Gears Of War Is Back With A Bang (And A Chainsaw Bayonet Buzz)
Ever since the Xbox One landed in 2013, we’ve waited patiently for the next gen chapter in one of the Xbox 360’s flagship titles, Gears of War. Released a whole decade ago, the first Gears of War was a trailblazing cover-based shooter featuring a group of beefy soldiers tasked with saving Earth from subterranean creatures known as the Locust. The game was an instant hit, spawning two equally exciting sequels and a solid spin-off, all of which arrived exclusively on the Xbox 360.
Here we finally are, with an all-new adventure set 25 years after the events of Gears of War 3, introducing us to a new crew led by former hero Marcus Fenix’s son, JD. Fans of the previous games should rest assured knowing this one pays tribute to the series iconic gameplay we know and love, evokes the horror/sci-fi spectacle from the original Gears, and presents a new threat (the Seran Swarm, replacing the Locust) that will undoubtedly instigate another highly memorable (and also fun as heck) saga. Gears of War 4 doesn’t try to reinvent the cog so much as tweak it, and that’s good, because the formula has always worked. As many people have already pointed out, it’s very much J.J. Abrams’ The Force Awakens to George Lucas’ original Star Wars trilogy.
That isn’t to say there aren’t fresh enemies, locations, weapons, and gameplay elements that add new and challenging levels of strategy to the mix—there’s an abundance of that. The Seran boasts several specialized baddies that will throw a wrench into your tried-and-true battle tactics. My first encounter with a Pouncer was a testament to that, as it hopped from various surfaces, inching closer and closer to me, just waiting for the perfect moment to pounce. Even more innovative are Snatchers, big, scorpion-like creatures that swallow you whole and slowly retreat with you in their belly praying for a teammate to shoot you free before you’re gone for good.
Gears of War 4 also features an array of new weaponry that pairs nicely with the older stuff. Three of my choice picks are the Buzzkill, which shoots sawblades that ricochet all over the place; the Dropshot, which fires explosive underground drills; and the Overkill, a two-blaster that does tremendous damage at close range. There are also a handful of other, equally fresh and deadly weapons to pick up along the way, as well as faithful classics like the Lancer and Gnasher.
Another original and visually striking addition to the game are massive electrical/dust storms called Windflares, which heavily affect combat and drop deadly bolts from the sky. While these would’ve been cool as a stylistic backdrop alone, they drastically change how some of your weapons fire. In several instances, you’ll even have to use the wind to your advantage to create an arc with your projectiles.
Then there’s the Fabricator, a mobile defence and weapons builder that’s featured in the main campaign, but really shines in the five-player Horde Mode (Gears’ online staple that’s better than ever here), where you have to fight through 50 waves of increasingly hostile enemies. With every kill, you’ll get a small amount of energy that you can deposit into the Fabricator for further upgrades. It’s a nifty addition if you’re playing the campaign solo, but things get very interesting in coop campaign and even more so in Horde Mode. As for Versus Mode, it still packs plenty of exciting maps (10 in total) and modes (Dodgeball is especially fun) to keep you busy for a significant amount of time.
Like any Gears game worth its salt, there’s a ton of stuff to do in the campaign and multiplayer. If you’re already counting the days until Gears 5, this should fill that void until it hopefully arrives on the Xbox One sooner rather than later.
Gears of War 4 is out now on Xbox One and Windows 10. Check out the gameplay launch trailer below, soldier.