Review: Teaching an old COG new tricks in “Gears of War 4”

Developed by The Coalition, and released for the Xbox One, “Gears of War 4” takes place 25 years after the events of “Gears of War 3,” and continues the story left by its predecessor.

Unlike its formers, “Gears of War 4’s” narrative is much smaller in scope. Instead of having a story that revolves around a global war for human survival, the story focuses on a more personal tale on family bonds. It is a sudden yet pleasant change in narrative.

The story follows Marcus Fenix’s (former protagonist in the original “Gears” games) son J.D. Fenix, and his two friends, Del and Kait, who set out on a journey to rescue Kait’s mother.

Throughout the story we get introduced to new characters and reintroduced to old characters. Though some characters have distinguished personalities like J.D.’s friends Del and Kait, the main character, J.D., lacks imagination and creativity. The story tries to give J.D. some originality by giving him a rough relationship with his father, but the game does a poor job of explaining the source of tension and the climax of this tension feels forced because of it.

Many other poorly explained events occur as well. One of these is the development of the Coalition of Ordered Governments into a totalitarian government led by First Minister Jinn. The other is the development of societies against the COG known as the outcasts. J.D. and his friends are considered outcasts, however J.D. and Del were once enlisted in the COG army. They later left, not on good terms. This plot point is barely explored and feels like an unnecessary detail because it has no effect on the story or the COG themselves.

However, not everything in the plot is hazy in detail. The actual aesthetics of the game are downright gorgeous especially in certain sections of the game with devastating storms known as wind flares. These storms are hazardous to the player and affect the gameplay by adding wind elements that can cause scenery to be destroyed and redirect slow-moving projectiles.

The multiplayer game modes are where the game shines. The wave-based combat mode, horde, makes a return — bringing with it a few new tweaks. In previous installments, the player was forced to pick a predetermined area to form a base and set up defenses. With this installment, players have the freedom to create a base wherever they choose on the map and a larger variety of different defenses to choose from. Another new tweak is the introduction of various classes that have an impact on gameplay, such as the engineer class, which is responsible for repairing defensive structures. This causes the game mode to be more team-orientated as teamwork is essential to survival.

Other game modes, such as team Deathmatch, return as well, remaining largely the same. The only complaint I have with these modes is the lack of diversity with weapons. There are few weapons besides the super weapons which spawn across the map, and some of these weapons fall flat compared to others. One such weapon is the shotgun, which — compared to other weapons — is the go-to. In most games you will see almost everyone run around the map using the shotgun. Though it is implicitly fun, it can cause matches to become repetitive.

“Gears of War 4” is a flawed yet fun adventure. Though there are noticeable issues with the plot and characters, the multiplayer mode still retains much of the same aspects that made it enjoyable to fans the first time. For the multiplayer alone, the game is worth every penny.

COURTESY OF MICROSOFT

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