|Photo Courtesy The Coalition|
I realize I’m a bit late to the party, but I finally managed to finish the latest installment of the Gears of War saga, and boy am I glad I did. It’s been 10 years since the original Gears of War game chainsawed it’s way into my heart, and though it has seen some minor, albeit significant changes, it has managed to remain a consistently enjoyable and relevant series. The torch has now been passed down from Epic Games to developer The Coalition (formerly known as Black Tusk) and it is abundantly clear that these folks really wanted to carry on the Gears legacy that Epic Games built in 2006 exactly the way it’s fans wanted it to be carried on. There were a few hiccups though.
First, I’d like to point out that I bought, traded and re-purchased this game 3 times. I had a really hard time getting into it at first. The game’s prologue gives us a short but sweet recap of all the events that took place a little before the first title up until the very end of the original trilogy. After that we are introduced to our new protagonists JD Fenix, Del Walker, Kait Diaz and her wise cracking, over protective uncle Oscar. We learn that JD and Del are ex COG soldiers who live with a band of villagers known as The Outsiders and they are out on what was supposed to be an “in and out” supply raid of a COG base, and eventually things start taking a turn for the worse. This part serves as the game’s tutorial. You are introduced to some of the new mechanics while getting the feel for a few unfamiliar weapons and introduced to environmental hazards which also serve as cover from flying debris. This is where you are introduced to Deebees, which serve as robotic watchdogs for the COG forces.
And that’s where the game lost me every damn time. Something about it felt out of place for me and I just didn’t get that same feeling the original trilogy gave me. This early on I just don’t know these people, nor has the game done enough to introduce them to me, save for some back and forth banter while completing objectives. To be blunt – I don’t really care enough about this new cast yet. I sure regret not giving it more of a chance though, the game really does picks up after this particular part of the campaign, but at the time I was being bombarded with new games almost every week and I just didn’t have the patience for it. Something brought me back though (probably the day after Christmas Sale price tag…) and I decided to stick it out.
If you’ve played a Gears of War game before, than you definitely know what you’re in for. Campaign wise, you are looking at a solid 10-12 hours of gameplay depending on the difficulty and your skill level, and on top of that you are supplied with enough multiplayer action to keep you busy for a very long time (if you’re into that sort of thing!) And speaking of the campaign again, I should also mention that I’ve always been very fond of the storytelling in the Gears of War franchise. That has not changed. Not only did I love the story, but I eventually learned to love every single new character (and of course the not so new ones!) and by the last chapter I could comfortably say that JD, Del and Kait will serve as fine replacements for the grizzly old cast of meatheads that I used to love so much.The controls still feel very much the same, the characters feel appropriately weighed down by their armor, and every kill still feels just as satisfying and brutal as it always has – no matter which weapon you are partial to. (I happen to like the Lancer)
Multiplayer is still very familiar as well, but I don’t know if I’m very well suited to go into great detail about this portion – I admittedly have not spent enough time with it to do it any great justice. At the time of this writing I have probably pumped about 4 or 5 hours into Team Death Match where I feel most comfortable, but I have since moved on and only casually return to play one or two matches to kill time every now and again. I will say that the amount of Multiplayer content is surprisingly robust, but the pile of micro-transactions that come with it are absolutely outrageous (yes, I am familiar with how the gaming industry works these days, but it doesn’t mean I like it!). I did not purchase the season pass, but there are more than enough maps to keep me occupied thankfully – all new maps and modes are free for everyone, but being a season pass holder grants you early access to the new maps as well as the ability to play private matches on them at anytime. To me that just isn’t worth it, but I can see how it would be valuable to the more hardcore players. And if you want skins for your characters, weapons or name badges, you’re going to have to shell out a ridiculous amount of money, or play til your hands fall off because the packs that they come in are random, and they cost anywhere between a dollar and fifty bucks. Yuck. At least they’re completely optional I guess, and I will admit I spent around 40 dollars on “Gear Packs”, but I’m not super proud of that or anything…Ah, and last but not least there is Horde 3.0, a continuation of the popular wave based co-op mode from Gears of War 2 and 3. Sadly I cannot report on that yet either – each time I’ve tried to play I find that half of the people I am matched with quit the game, and from what I’ve read I am not the only one frustrated by that. It’s a shame, because I really enjoyed Horde Mode and was quite eager to jump back into it. If you’re planning on jumping into a game of Horde and haven’t played this game yet – I highly suggest using Xbox’s LFG feature or maybe asking a few friends if they’re up for putting in the commitment required to finish a full 50 rounds of Horde.
Gears of War 4 was a blast to play, despite my initial reaction and stubbornness to accept the new protagonists at first. I can comfortably say that this will be a game that I revisit multiple times. The visuals are great – everything from the excessive amounts of gore to the beautiful particle effects or the landscapes…which are surprisingly sometimes not grey or brown! The voice actors are all top notch, and the writing is without a doubt blockbuster game material stuff. The Coalition isn’t done with this series and I am certainly looking forward to seeing where it goes from here.