics are pretty straight forward and don’t require much strategy to overcome. The new Locusts — referred to as The Swarm — on the other hand are quite strategic. They’ll flank you and take up dominating positions which forces you to be very mindful of cover. and you positioning. It makes for some really tense battles that left me with a smile on my face.
The visual improvement over past titles is an obvious standout. The limitations of the Xbox 360 saw the characters looking bulky and almost cartoonish. Developer, The Coalition, went with a more realistic look in GOW4. The change helped the characters fit in with the increasing detail of the overall visuals. This game has been improved visually to an almost unbelievable extent. As a result it has created one of the prettiest games I ever played. The visuals don’t just serve as eye-candy though. The fidelity and realism helped draw me in and make me invested in the narrative. It’s like playing an interactive action movie.
The multiplayer modes haven’t changed a lot either, but have been improved. The campaign is still playable in co-op — either 2 player split screen or 2-4 player online — which is something I really appreciate. I played some of the campaign in co-op and it was much more fun than playing alone. Online versus makes a return but hasn’t changed much and is still basically Team Deathmatch.
The real focus of multiplayer was on the return of Horde mode. Horde 3.0 includes the Fabricator which is a machine that can fabricate devices and materials. It can be moved around the map to help the team get the upper hand on the enemies and really changes the way you play the classic mode.
I thoroughly enjoyed getting back in the saddle of a giant Locust. Gears of War 4 keeps the great 3rd person gameplay of the franchise and adds just enough to make it fresh. The conclusion of the story has enough meat to carry the franchise on for future titles too. Understandably this game is not for everyone but I recommend giving it a go. Even just to sit on the couch with some friends and enjoy some bug stomping and beers. I know I will.
Gears of War 4 was reviewed using a retail copy of the game as purchased by the reviewer.
Game Title: Gears of War 4