Gears of War 4 Beta Impressions

By Gabriel Kreulen, 5 months ago
After the events of Gears of War 3, many gamers didn't expect another sequel. The story was over, the Locust defeated. But at last year's E3, Microsoft announced that Gears of War 4 would be released in 2016. Recent details have emerged revealing more about the game's timeline as it fits into the Gears narrative, the new characters, and, of course, the new enemies. With a multiplayer beta spanning a full two weeks for some, we were able to get a good feel for the game, even in its current state several months out from release.

With this being a storied sequel, the comparison with its predecessors can't be escaped. I can't say what resemblances the multiplayer has with Gears of War 2's, as I didn't play it for that title. For me, the multiplayer feels most like Gears 3's, which is good in my opinion. Matches bring the speed of Gears 3 matches but can also be slowed and tactical chess games like in the original Gears of War. This balance makes the multiplayer from Gears 4 unpredictable, which is good for the game itself.

The beta had three game modes we could test: the standard Team Deathmatch, Co-op TDM (up to five players against five bots) and Dodgeball. All modes play well, with TDM being the same as in Gears 3 and Co-op TDM serving as a mode to sharpen your skills before you take the fight against players. Dodgeball is the freshest mode of the three. It's a game mode where the teams don't have any respawns when starting (similar to Warzone/Execution). But here's the interesting part: if your team scores a kill while a teammate is dead, he'll respawn after five seconds. This simple mechanic makes Dodgeball a very interesting mode where it will never truly be over until everyone is dead. The sheer fact that a player as a sole survivor can help a teammate back in the game and press on to win makes this new mode feel like the next fan favorite.

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Many weapons from the earlier Gears games resurface in this new entry. However, some weapons did receive changes. It seems like the developers were a bit ambivalent over the Hammerburst. It's now a three-round burst weapon, making it weaker than the Lancer, while it used to be so much stronger than that iconic Gears firearm. It's not a change for the better, in my opinion. It feels like it strays from the roots of Gears, where the Hammerburst was, like its manufacturers, the Locust, much stronger than the COG and their Lancers. Pistol-whippers will be disappointed with the Snub Pistol, which has been severely nerfed. Lancer lovers will be happy with the change their weapon of choice received; the Lancer is much stronger than its predecessors, so a Lancer wielder will often win a direct duel against a Snub Pistol wielder. Changes to the Torque Bow are disappointing too. It takes much longer to charge a piercing shot, and I encountered instances where direct hits didn't always result in kills. The Dropshot is a weapon which can best be described as the opposite from Gears 3's Digger. It shoots aerial mines which fly for as long as the player holds the trigger. If the player succeeds in pulling of a headshot with it, the result is pretty gruesome. All the weapons handled well, which is par for the course with the franchise. One move they should have left out is the ability to active reload when you haven't fired a shot. I think that move was included to lower the jump-in threshold for the game and it doesn't feel quite in place. These sort of weapon balancing issues are one of the primary reasons to hold a beta, so it'll be interesting to see what adjustments are made by the time the full game releases.

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Movement and cover are thankfully the same as in all other Gears games, with one major standout. It's now possible to cancel a coverslide by simply flicking the left stick in the opposite direction. That was more or less possible in earlier entries from the series, but always felt more like a glitch. The addition of this feature is good for wallbouncers since they will have even more options to traverse maps. For the non-wallbouncers is there good news too: the Roadie Run camera is slightly shifted backwards, and feels faster. It's a change I like since it will make games varied and often more frantic.

The graphics and sound are crisp and the game should be well on its way of being a "1080p, 60fps showcase" as the Xbox brand has marketed it as. The color palette continues where Gears 3 left off by infusing the world with more color. This is, after all, several years after the conclusion to Marcus' story, so the world needn't be so dark and dingy. Although I encountered a glitch once -- a dead body falling through the map while I was in spectator mode --, I didn't happen upon anything game-breaking. That's a good sign too, since The Coalition made a point to tell gamers that this is truly a beta needed to iron out some rough spots and not simply a marketing tool like we've seen with several other betas as of late.

Overall, I came away from the beta with mostly positive feelings from the beta. The maps are well designed, the weapons handle reliably like the games are known for. There are some points The Coalition should work on, but with nearly another half year ahead of in-studio time, I'm okay feeling confident that they will do that. Gears of War 4 releases worldwide on October 11th.
Gabriel Kreulen
Written by Gabriel Kreulen
Record holder as the youngest newshound on TA ever, Gabriël has some expertise in writing news, but much more experience playing games. When he doesn't have real life responsibilities to take care of, he enjoys flying through the galaxy in Elite: Dangerous and earning achievements in other games. Also likes to do weird stuff.