Here are my thoughts on Gears of War 4. This is not a review, but simply a collection of thoughts and impressions after playing the game for a week.
I’ve heard the word “safe” when describing the campaign of Gears of War 4. Well those people clearly did not play on Insane. I am unable to describe the events that took place in Gears of War 2 or 3. The only memory I have of either is Cole Train running through a football field and the quote “Cole Train runs on whole grains!!”. I don’t even know which game that was from…
Gears of War 4 on the other hand will stay burned into my memory once this 20-hour campaign is all said and done. I elected to play co-op on my first run, with both my co-op partner and I playing on Insane difficulty. The game is seriously no joke. From exploding robots, to Hammerburst’s and Boltok’s that hit like snipers, to the shifty little creatures called Juvies that will ruin your whole plan. Gears of War 4 is refreshingly difficult. As frustrating as it has been, I’m actually happily surprised that The Coalition elected to make Insane this difficult. Bravo.
In that sense, Gears of War 4 is far from safe. On the other hand the story isn’t anything special and the game still hangs on the crutch of Marcus Fenix. But everything else from the wind effects, the difficulty, new enemy types, new weapons, varied and colorful locations, and going back to 2-player co-op have made this my most memorable Gears campaign since the original.
The multiplayer, at its core, is the same. Which for me is a good thing because I love the core gameplay of Gears. The wallbouncing and general cover-to-cover movement is very fluid and fast. One thing that bugs me however is how the shotgun sometimes aims at the ground when coming out of a wallbounce. Unlike in Gears of War UE, now you will sometimes literally be looking at the ground after coming out of a wallbounce.
The Coalition has been doing a good job at listening to feedback and adjusting the game accordingly since the early launch. They’ve increased credit drop rates, lowered the price of one of the Gears packs in the store, adjusted the Dodgeball rounds-to-win, and are working on the matchmaking times. Speaking of which, that is my biggest complaint with Gears of War 4.
Not only is the matchmaking time painfully slow, but The Coalition botched the way it works in general. For one, the Social Playlist is your best bet to get a couple of games in. Mainly because people that don’t want to play Ranked will be in Social, but also because of the bot-filling and rolling lobbies. The problem some have with Social is that there is only one playlist, meaning you have to vote on the map and mode after each game. Unlike the Core and Competitive playlists which are broken down by game mode.
This is where the matchmaking time really hurts the game. Bots can’t fill out empty slots and even worse, once you do find and complete a match you have to start the whole process over again (since there aren’t rolling lobbies in Core or Competitive). The two main ideas here, rolling lobbies and searching by game mode, need to be applied to all playlists.
I have to stress two of the new game modes in Gears of War 4: Dodgeball and Escalation. It’s rare to see fun, new game modes for shooters and Gears of War 4 made two of them. In Dodgeball players start with one life and are “out” if they get killed. To get back in, someone on your team needs to kill an enemy player. Once one team is entirely wiped out, the other wins. It’s a really fun and fast paced game mode that combines elements of Warzone with Team Deathmatch. Rounds can last really long with evenly matched teams, or end very quickly.
The other is Escalation, The Coalition’s take on an eSports game mode. Escalation is similar to Domination in other shooters. The round starts with three capture points on the map. Holding one point increase the score for that team. Holding more than one increases your score even faster. If one team reaches 200 points, they win. But as an added twist if one team holds all three points for 5 seconds, they instantly win. The game is played first to 7 rounds. After each round the highest scoring player on the losing team gets to add a power weapon to the map (there aren’t any to begin with). This continues until half time where the weapons get reset and there are three new capture spots replacing the first set.
It’s a very strategic game mode that forces you to stay on the move. Each round, the respawn timer gets increased. A few rapid deaths for one team can put them at a huge disadvantage. I love the strategy of it. From choosing weapons after losses, to trying to maintain the capture points, to deciding whether you should attempt a triple cap or just hold two. All Gears needs now is their take on Kill Confirmed and I’m golden.
Gears of War 4 is by no means a perfect game. It is however a very enjoyable experience. The game looks great and I’m enjoying my time with the long and difficult campaign. The multiplayer is fast and fluid with some great new game modes only hindered by the matchmaking times. Horde, which I’ve barely played, has some cool new features for fans of the mode. I think this is a great first step for The Coalition and the franchise is in good hands.