You'll see some familiar faces.
The campaign for Gears Of War 4 spans 6 acts with various numbers of chapters within each which ran me around 11 hours or so at normal difficulty, so its a robust story for a AAA game when compared to other similar titles with a much shorter offering. The pacing is quite solid, so much as it can be when the sole premise is shooting things in the face but it manages to keep things fresher still with multiple enemy variants and factions to blast into slime. The game has you taking the mantle of JD Fenix (voiced by Liam McIntyre of Spartacus fame) the son of the great and gruff Marcus Fenix, and your friends as they uncover a disturbing mystery surrounding the disappearance of a bunch of villagers. Spanning the course of a single night, the campaign has you adventuring from place to place, slaying robots sent by the 'new' COG (The Coalition of Ordered Governments) as well as the brand new and enigmatic Swarm race. The mystery surrounding this race is an excellent draw that made me very eager to find out just what the hell was going on and kept me playing for huge periods at a time. If you've played the previous games you will be instantly comfortable with the style of the engagements and the nature of the story as it doesn't do too much to mix up the tried and true formula. The Swarm makes for a familiar foe as they resemble the Locust in a lot of ways (although they do bring some interesting new beasties to the table). The only frustrations to be levied against the campaign is perhaps its rather unsatisfying conclusion (sequel bait) and that whilst it does do everything we know and love from previous games very well and even implements new things such as various weapon, enemy types and even a weather system which can effect engagements, it perhaps feels a little too familiar in places. The only real problem I had was the world building. Everything in the Gears Of War universe seems expertly crafted; the architecture, the scenery, the weather and even the characters' dialogue is all extremely effective at creating a world that I wanted to know more about. But for every hint filled conversation, for every mention of the events between Gears Of War 3 and this game, there never seemed to be any pay off and it seems like the creators are keeping all of the tastiest morsels for a future game, not that I'd mind playing through another adventure with JD and co.
The multiplayer of Gears Of War 4 also suffers from the same "if it ain't broke don't fix it" mentality as the campaign but it feels like enough has been added to almost fully round out the experience. It is disappointing but expected to see micro transactions in play here and they take the form of cases. You can spend in game credits or real money to buy cases of gear. There are cases for Horde, versus multiplayer and elite cases and each case gives you a mixture of different rarities of cosmetic items, character skins or "booster cards" for each mode. Whilst there are no massive advantages gained through spending money, having spent £40 plus on the game at launch made this feature slightly bitter to the taste. There are your standard modes such as execution, war-zone and whatnot as well as a new and improved "Horde 3.0" - most of it being a fairly familiar Gears fare that benefits from the new weapons and tighter controls of the new era. Horde however is where the game shines. Fun, addictive and fresh enough to keep me entertained for hours. You now start Horde mode with a fabricator, a machine that uses energy to construct turrets, traps and weapons for you to use to your advantage, you can place the fabricator wherever you wish which allows for a lot of interesting combos of traps, choke points and turrets which helps to keep it fresh. At this stage I haven't played too much of Horde and perhaps once I learn the maps better and find that one ideal spot for the fabricator then it might lose some of its shine but until then I'll be happy enough blasting away.
Mechanically the latest offering is more or less brilliant. I knew this game was not developed by the progenitors of the series, Epic Games but I really didn't notice. Rod Ferguson (once of Epic) and his team at The Coalition have taken the very good foundations of what makes Gears Gears and have tightened all the screws, polished everything off and and added in a few new layers without upsetting the balance. The feeling of immense nostalgia almost overwhelmed me the first time I chainsawed an enemy or the first time I popped a skull with a long shot, and the new cover executions and more responsive movement just made the experience all the more pleasant. In short not everything has been improved upon but nothing appears to have been made any worse and the use of the Unreal 4 engine makes the game quite beautiful to behold. The lighting effects when making my way through an abandoned fort at night combined with excellent sound design made for quite a spooky and intense time.
In conclusion, Gears Of War 4 is a game that confuses me because I can't quite decide whether the lack of improvements/changes is a failing or absolute genius. All I can be certain of at this stage is that there is a lot of value to be had from this game whether you're a hardened veteran of the Locust wars looking for a huge shot of nostalgia or a modern gamer looking for the cutting edge of 21st century gaming - I think you've come to the right place. The game is a feature heavy, action heavy balls out shooter with a little bit of Nathan Drake humour mixed in this time around that compliments a bedrock of genre defining mechanics to make something which is if not quite perfect but certainly a very special game indeed.
Verdict: Must Buy
Will you be giving the regenerated Gears Of War a go? If you already have it what do you think so far? Let us know down below or via our Facebook or Twitter pages!