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REVIEW / Gears of War 4 (X1)

 

Gears of War was one of the first games I played on my newly purchased Xbox 360. Back then I had no clue what I was getting myself into. The world of Sera looked like a desolate place that bore no life, even though the first time I played I thought it took place on earth. Together, with my older brother riding shotgun, we forged a path a death through the Locust invasion. Now, in the recently release fourth installment, I get to revisit the battleground of my youth through fresh eyes.

 

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The story of Gears of War 4 opens up with our new heroes J.D. and Del coming upon a COG settlement being built.  J.D., the son of Marcus and Anya from previous games, is a headstrong ex-COG that seems to be a lighthearted version of his father.  J.D. joined the COG because of his friend Del. Together with Kait, the daughter of a leader of a group of Outsiders, the trio travels through the world of Sera fighting off old allies and new horrors on their way to recovering Kait’s mother.

The trio of new characters are a welcome addition to the Gear’s cannon. The best moments in GoW4 are when the characters are playing off of each others character types in brilliant fashion.  J.D. will downplay a situation setting up Del to over react to the situation and Kait to go charging straight into danger.

 

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The new enemies, the Swarm, don’t function the same as the Locust Horde did. Whereas the Locust tended to hold back and pin you down with gunfire while throwing grenades to finish you off, the Swarm is all about rushing you with overwhelming numbers. If you aren’t careful you will be surrounded before you even know it. The Swarm’s main tactic seems to be divide and conquer. I would have loved to learn where they came from or why they decided that now was a good time to pop up but the details have either been left out on purpose or forgotten completely.

Gameplay in Gears of War 4 is smooth and fluid. The world of Sera comes alive with breathtaking environments and intense action. Even if most of that action takes place in what can basically be described as no man’s land. It would have been nice to see a little more life in the world around the characters but it isn’t a big deal.

 

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However, the story of GoW4 is the biggest drawback of the game as a whole.  There are portions of dialog that either make no sense or feel like you are playing a game of telephone.  At one point Del and J.D. have an inside joke and I stared at the screen with a blank face. Not because the conversation wasn’t funny but because this was at least the third time that these two characters made references to things I knew nothing about and then didn’t clarify. Or bring it up ever again. That coupled with the main story being boiled down to a giant fetch quest put a slightly sour taste in my mouth by the time that the credits were rolling.

It can be argued that similar conversations happened in the original Gears game, but I feel like there is a distinct difference. Gears felt like the introduction to a brave new world. Marcus was locked up and almost as confused as you were when Dom can out of nowhere to save you. Learning the state of the world right alongside Marcus was a fresh experience. Gears 4 however comes off as a story that you jump into a couple of chapters late on. Everyone is firmly planted in their world and you need to learn on the fly. And on top of all of that, the game ends on a cliff hanger that only slightly addresses the main issue and never gets back to a few of the main issues. One of the issues being that the main military force on Sera still has no clue what is going on.

 

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Multiplayer in Gears of War 4 is just as crisp as you remember. Your GoW3 skills won’t go to waste as you shotgun, wall bounce, and dodge roll your way through the wastelands of Sera with your friends once again. Playing against people online reminded my how worthless I was at online gameplay and made me rethink several life decisions.

Horde mode is teased in the Story mode three times to give you a little taste of what you are in for before throwing you into the deep end in a dark pool full of krakens. In Horde Mode you can take your four friends into a tower defense like mode where you protect the fabricator, a device the magically spawns weapons and barricades, from 50 levels of increasingly difficult enemies.

 

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Gears of Wars 4 isn’t exactly the game I thought it was going to be.  It feels like the start of an epic story that got chipped away in order to save some more for later. In the long run I feel like whatever comes next will be amazing. Maybe all of my questions and concerns that I have with the game will be solved in the next one. However, as a standalone title, this one just slightly misses the mark.

 

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