The Gears of War multiplayer has seen highs, it has seen its lows. Does the latest multiplayer installment keep the series fresh? Or does it fall flat on all four tires?
When the Gears of War 4 multiplayer beta came out, I was not impressed. The game felt slow; sluggish. It just didn't feel like how a Gears game should feel. I tried to like it but it wasn't doing it for me. Some of the changes I was OK with - like the addition of the bounties - but the "it" factor was missing.
In Gears 4 we are brought, for the first time, a huge depth of customization. There are now Gears packs that have a nice set of surprises in them depending on the class of box. You can buy them with in-game currency or real money if you wish. The higher the grade of the box, the better your bonuses will be. We have weapon skins, we have banners, we have bounties for more XP when completed, we have more character skins to select from, as well as more starting loadouts to pick. You can start off with an Enforcer and be aggressive and mow down guys up close; pick the Hammerburst if you want some of that long-range 3 burst shot control; or you can go with the good-ol' Lancer. I also liked how you can change loadouts mid game. This brings a new type of strategy to the table when you are trying to turn the tides in a game. Multiplayer modes are loaded with some old classics as well as a mix of some new interesting game types.
PVP Modes: Gears 4 PVP has six core modes and two competitive modes. The list is as follows:
Escalation: Competitive mode
Escalation is Gears' version of domination. Escalation is a competitive match where you have 13 rounds to get the best of seven wins. You can either be the first to 250 or if you capture all three flags for five seconds you win the round. The game is fresh, and to see the way Gears does domination is just too much fun. However, as much as I liked this game type it was simply way too long. I don't want to spend 45 minutes playing a single game of Gears Online. Trust me you don't want to be on the receiving end of a butt whipping in this game type either, because it will be a long frustrating day for you. I feel the rounds should be dropped to the best of seven. This will keep the games not too short not too long, and should keep new competitors coming.
In this competitive game mode you have one life to live. Staying as close to your wing man as possible can decide victory or defeat. Shoot an enemy down and take them out as fancy or as low-key as you want - execution style. The Gnasher execution never gets old with that baseball swing. Or there's always the good ol' classic curb stomp. Execution hasn't changed and that's what I love about it. Sometimes you can get these one man vs the world comebacks that are pulse pounding if you happen to win. If hardcore game types are what you like, this is the game mode for you.
King of the Hill: Core
This game type really needs no introduction. Keep control of the hill to gain points. The hill moves every 60 seconds, be the first to capture to gain control. This is by far my favorite game mode. There's just something about being the king of the ring while a swarm of enemies run like raging bulls to take you out. It's fast, frantic and by far the most adrenaline pumping ten or so minutes of your life.
In Warzone you have one life to live. Once you are downed anything can kill you, it does not have to be an execution kill. In this mode you are going to want to play a tad bit smarter than in any of the other modes. Sticking to walls and close to your teammates is a must. If you get lost or off track because of some hostile fire, it's over. This mode is where I noticed the gameplay seemed so-so dependent on the lobby I was in. Either the games were super long because folks were hiding, or games were very quick because everyone decided to rush and go forward in a blaze of glory, and either come out on top or get destroyed. Take advantage of the long to mid range weapons here. Be patient and you will come out with the win.
Team Deathmatch (TDM): Core
Share a pool of 20 respawns and the team with the most kills wins. TDM in Gears is fast paced. Depending on who you play with will determine the win or loss for you. Sometimes it's frustrating to play with randoms, because they run out and don't stay close to the squad. Guess what? It gets them killed. You have no idea the rage it brings when you have a player like this and see your respawn pool just drain out like an hourglass! Rounds are short and sweet where most games last around ten minutes.
Arms Race: Core
Arms race is Gears version of a special gun game. You and your team have to get three kills as a whole team with one type of gun and go through the list of weapons. This mode in Gears is an interesting one because of the weapons. You may start off with a huge lead because of Boomshots or Torque Bows, but once you get to some of those single shot guns like the long shot, it gives the other team a chance to catch up rather quickly. So make the shots count, or you will be in for a very long and brutal game.
In Guardian your job is to protect your leader or VIP. As long as they are alive you have respawns for your team. For some reason this game mode was not as popular as the rest. I was expecting some flashbacks from Gears 3 in this mode, but I spent over 5 min looking for a game just about every time I searched. It's a shame because it seems like it would be one of the more favored modes overall.
In Dodgeball you win by playing the best of 5 rounds. For every enemy kill you get, you have a team player respawn, providing a member of your team is currently out of action. This mode is fast paced, frantic, and by far one of the best modes to date. There are times when you have these 1 v 5 moments and you manage to get in a zen like state and make one of the biggest comebacks of all time. It's what I would call a Sports Center top 10 moment for sure. It's such an adrenaline pumping feeling to pull it off.
Horde makes its triumphant return in Gears 4. In my opinion this is where Gears multiplayer shines best. Just like in previous installments it's a race to 50 rounds. Classes are back, as well as a new replicator that you use by gathering energy dropped by enemy players, which is then used to purchase your barriers and defensive weaponry. The tower defense in this game mode is going to keep you on your toes as well as make you rethink if it was worth it to buy items in the earlier rounds. Also, this mode is where you get to experience some of that PC and console cross play.
The Classes are as follows:
Starting loadout - Enforcer, Gnasher, Snub pistol, Repair tool
Starting loadout - MK1 Lancer (retro), Boomshot, Boltok pistol
Starting loadout - MK1 Lancer, Gnasher, Snub pistol
Staring loadout - Longshot, Markza MK1 , Snub pistol
Starting loadout - MK3 Lancer, Gnasher, Snub pistol, Grenades
Cross play was quite smooth. I didn't experience lag or cut outs. My buddy was sending me messages from his PC, and they were showing up on my Xbox almost immediately. He also managed to send me an invite from his PC to my Xbox, and I was able to join his PC lobby with no issues. What really impressed me was the chat. Both he and I were able to talk just fine in a party chat, him on his PC and me on my Xbox. He was also able to chat just fine in the game lobby as well, and when he would type chat it would show up on the screen with zero issues. It blew my mind how seamless it came across. People in the game lobby were also impressed that they could hear and play perfectly with a PC player. With Gears 4, The Coalition has shown a perfect example on how smoothly cross play can be - including the chat.
There have been folks that have said that Horde is now 'pay to win', but honestly what does it matter? This has nothing to do with actual matchmaking; it has nothing to do with winning Horde. The perks give you a greater chance to survive but not a guaranteed victory. You could buy all the packs you want, have a crappy team and waste it. Granted the in-game money could be more generous, but you can still get packs or even beat Horde without them. My squad and I went to 20 on our live stream. On the next set we went to 32. So the packs don't mean much, unless you wanna buy them. How you win Horde is to think about the next 9 or 10 rounds down the line, and how to spend your money. Don't spend it early or you will be toast. Use the map to your advantage and try to funnel enemies.
The servers are a hit or a miss depending on the game modes you want to play. One thing I wish that Gears 4 had, a player count for the games in session. It always seemed that King of the Hill, Team Deathmatch and Dodgeball had all the players, while game modes like Guardian had no one around. If there was a player count then I would know where not to waste my time waiting, because folks aren't playing.
There were also complaints about player lag and connectivity, but I didn't really experience these types of issues. The lag that I came across was at the start of every game I played. It almost feels like there is a DVD skipping and you are waiting for the lens to catch up. This needs to be fixed pronto. However, this was my only real experience with lag.
Another new change was the active reload meter. I had a huge issue with this in the beta because you never had to fire a shot to get a full clip active reload. But the more I played, the meter seemed to make sense. Think back in past Gears of War games. There never was an active meter. You just needed to spend some rounds to go 'active'. So for veteran players and the expert wall bouncers, they were able to go almost a full game whilst having a constant active clip. But with this new meter it totally eliminates this from happening. Yes you may be able to get an active reload without spending a round, but the trade-off is that it takes away the full round active component; the ten second cool down can make or break players and it will give newcomers to the game a better chance at survival in the multiplayer games.
Some of the weapons need tweaking as well. I have no idea why but in every, every, and I mean EVERY SINGLE GEARS OF WAR GAME, I HAVE A GNASHER ISSUE. I swear you can literally hit point-blank at the back of someone's head and they never go down. It always takes about 2 to 3 shots. I don't care if you are Iron Man, if you have an active clip and you shoot someone point-blank in the face, they should go down. Period. Also, on another note, the spread seems off. Rather than a spread shot it seems almost cone or funnel-like. So this causes free aimers to change-up their swivel stance. This also needs to be tweaked. The Hammerburst is overpowered as always. You can literally down a player in about 3 shots. The Lancer seems a bit nerfed. Even with an active clip you don't always down a player with one magazine.
Sound is so huge in a game - music and sound effects. The right sounds set the mood for you. The sound on some of the weapons just doesn't seem right. I mentioned this in my single player review. Sound on just about all of the explosive weapons like the Torque Bow and Boomshot seem delayed. Or, if you cause an explosion nearby it sounds like it's super far away. It throws the ambiance off in the game. This also needs to be patched.
You can host private lobbies and play against enemy AI, or have private matches with various map pick ups that you can tweak pre-game. This is great for those that like to practice, or have clans that want to have those bull in the ring matches. Or even clan on clan matches. The only real downside is that you can't host a public match. This is a downer for me because I like to host public, fill it in with some bots and just let the randoms join in the fun. This needs to be brought back ASAP.
Overall I gave the multiplayer portion of Gears of war a 9.2 out of 10 .
The multiplayer is over the top fun. The new game modes keep the frenzy that is Gears of War fresh. Granted game modes like Escalation seem a bit long, but the action keeps you wanting more. The way The Coalition brings more customization to the table is a plus. You will spend some time tweaking your individual loadouts for games and/or private match games. There's tons of replay ability here, especially with the flawless PC cross play. It's one thing for you to read it here and it's another to actually experience it. Very, very impressive.