Title: Gears of War 4
Format: PC, Xbox One
Developer: The Coalition, Splash Damage
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
ESRB Rating: M (Mature 17+)
Release Date: October 11, 2016
The Grade: A-
Gears of War 4 Haiku Review
You're JD Fenix
25 years have gone by
New threats have emerged
What is it? Set on the planet of Sera, the "Gears of War" series follows the story of humanity's struggle against brutal and challenging enemies. This latest edition to the franchise is set 25 years after the events of "Gears of War 3" and focuses on JD Fenix, the son of series protagonist Marcus Fenix. After narrowly escaping an attack on their village, JD and his friends, Kait and Del, must rescue their captured loved ones and discover a new threat to the planet in the process.
The Good: "Gears of War 4" sticks to its roots but is still progressive enough to give longtime franchise fans something fresh and different. This is illustrated in the games three core modes -- Horde, Multiplayer and Campaign. Each retains the familiarity Gears fans have come to love, but have enough cool new features to make them feel brand new.
My first stop was Horde mode, something I've spent a lot of time with in previous Gears titles. In this five player co-op mode gamers take on up to 50 waves of increasingly difficult enemies. This remains a great mode to play with friends and a few new features really enhance gameplay. There are five classes that each have their own role on the battlefield (soldier, scout, heavy, sniper and engineer). While each class has their own skills that can be leveled up you're not limited by class choice. Gamers can mix and match classes how they wish and any class can carry any weapon.
Probably the most impressive new edition to Horde is the Fabricator. This is an indestructible 3D printer that can create barriers, sentries, turrets and decoys. The Fabricator is the game within the game in Horde as players have to collect power from defeated enemies. Power points earned lets the group buy things from the Fabricator but points are limited and are spent on a first come, first served basis. Used correctly, the Fabricator can make a huge impact for your group. Waste points and you can doom your team.
Multiplayer has also been given a serious makeover. There are new abilities, weapons, and executions to try out on the 10 maps available at launch (more maps will be available for free every month) but most exciting are some of the new MP modes. You can still play Gears' five traditional multiplayer offerings but Dodgeball (just like the game in PE except every kill brings back a dead teammate), Arms Race (kill the enemy using a rotating arsenal of weapons), Co-Op Versus (play a versus match against AI opponents), Escalation (objective based with weapons placement) are all a blast and is where I spent most of my time online.
Where I had the most fun with "Gears of War 4," however, was in its campaign mode, which you can play solo are co-op. The campaign in this title just might be the best in franchise history. Not only does it provide you with a variety of new enemies and fun new teammates, but just like the other modes in this game, it does a great job of tying the rich history of Gears to a new plot line. The sense of camaraderie, always a strength of the series, manages to be duplicated with new characters that gamers can't help but root for. And as a dad with an adult son, I thoroughly enjoyed the father/son dynamic between Marcus and JD. The old man can still teach his kid a thing or two.
The Bad: While "Gears of War 4" does an excellent job of paying homage to its past while looking to the future, there is one element that is still yet to be addressed -- the clunky movements of your character. While some slick new moves have been added to your repertoire (vaulting and grabbing enemies from behind cover) characters in Gears still move stiffly. To be fair, this is something associated with the franchise, a peccadillo long time fans find endearing. That said, Gears is now 10 years old and characters still move and react almost exactly like they did in 2006. Its time to upgrade that aspect of the franchise.
The Grade: "Gears of War 4" has taken its three core modes and ramped the action up to 11. Whether you're new to the series or a long time fan, there's plenty to dive into here, especially if you love co-op play. A compelling campaign and a rich offering of online options make for a title gamers can lose themselves in.
Gazette Media Columnist Terry Terrones is a veteran video game journalist. He has written for numerous publications including GamePro, GamesBeat, PC World, GameZone, and Official Xbox Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/terryterrones. ___
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