Gears of War 4 review: Keeping up the family tradition

Gears of War 4 continues a legacy and builds on the previous games in subtle, but significant ways.

Rating: 4 out of 5
Written by Swapnil Mathur | Published:October 11, 2016 1:26 pm
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Gears of War 4 opens with the new COG celebrating 25 years since they claimed victory against the Locust. In a carefully directed opening sequence, the game sets the backstory straight for anyone who may be playing the series for the first time. While there is finally peace, there are still multiple factions. Those aligned with the COG live in ostentatious, lavish cities while the rest of humanity that chose not to be associated with the military faction live in settlements in the woods. This is where Gears of War 4 begins to set the context for the next trilogy in the series.

Gears of War 4 puts us in the shoes of JD Fenix, the Son of Marcus Fenix. As the game progresses, we learn about the intricate father-son relationship, and how for some reason JD’s joining the COG (where he is a Lieutenant) really bothers Marcus. JD is joined by his trusted friend Del and they seem to share a blend of the chemistry we see between the Marcus-Dom and Baird-Cole pairs from the previous games. Kait is the third character in this party and together they venture out to steal something called a Fabricator from a COG facility.

What was supposed to be a simple mission, quickly turns into an all-out war between the COG and the out-settlers. With their village decimated, the survivors have not even begun to gather themselves when they’re attacked by a horde of creatures never before seen. Curiosity, emotion and the need for revenge send JD and his team down the proverbial rabbit hole.

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The one thing about the new game that may rub some people the wrong way is just how similar it is to all the games that came before it. The mechanics remain the same, although covers are far more destructible now. There are two new moves; vaulting over objects and the ability to melee a foe while in cover. While the two are new and add a little bit of freshness to the game, you will find yourself sticking to the old ways of hiding behind cover and firing maniacally in all directions (well, maybe not all).

The Lancer has been upgraded to a better capacity, the shotgun, the boltok pistol and all the other standard weapons from the previous game make a come-back, with the exception of the OneShot sniper rifle and the Hammer of Dawn. What we do get is a number of new weapons such as the hilariously named BuzzKill, a weapon that fires off saw blades at high velocity capable of bouncing around. This is extremely effective in taking down multiple foes at a time or just hitting that annoying creature who is hiding behind a corner.

There is also the DropShot, which fires a floating projectile that drops itself, causing an explosion the minute you let off the trigger. Extremely effective against those who refuse to come out from behind cover. As the game progresses, more and more of the enemy seem to be armed with the DropShot, which makes playing the game hiding behind cover a lot harder.

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While the weapons are a lot of fun, the enemy in Gears of War 4 has several new faces. Besides fighting off the COG Mechs named DB (there’s a very good reason for that, but we won’t tell you why), you also go up against a new alien threat while the Locust make a comeback. However, there’s something very different about them this time around and the game does little to explain how they survived the purge.

Through the 10 hours that it takes to finish the campaign, Gears of War 4 feels oddly familiar, somewhat repetitive, but extremely fun. While the mechanics and the enemy might (and probably will) feel very similar to what’s come before, Gears of War 4 sets the stage for a trilogy to explore new relationships and dynamics.

There’s also the burning question of how the Locust managed to survive the purge from 25 years ago and where the new creatures have come from. Is the motive to reclaim Sera from the humans? We know that the locust are creatures that dwell underground, and with the humans not mining for emulsion, one could say there’s no need for them to attack those who live above the ground. Yet, they’re snatching people from their homes, turning them into ghastly entities (that resemble grubs) and by the end of the campaign, there’s no explanation as to why. One could assume that it’s all an act of revenge for what Marcus Fenix and his father did to the native race, but one can’t be sure.

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Gears of War 4 is supposed to mark the beginning of a new Trilogy in the series and it comes with a storyline that raises plenty of questions. The narrative is simple, but crisp and there are enough open ended events in the game that can easily be capitalised over the next few games. While going through the campaign is quite a lot of fun, the game’s boss fight and ending feel rather underwhelming.

The original Gears of War ended with a narration from the Locust Queen that offers an explanation for the conflict and how it will shape the future of the planet. With Gears of War 4, there’s no epilogue to make sense of what’s happened or to give a glimpse of what’s to come.

The gameplay is familiar enough to not push you out of your comfort zone. The storyline is fairly predictable, but has gaps wide enough to make it feel like a mystery to be solved rather than glaring scripting goofs. The new Horde mode in multiplayer is HOURS of fun. No longer are you limited in the areas where you can setup turrets.

You use the fabricator to buy fortifications and turrets using credits and you can place these defenses wherever you like. Credits get dropped when you shoot down an enemy and you can actually assign one of your teammates to be the designated credit gatherer. Co-op gameplay in the Horde mode has the potential to keep you occupied for an unhealthy number of hours.

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If you’re a fan of the franchise, then there’s no reason for you to not buy the game. GoW 4 continues a legacy and builds on the previous games in subtle, but significant ways. If you’ve never played any of the Gears of War games before, buying Gears of War 4 before December 31 2016 will earn you download codes for all the four games that came before it.

Additionally, Gears of War 4 is a Play Anywhere title, which means you can buy it either on the Xbox or PC and you’d be able to play it on both the platforms. For a game that retails for Rs 3,999 Gears of War 4 is significant value for money given that you get all four previous games for free and you can play it on either of the platforms.

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