REVIEW: Gears is back & we can safely say in the right hands at The Coalition

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The following is my experience playing Gears of War 4 (Gears 4) on the Xbox One. This reflects my campaign experience only. So far, until playing the full game, my exposure to Gears 4 has been with the beta only. I have stayed away from leaks to keep this review as fresh and un-skewed as possible. At the time of writing this review I was unable to join other reviewers to test out the multiplayer. This includes online co-op campaign and PC cross play. We will have a separate review for the multiplayer portion of Gears 4 when it’s readily available.

gears4_squad
#squadgoals

The original Gears of War game was the only reason I picked up an Xbox 360. I remember watching the commercial on TV; the clips on Gametrailers.com, and reading all about it in Game Informer. The first moment I saw the game I was hooked. The Godfather ‘Cliffy B’ and the team over at Epic created a new experience that blew the doors off cover based shooters. Hell, I’ll even go as far as saying they perfected the system. This lead to a cult following of the Gears of War franchise. The next two installments, Gears of War 2 and 3, took what the first game did so well and pushed the envelope to bring innovation and originality, while still keeping the game fresh and new. When it was all over Gears of War 3 was what I would call third person gaming perfection.

For a written review, please see below the video review:

Now we have a new studio taking over, The Coalition. I was scared at first that the original team wouldn’t be behind this new installment with Cliffy B’s leadership. Most of the time when teams take over a franchise it becomes a shell of what the original games were. Gears of War: Judgement is a perfect example. The Coalition got their first crack at making Gears by bringing us the Gears of War: Ultimate Edition. Their remake stayed true to the original in every aspect, whilst showing us these updated breathtaking visuals. However, it’s one thing to remake a game, and another to build off an already legendary story-line and gameplay. So I was hoping that The Coalition wouldn’t take the series and bastardize what made Gears of War so unique.

The prologue to Gears 4 is a special one. The Coalition takes you back to some key moments with Delta Squad to show you the who, what, when, and how, leading up to the events that start off Gears 4. You get to relive the key moments in the Pendulum wars, whilst also getting to see a different view of what happened on E-Day at the house of Sovereigns. These missions had hit a soft spot in my heart because I was able to play through with the one and only Dominic Santiago. My face had the biggest ear to ear smile ever. I never thought they would bring him back – even in a flash back. I was so filled with joy to see this. Never forget the fallen, RIP Dom.

Fast forward to the present. You play the role of James Dominic Phoenix or AKA JD. The son of the Legendary Delta squad sergeant, Marcus Phoenix. You have gone AWOL from the COG and are now living in an outsider village. Your village is in desperate need of power so you go with your buddies (Del, Kait, and Oscar) on a mission to extract a duplicator. Now, if you thought the game started off with a big bang in the prologue, you haven’t seen anything yet. As you make your way through the city you end up fighting COG robots – or as they call them in-game, DeeBees. These guys are beefy and their weapons do a lot of damage. At this point of the game it almost feels like Skynet has taken over and you are tying to keep from being punished by a bunch of Terminators. It is hair-raising, in a very positive way.

gears4_screenshot_jd_enforcer-3Once you start making your way out, you have an encounter with the first minister who is the equivalent of the COG President, and after your brief meeting you get the replicator back to the village. Once night falls all hell breaks loose and the Swarm comes out of nowhere ripping most of the villagers to shreds. You watch helplessly, unable to assist in the carnage that’s happening before you. This is where your main story begins.

I’m not going to sugar coat this for you. This game is an action packed, intense, nerve racking, jaw dropping, pedal to the metal emotional roller-coaster. From the moment when you boot the game till you finish there is no stone left un-turned emotionally, or with the action. The game’s story is very well done. I was really afraid of what The Coalition’s vision would be for Gears 4, however after what I just played I can say – without a doubt – if you are a true Gears of War fan, you are going to be very pleased with the job The Coalition has done here. They have stayed true to the roots of the franchise, with not only the feel of the game play, but building upon an already established story and making it blend together so perfectly. Perfection is a very hard word to use these days when talking about a game’s story and presentation, however that’s what The Coalition has delivered here, pure perfection.

The Game Mechanics

I’m just going to say how I feel on this. When I played the Gears of War 4 Beta I was scared. The game felt very sluggish, slow, and it wasn’t very clean. It just didn’t feel like how a new Gears of War game should feel. Remember, in the past Epic Games always improved and added new flairs to the game mechanics, I get that it’s a Beta and Betas do have issues but all I could do was compare it to Gears of War 3. The speed and twitchy controls were lacking. The “swivel” with the free aim just wasn’t there like in previous Gears installments. You can immediately tell if a developer listens to the fan base by the way the final product comes out. Let me tell you, The Coalition seem to have heard the community on this aspect. The game plays so smooth, so fast, so crisp. You can combine wall bounces and leap over obstacles with ease. The additions of the new cover execution moves with your trusty combat knife as well as the execution counters are brutal. Everything is on point and feels so natural. They didn’t just to throw in game mechanics to be new only for it to end up awkward and clunky. It feels perfect. What I really have to give props too is how they evolved the added mechanics from Gears of War 3. Like the cover vault kick and added the knife execution along with making it feel so natural and smooth. It’s one thing to see it on screen and yet another to actually do it on a controller. It’s butter smooth!!

The Weapons

gears4_screenshot_kait_db_combatWell the weapons are ‘bad ass’. There is no other description. All of the favorites return with some new toys. My favorite thus far is the OverKill. Its a straight up double shot 4 barrel shot gun, with devastating body tearing damage. We can talk weapons all day long, but here’s a list of weapons in the game.

  • Bolo Grenades
  • Boltok Pistol
  • Boomshot
  • Buzzkill << Saw Blade Launcher
  • Combat Knife
  • Drop shot
  • Embar< Robot sniper Rifle
  • Enforcer < SMG
  • Gnasher
  • Hammer Burst
  • Hammer of Dawn
  • Long Shot Sniper
  • Lancer > 3 Versions of this in the Campaign including in flash backs
  • Retro Lancer
  • Markza Sniper Rifle
  • Mortar
  • Mulcher
  • OverKill
  • Salvo Rocket Launcher
  • Shock Grenades
  • Smoke Grenades
  • Snub Pistol
  • Torque Bow
  • Tri-Shot > Similar to the Mulcher
JD Close Up
JD Close Up

Visually the game is jaw dropping, 1080p in all its breathtaking glory, or for those playing on PC, mind blowing 4k visuals. This game by far is the best looking game out on console to date. The close attention to detail, not only in the cut scenes but also in game play, is perfect. The light, the shadows, the reflection off on the weapons, everything looks so crystal clear and gorgeous. When you see the characters faces close up to look in to their eyes and see their facial expressions “WOW” is all I can really say. There are no proper words to describe the way the game looks. Any video or image that I post on here doesn’t truly give the game visual justice. It’s just something you need to see for yourself. Also, it’s one thing to see how other games do environmental and weather dynamics, and then there’s the way that Gears 4 does it. JAW DROPPING!

Kait Close Up
Kait Close Up

The Coalition didn’t just add enemies to fight that don’t belong in the Gears of War universe, these new enemy variants are done very well and with careful attention to the story and legacy of the games before it. The new enemies in Gears 4 are the DeeBee units and the Swarm. Each of them have different tiers of enemies. The Swarm have juveniles that pop out of glowing egg sacks, Snatchers and Drones jump out of nests, and some others give you out of this world surprises that I don’t want to spoil here. There are also different types of DeeBee units which come in both ground and air enemy variants. The enemies are very well done and they aren’t just dumb bots either. They will try to flank you and gain better position during fire fights. Some will even try to bull rush you to bring the pain.

gears4_drone_4kAs for the friendly AI, they aren’t the brightest tools in the shed. They will give you cover fire and fight enemies that are near, however at times when you are down and next to them they just don’t want to pick you up, or if you are in a fight with a Snatcher, they do put lead into it but when it comes down to it they are just there as a distraction for the enemy AI. You will be doing the brunt of the damage and clearing all of the enemies in a section by yourself for the most part.

The campaign length will depend on your play style, the difficulty, and if you go solo or co-op. Your play time will vary from 6 to 13 hours.

As for co-op campaign locally, the game still runs butter smooth, and it still looks as beautiful and breathtaking, but my biggest problem was that the split screen is just…off. It is a bit hard to describe actually. It’s almost like there are small ridges on the screen when you are looking around or spinning in a circle. Also, the sound on some of the weapons are off. For example, when the Torque Bow shoots off it just doesn’t sound right, almost like there is a delay.

gears4_marcus_jd_4kFrom the start of the game it’s full throttle all the way towards the end. The bond you have with the characters is strong although some of the dialogue can be repetitive: “Dad, hey Dad oh Dad, hey”, however you will fall in love with Kait, laugh with Del, and try to listen to dear old Dad Marcus. JD shares a Father/Son bond with Marcus that evolves during the story. You also get to see JD ‘grow up’ so to speak, starting the game as a wise ass with the cheesy one liners, (which totally reminded me of Baird), to a full blown leader like this father before him. The voice acting is top notch and some of the voices will sound very familiar. For instance JD is voiced by Liam McIntyre, you may remember him for his role as Spartacus, from the fantastic Showtime series. Kait voiced by Laura Baily, best known for her work as Nadine Ross from Uncharted 4. Also, how could we ever forget John DiMaggio coming back for his Iconic role as Marcus Phoenix. They all did a fantastic job in my opinion.

Overall I give the campaign portion of Gears of War 4 a 9.9 out of 10

Gears of War 4 pays full homage to its predecessors, as well as the fallen comrades of the past. RIP Dom #gonebutnotfogotten. In my tenure here at RGM I’ve never given a game a perfect score before, and this could have been the first, but the co-op split screen should have been tweaked so it’s visually consistent. Same with the weapon sounds. Sound in general is huge to a game. However besides the co-op screen issue this title just does everything right across the board. There were some questions at the start of the game that are left unanswered but that’s a story for another time, those unanswered questions didn’t give any down side to the game at all. It just leaves you wanting even more. Huge cheers to The Coalition for taking the worries of a loyal Gears of War fan, by far superseding the expectations of what I thought this game was going to be.

If you liked what you heard from this review, then enter the giveaway over on our Twitter account below!

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