I have fond memories of Gears of War. I remember finishing the first one on Insane with a friend from university online after a monumental tussle with Raam. I remember playing Horde mode with my now wife. I even enjoyed Judgement for its score attack elements (don’t hate me). I didn’t think I’d get to the point that the game’s admittedly rock solid mechanics would become tiresome. That’s not to say it doesn’t try anything new, it just doesn’t do enough to make it seem fresh again. It might be time to hang up my Lancer.
It’s not that the game is bad, it’s just that it does very little new. When the original game was released, its cover based shooter mechanics nigh-on revolutionised third person shooters. Whilst this wasn’t the inventor of a lot of its mechanics, Gears of War had it polished to a mirror sheen. What I like to call the Blizzard effect. The series continued, introducing new mechanics and modes, and polishing off a reasonable story and tying up the loose ends. Judgement came along and acted as a prequel, and whilst less popular, it did some things differently. Now though, we have a game that is the definition of more of the same. That’s not always a bad thing, but by now it has become a repetitive thing.
It starts off fairly promising, with a dash through a “Wind Flare” that sends chunks of scenery flying around, followed by a number of gun fights with robotic enemies. This is a nice change from previous games. Bright colours, new opponents and using the Fabricator (a device that lets you create weapons and defenses) to defend yourself and your allies. But before long we settle back into the old routine. The Locust turn up (now called the Swarm rather than the Horde), the dark environments return, and we return to cover based shooting that we’ve had for 4 games now. Most of the game is spent following leads to rescue a character, and the story is pretty uninteresting until a pretty nice twist right at the end which sets up for the inevitable sequel.
There are a couple of sections that alter the game for a short while. The Wind Flares force you to consider your aim more carefully based on wind speed and direction. And the motorbike chase is rather exciting. The final scene in the game attempts to change the game’s mechanics too (although it doesn’t really change the gameplay all that much, it does feel exciting). There are also a couple of new enemies that can change how you approach certain battles by forcing you to keep moving or rescue kidnapped allies. In spite of all of this though, you’ll probably still end up hiding behind walls with a Lancer and Gnasher. That might be enough for some people, but I think I was hoping for a reinvention of the franchise on a new system. If you’re looking for more Gears of War, then this will probably do just fine for your cravings. At this point though, I worry that it’s becoming a bit Call of Duty, the same game but throwing in a new gimmick to hide that fact.
Horde mode is back and still enjoyable. The Fabricator that allows you to construct and place defences where you wish alters your strategy somewhat and I’ve enjoyed playing it in splitscreen. The multiplayer is as good as ever, looking great running at 60FPS. The new game modes aren’t anything new as most have been seen elsewhere, but the 5 on 5 action is still solid. It’s a perfectly fine game, it’s just the same perfectly fine game you played years ago, but a bit prettier!
Gears of War 4 was developed by The Coalition and published by Microsoft. I played the game on Xbox One and I don’t know how to recommend this! If Gears of War is something you dearly need more of, then this might be for you. If not, then there are plenty of other third person shooters out there. I for one felt disappointed, maybe I was hoping for something more, maybe I’m bored of the series now. Maybe I’m just too old to enjoy this series as much as I used to! Either way, I think I may be done with the series for now.