It’s become a tradition to play the first video game of the year with my brother. We started some time back, and now that we live in different countries it has even more meaning. We don’t get to spend much time together over the year, so it’s good to be able to share something that we both like. This time we’ve played Gears of War 4. It’s a game that perfectly fits the description of what we want to play: a not too long, co-op, action packed game. Actually, Gears of War is somehow becoming a synonymous of Christmas, as we’ve played all the games in the franchise this time of the year. I know, kind of weird.
A new generation for Gears of War 4
Gears of War 4 jumps into the future around 30 years. The game puts us in control of a band of 3 formed by JD Fenix and his friends Kait and Del. One of the first things you’ll notice is that the characters on this entry are (way) more charismatic. It helps that the script is well written and the narrative is clear, two of the biggest issues I found on the original Gears Trilogy. JD plays well as the charming hero, something that his father Marcus didn’t have. It’s a character that feels way more human and less military machine. Del and Kait are good characters too. Kait will be at the center of most of the emotional moments on the game due to story events that I’m not gonna spoil here. Del plays as a comic relief in some moments, a bit typical, but plays his part well.
It’s also a new generation game in the sense that they moved from Xbox 360 to Xbox One. Gears of War 3 was probably the most impressive visual feat on the 360. I don’t own an Xbox One, but Gears of War 4 is probably one of the most stunning games on One. Characters and environments have a huge level of detail and both lighting and effects are exceptional. In terms of visual design, we find a game that follows the evolution seen in Gears3. That means a better use of color and light that gives the game a fantastic look. It’s maybe not as stunning as Uncharted 4, but it is pretty close. Only facial animation is clearly better in U4 and even so, facial animations here are good.
… but same old Gears
If you are a Gears fan, you won’t be disappointed. Gears4 offers the same game play we’ve enjoyed all this years, with little improvements here and there. The main issue on the previous games was a lack of agility on the characters, and a feel that they are very heavy. It is annoying when you run and your character is unable to turn a corner. I understand that is part of the identity of the saga and they didn’t want to make a radical change, but they should consider doing some adjustments for the next game. In terms of shooting and moving in general I have no complains, it’s a really good game with a very polished control. My brother tends to disagree but… who cares? xD.
Talking about old Gears, some of the characters from the previous trilogy appear in the game as secondary characters. They are there for a reason and it’s good that they don’t become an obstacle to tell a new story. It works great as an homage and it’s really well done. Kudos to The Coalition for this.
New situations and menaces
There are a couple of innovations to the classic formula. Good additions that help to bring some variety to the game. The first and most notable is the storms. For whatever reason, the planet Sera suffers a series of catastrophic electric storms. The winds will affect the character movement and you’ll have to be careful if you want to use grenades. Also, there will be elements in the environment that are suitable of being used as weapons thanks to the wind. Occasionally, there will be areas where a couple of dozens of lightnings fall in the your area. You’ll have to run and avoid getting hit by them while you try to reach a safe place. It’s not a revolutionary addition, but everything helps to give variety to the campaign.
The menaces in Gears of War 4 are multiple. We will be fighting another species that JD & friends call The Swarm. Are they the Locust again? Well, maybe, but it is better if you find out yourself. The Swarm counts with a few different types of enemies and some of them introduce new combat mechanics. There are some huge dog-like enemies that jump around the environment. We will have to avoid their attacks while we shoot to their belly if we want to actually hurt them. These fights are difficult the first couple of times but, at least for us, after a while we became really good at them. Another great addition are the Snatchers. This are huge ass (pardon my French) creatures that will throw acid at our heroes, jump around the environment (potentially crushing you) and will capture our characters and try to escape with their prey. This fights are difficult and very intense, some of my favorites on the game. The rest of additions are more normal and more grounded in the classic combat mechanics.
This time you won’t be part of the established human Coalition of Governments and you will have numerous fights with them. I believe that there was a bit of criticism to these parts, but in my opinion is a welcomed addition. In this sections we will be fighting robots and drones and we’ll have to use different strategies as the ones we use against The Swarm.
Best “tank level” ever?
It’s very common in shooters, specially if they have a military component, to have a one or two levels where you have to get hands on with a tank or similar vehicle. In Gears of War 4 we have one of these levels, but for once it’s a really well designed one. The game puts you in control of a huge robot and makes you go around fighting the biggest enemies of the game. The difference is that now we’ll be as big as they are. The robot is agile and you can do almost everything you do when controlling JD and his friends. This gives a really good dynamic to the level, and it doesn’t feel out of place. It was a very enjoyable moment on the game, and I hope in the future we see more of this.
My favorite Gears of War
I believe every Gears has improved its predecessor, at least when it comes to the single playe/co-op experience. The 2nd game improved the level design greatly and gave the game a bigger scale. And the 3rd game jumped again, including new characters, a better narrative and improving vastly it’s art design.
This Gears of War 4 takes another step forward with the best narrative in the series, better characters and script. It does all this without forgetting about the game play, where The Coalition included a bunch of little changes and new elements that improve the series’ formula. Overall it’s an excellent action game and a great debut for a new studio like The Coalition.