Developers, when contemplating how to continue a franchise that left things so thoroughly wrapped - speak to The Coalition. Not only did Rod Fergusson and his team honour everything that came before, but with Gears of War 4 they also managed to make solid additions to the multiplayer, tell a great, satisfying story, and leave more than enough unresolved plot points to justify future titles.
The Coalition hit the ground running last year with a great remaster of the first title, and have done an amazing job this go round, successfully continuing the story from where Cliff Bleszinski and his old Epic Games team left off. Whether you’ve been a Gears-head from day-one back in 2006, or fresh out of COG-camp trying it for the first time, there’s something here for you.
Picking up 25 years after the end of the war against the Locust, the COG (Coalition of Ordered Governments) have successfully brought civilization back from the brink of extinction. New settlements are being constructed in the blink-of-an-eye by worker-bots called DeeBees, and other than a mysterious “Windflare” electrical storm that roams the land, everything seems peaceful - but, not everyone’s a fan of the government’s authoritarian way. Citizens of the COG have begun to go missing, and those who call themselves “Outsiders” are about to find themselves in a whole host of problems.
From the opening prologue, to the closing chapters, Gears of War 4 went above and beyond, delivering everything I expected, and more. Each act of this beautiful looking, tighter, more personal story provided exciting moments of surprise, shock, and awe, all on top of a script that felt natural, fun, and epic.
The new cast of characters are charismatic, relatable, and likable from the get-go. Even when familiar faces turn up (in some of the best moments I’ve seen in video games for a long while), other than an initial ping of sadness that the whole game wasn’t following them, I was never disappointed that I didn’t get to play in Delta Squad’s shoes. When you see how they pull off a thing they incredibly subtly tease early on… OH BOY! Are you in for a ride! I had a grin from ear-to-ear all the way through those final chapters.
In fact, I was laughing out loud, or had a stupidly large smile (or look of horror) on my face for the majority of the game - thanks mostly to the perfectly timed dialogue, and humorous, action-packed, and occasionally shocking scenes. Main characters JD and Del have a chemistry that screams they’ve been friends, more akin to brothers, since childhood, and some of the scenes with Kait are fun in a “what kind of relationship/situation have I gotten myself into” kind of way, all without making her seem weak - something I’ve found the Gears of War franchise has excelled at with all its characters.
When it comes to the types of enemies you’ll be facing, Gears of War 4 introduces an almost entirely new roster of foes in the form of two factions - the robotic DeeBees, and the mysterious Swarm. When I first heard about these new villains, I was worried that the conflict may be a little forced, but everything works naturally, and the justifications for going up against them works great.
Being the worker force for the COG, the DeeBees come in a range of types, and many of them provide a few new types of weapons. My first playthrough, I found I was using the Shepard’s Enforcer quite a bit - the ammunition was always available (especially during fights against the DBs), and I liked how good it was in close to mid range, especially with my aiming on the controller. Other weapons introduced by these mechanical monsters were a long range electrical rifle that requires a charge to use, and a weapons called the Overkill, which seemed to fire multiple concussive blasts in short order - this was great for taking down the larger DB types that actually carried this weapon.
On the Swarm’s side, I’d rather not get too detailed with regard to their ranks. Suffice to say there are a number of types that require various strategies to stay alive - especially in the harder difficulties. I will say this however; I absolutely loved chainsawing my way through the multiple swaths of juvies that you face. This tactic worked like a charm when playing on normal. Me laughing manically as I sliced and diced my way through one after the other, chaining kills in quick succession, continuing unimpeded until that last-foe-down sound effect goes off - glorious! It was a little disappointing (but understandable) that it didn’t work quite as well on legendary.
Back to the topic of characters, something I’ve always liked about Gears of War is that, after chainsawing your way through the blood, gore and violence, at its heart, it’s a story about family. Children running away from their parents, paying for their mistakes, or feeling regret for neglecting them and trying to make things right - these are at its core.
Along with the powerful familial themes, there are a number of other plot points that are brought up that aren’t answered. The story does a great job at providing a satisfying tale with no dangling threads, but world building questions are raised numerous times within the dialogue and revelations throughout the game - and from the many possible seeds sown I look forward to seeing where we are taken in future titles.
With regards to gameplay, it’s more of the cover-based pop-and-shoot 3rd-person action that Gears is known for. Enemies are still bullet sponges with the odd weak points, but overall I found the encounters well balanced. When I died (especially during my Legendary run) I felt like it was because I was rushing, rather than picking my spots and shots.
Continue reading on page 2.