Gears of War 4 – So Close But So Good

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A few years back, Gears of War was one of the strongest franchises on the Xbox platform. With Gears of War 3 concluding the trilogy and seemingly sewing up the story line the franchise was at its end. Out of what may have been greed or just misdirected creativity, Judgement was as an attempt to spur on the Gear of War universe. With its failure, it was nearly inconceivable to think of another Gear of War game happening.

Gear of War 4 comes in from a very different angle.  Where Judgement tried to piggy-back on the Gear story line, Gear of War 4 tries to carry it forward. Although not a 100% success, the game does a good job to be true to old story while trying to build the foundation of a new one. The game begins with a prologue that can be an introduction for those new to the Gears series or a refresher for those more familiar with it. One miss step was how the story jumps to the main story line because if you had not been following the game’s development it may be easy to not understand the context of where his story begins. As the story continues, you slowly get a feel for the current state of the Gears’ world. There are multiple oppositions which can be both frustrating and interesting. On one hand anyone could be your ally but it is unclear who is the bad guy. As interesting as the story could have been, it wavered at points by trying to string reveals out too long. Certain reveals were obvious, some were well welcomed, others were head shakers, while others were jaw droppers. Given the spread of these, it was inconsistent to know which you were going to get at any point.

At the end of the story, you have the feeling of having taken a great ride but at the same time that the ride ended prematurely. The main story and main characters were enjoyable and interesting but there were too many instances of story lines not feeling complete. This is good in the sense that it sets many things up for the future of the franchise, however, it is also bad because it may not give some players enough reason to invest in and return to the game.

On a technical level this game is good. Almost everything feels good but there are a few exceptions. Chainsaw kills are just as gratifying as ever, but snapping to cover unexpectedly is frustrating. Accounting for wind when throwing a grenade is not fun but nailing an enemy with a drop kick across cover is satisfying. Graphically this is one of the best looking games on the Xbox One. Titanfall looked good for its time, The Division feel short of expectations, Rise of the Tomb Raider had great environments but this game just looks and feels good both in game and during cutscenes.

Horde mode is back but slightly changed. The basis of the mode is the same as you take on ever increasingly difficult waves of enemies. What has changed is how you go about building your defenses. You now have to build defenses from the fabricator, which was introduced in the story mode, and you can place them almost anywhere you desire. This is a change from the statically placed fortifications from previous horde modes. One change that is not as welcome is the economy. You no longer get money directly during play rather you have to collect it after killing enemies. This draws you out of cover and safety to get the money and exposes you to danger. This could be thrilling but it is more frustrating than anything especially since you need to pick up the money in order to keep building. The time between rounds is egregiously short since you need this time to not only collect your money but also to build your defenses.

Gears of War 4 is a welcome return of a beloved franchise. As much as it is loved it is also flawed. A few tweaks and adds could have greatly improved this game. Horde mode is enjoyable but some of the changes were not for the better. The story mode should have been more in depth than it was. In the end, the game is good and worth the time. The feeling of it being incomplete is what stops it from being great.

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Paul Novak

Owner, Proprietor, Typer of Words, Gamer, Jester

A self described Polish ninja toiling away as an IT professional but more into gaming and writing. Physically existing on the western side of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania yet existentially flowing with the ether of the Internet.

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