Xbox One Review: Gears of War 4

A good friend of PopCultHQ, and one-time writer for our site, Andrew Smith, got early-access to Gears of War 4, the new release for Xbox One coming this Tuesday, October 11th. Our freelance correspondent wanted to share his experience and thoughts on this FPS with all of you. We’ve also taken the liberty to point out all of the different offerings which are available now for pre-order and are scheduled to debut in two days.

According to the game’s website,

Gears of War 4 releases October 11th 2016, and pre-orders are now available. Experience the next chapter in the Gears of War saga following JD Fenix, son of Marcus Fenix, as he discovers the source of a monstrous new enemy with close friends Kait and Del.

On top of the Campaign, which supports two player co-op locally or over Xbox Live, fan favorite mode Horde is back and better than ever.  Additionally, Versus Multiplayer sports 60 fps, dedicated servers, brand new modes, a new visible ranking system and much more.

Now take a look at Andrew’s highly-detailed, early-access review of this week’s anticipated new release Gears of War 4.

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Gears of War 4 Review:

The holiday gaming season has finally begun with the first anticipated release to help close out the year. Microsoft and developer The Coalition teamed up to continue the legacy set by Epic Games with Gears of War 4. This is the first true sequel since the third entry ended the locust war back in 2010, and introduces us to the world of Sera now that it’s been Locust-free for over 2 decades.

a4Since the announcement of the Xbox One, gamers have been curious when we would get the first next-gen Gears game. The game was announced a year after the Xbox One released along with the poorly kept secret of the Gears of War remastered edition. Fast forward to Fall 2016 and the game is now only days away. The question many people have asked is, “How can they bring back the series if the locust were wiped out?” Well, after playing the game, I can tell you they are a new enemy and that the world has been left a little worse than how we last saw it.

My first impression of the game was the prologue. It opens with a ceremony that lets us get into the head of series hard-ass Hoffman, as he recounts some of the turning points in his career.  We finally see the Pendulum Wars in a short mission that also sees a bittersweet moment for fans of the series. We experience Emergence Day and the horror and shock that the people of Sera had when they first witnessed the brutality of the then-unknown Locust horde. And finally, we see a last stand against the horde that is moments from humanity’s destruction before the being saved by the events of Gears of War 3.

a5While the scenery was nice and it felt like a trip down memory lane, the game would go from intense firefights to a much slower build that allows us to see more of how the world has turned out. The government has become somewhat of a totalitarian police state, with law enforcement being replaced by robotic soldiers and tales of settlements being dealt with permanently. We spend the entirety of Act One facing off against the police-state government while getting to know our new, younger cast. 

I can understand why the developers use Act One as their way of building a new foundation and create their own footprint but I can tell you that this has been one of the hardest times I’ve ever had getting into a Gears game. The characters have their charm and while knowing that the human race has become divided as they had been before E-Day, it was sluggish and even boring.  The firefights were more tedious than they were fun, even feeling like they dragged on for awhile. Thankfully, this test of endurance and dedication pays off and by the end of the Act: we finally return to a more familiar Gears and a story that compels the player to keep moving forward.

From this point forward the game kicks in to full gear (pun slightly intended) and we begin to discover the mystery of our new enemies, The Swarm. We also gain the help of Marcus Fenix, the face of the series and father of our new protagonist. The story continues to make use of the four previous titles in the series, allowing players to easily become immersed in this new, but familiar, world. For the sake of spoilers, we will move on from the story to talk about characters and mechanics going forward.

a3As I had mentioned earlier, the game features a new cast of characters. Younger than the original team, the new group is led by JD Fenix, son of Marcus. He is followed by his friends and newbies to the series, Del and Kait. These characters together have more humor than the previous cast, allowing for the player to view a group that is not constantly on guard. At times, you can still feel a faint hint of bro-ness with JD and Del, but it never gets into the same territory as its predecessor.

The game has the same controls as before, allowing those familiar to jump right in and those new to the series a simple learning curve. While all of the buttons are exactly how you remember them, the game does refine some things. Most notably will be the running. I felt that running was much smoother and easier to control, giving me a better advantage with flanking the enemy and getting out of danger in a pinch. Other tweaks to aiming and lunging over obstacles make the game feel more fluid than it ever did before.

a1A.I. has also been improved, making the enemy more difficult to pin down. The swarm will scatter more than the Locust did in previous games, making player awareness more prominent than before. In a matter of moments, the swarm had separated and converged on my location, causing temporary panic to set in numerous times. This was my experience with the game on normal, so I can safely assume that higher difficulty would require co-op to help soften the blow which I’m sure will be dealt.

Returning to the series will be Horde 3.0.  A staple in the series since Gears 2, horde allows up to 4 players to team up and battle continuous waves of enemies. Players can set up defenses along with choosing a class best suited for them. Each wave increases the difficulty and amount of enemies and even putting players up against Boss enemies after a few waves.

a6I cannot go too much into detail for multiplayer as that is one of the few things I never cared much for in the series. While many gamers will no doubt be hugely concerned with this feature when making their purchase, I’ve only played a few matches of multiplayer and I can safely say that what I played was exactly what I remembered from Gears past. Those who were dedicated to previous games will likely find themselves right at home with this one.

Ultimately, the game is a great addition to the series and successfully builds itself as it’s own thing. Gears of War 4 does a great job in honoring its heritage all the while giving players a renewed interest in the series by creating a whole new mystery to solve and an enemy to defeat. Like Halo, Gears of War is a property that Microsoft has no plans to let sit for too long. Both series were built around a foundation that will continue providing lore and content for generations to come. 

The game is a fun trip down memory lane and after finishing it, I couldn’t be more excited for what’s to come in the future. Marcus will always be my dude thanks to all the time I spent with his team and their adventures, but now it’s all about his son and how he is going to step up to this new threat.

Bottom Line:

Gears of War 4 is a no-brainer for any Xbox One owner. Long time fans and those new to the series will find plenty of content to satisfy their needs. As a budget gamer, I can safely say this is worth full price and should provide anyone when plenty of replay value!

4 out of 5 stars


GEARS OF WAR 4: STANDARD EDITION

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The Standard Edition is the base version of the game, arriving October 11th, 2016.

Digital purchases of the Standard Edition come with Xbox Play Anywhere, which means Buy Once, Play Anywhere. When you purchase a digital copy of Gears of War 4 is on Xbox or PC, you’ll gain instant access to the game on both platforms at no additional cost. Any progression or content you acquire on one platform, including Season Pass and Gear Pack content, will also be available on both platforms regardless of where you buy.

Pre-order from the Xbox Store to get an exclusive Vintage Del Gear Pack — featuring a Vintage Del character skin, emblem, two Vintage weapon skins and a special Vintage Del bounty — as an added bonus for use in Gears of War 4. Pre-ordering digitally also provides instant access to the Gears of War: Ultimate Edition Character Pack for use in Gears of War: Ultimate Edition.

Check with your local retailers for specific preorder items. All pre-orders also come with the Brothers to the End Gear Pack.

Available Editions: Physical and Digital

GEARS OF WAR 4: ULTIMATE EDITION

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Gears of War 4: Ultimate Edition comes with the Standard Edition, plus a bunch of extras for fans to sink their teeth into.

  • EARLY ACCESS: Gears of War 4: Ultimate Edition is your gateway to Early Access to the game, allowing you to play from Friday, October 7th– four days before the release date. This applies to both Physical and Digital editions of the game.
  • SEASON PASS: The Season Pass is your ticket to a bunch of extra perks:
    • Five exclusive digital items as part of the Vintage VIP Pack, including the Vintage JD character skin, Vintage Gnasher and Dropshot weapon skins, Vintage JD Emblem and Vintage JD Bounty for extra XP.
    • Permanent DLC map ownership of over 24 additional maps (two per month for a year) for private play on dedicated servers for all competitive Versus modes and Horde.
    • Access to an exclusive ‘Developer Playlist’ where new maps, modes and features can be tested prior to broad release.
    • Six Gear Packs which unlock special character and weapon skins and XP boosting bounties.
  • PHYSICAL EXCLUSIVE – STEELBOOK CASE: Arm your games cabinet with a premium Steelbook Case for Gears of War 4.
  • DIGITAL EXCLUSIVE – Xbox Play Anywhere: Buy Once, Play Anywhere.  Whether your first digital purchase of Gears of War 4 is on Xbox or PC, you’ll gan instant access to the game on both platforms at no additional cost.  Any progression or content you acquire on one platform, including Season Pass and Gear Pack content, will also be available on both platforms regardless of where you buy.
  • XBOX STORE PREORDERS ONLY: An exclusive Vintage Del Gear Pack — featuring a Vintage Del character model, emblem, two Vintage weapon skins and a special Vintage Del bounty — as an added bonus for use in Gears of War 4. Digital pre-orders gain instant access to the Gears of War: Ultimate Edition Character Pack for use in Gears of War: Ultimate Edition.

All pre-orders also come with the Brothers to the End Gear Pack.

Available Editions: Physical and Digital

PRE-ORDER BONUS:
BROTHERS TO THE END ELITE GEAR PACK

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The Brothers to the End Elite Gear Pack is a new pre-order bonus included with Gears of War 4 that pays homage to some of the most beloved characters from the Gears of War universe, and extends the tradition of offering gold weapons to day one players.

The Brothers To The End Elite Gear Pack contains:

  • “Tomorrow Anya” Character – Named after her famous words following the end of the Locust War (“Tomorrow Marcus. We finally have a tomorrow.”) Her appearance is based on her look in theGears of War 4television commercial, “Tomorrow,” where she was introduced as the mother of JD Fenix.
  • “Old Man Marcus” Character – Featuring an older Marcus Fenix as unveiled in the E3 2016 media briefing demo. Twenty-five years after the Locust War, Marcus and the COG have long since parted ways. His facial hair has grown long and his COG regulation kit has been replaced with by civilian clothes.
  • “Zombie Dom” Character – There’s no keeping a good solider down, at least in the form of this character skin created as tribute to Marcus’ dearly departed best friend Dominic Santiago.
  • Gold Wave Lancer and Gnasher Weapon Skins – Updated versions of the gold weapon skins awarded to the series’ most-dedicated day one players.

The Brothers To The End Elite Gear Pack is included with every edition of Gears of War 4, including the custom Gears of War 4 Limited Edition Xbox One S and our Gears of War 4 Lootcrate.

All new and current pre-order customers will also receive the Vintage Del Pack, which includes the Vintage Del character model and retailer-specific bonus items, including unique weapon skins.

COLLECTOR’S STATUE

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We also know there’s a passionate following of Gears fans who desire Collector’s Editions that come with physical items – such as Gears of War 3’s iconic Marcus Statue. For Gears of War 4, we wanted to provide the most flexible option for fans to purchase how they want and where they want – we’re excited to announce today that we’ve teamed up with Triforce to provide a Collector’s Statue for Gears of War 4!

The statue featured JD on a COG Bike which stands at 11 inches tall, and 19 inches in length. The Statue is also bundled with a Lithograph of the concept art for the COG Bike and an awesome Frag Grenade keychain (perfect for tagging to your keys, not so much for tagging your friends). There’s also two variants of the statue to choose from – JD in COG Armor, or JD in Outsider clothing (exclusive to Amazon US).

By keeping things separate, you can choose how you want to buy Gears of War 4 – physically or digitally, and either of the two editions on offer. Some retailers will be bundling the game with the Collector’s Statue, while others will offer it for standalone purchase. See our FAQ at the bottom of this page for more information.


*** Review provided by freelance writer Andrew Smith for PopCultHQ.

*** Game info and images courtesy of GearsofWar.com

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About Jason Bennett 2437 Articles

Jason Bennett is PopCultHQ’s chief editor, a contributing writer, and comic book reviewer/reporter. One with the Force. Browncoats Unite! So say we all!

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