Xbox One Exclusive
While it doesn’t come up very often, I can be a bit of a hardcore gamer at times. Once a game grabs me sometimes I have a hard time pulling myself away. And no series in the past decade or so has had such an effect as Gears Of War. I cannot even begin to count the amount of hours that I have spent on multiplayer with my friends throughout the series, most notably with Gears Of War 2 and Gears Of War 3. Hell, I’ve even read all five novels by author Karen Traviss who would eventually help put the story of Gears 3 in place, ending the trilogy. So quite obviously the news that Gears Of War 4 was officially coming down the line had my inner gamer screaming with glee. But then it got better. The series was going to return to its roots. As the series progressed the scope became larger and moved away from some of the aspects that made the first Gears so memorable.
One of the biggest things that both Microsoft and developer The Coalition have been pushing with Gears 4 is that there will be a strong horror element returned to the series. The battles in the campaign are going to be dark, claustrophobic and most importantly, scary. As a certified Gears-nut who also has what some might say is an unhealthy obsession with horror, I couldn’t be more excited. Now, to help polish the multiplayer ahead of the games official launch on October 11th of this year, The Coalition is hosting a beta of the multiplayer, as has become the norm for blockbuster games over the past few years.
Seeing as the game is set about 25 years after the end of Gears Of War 3 (keeping in mind that Gears Of War Judgement served as a prequel offshoot to the original trilogy) players are greeted with a new group of humans. Gone are Marcus Fenix, Dom, Baird and Cole, replaced by a new younger generation of soldiers. The new cast of humans is headed up by JD Fenix, the son of Marcus and Anya. Due to the events taking place at the end of Gears 3, the Locust threat are also nowhere to be found, replaced by an aesthetically similar new race referred to as The Swarm. Truthfully, The Swarm are very similar to what happened when the Locust were infected by the Lambent. But enough of the story, we will get to dive in with that later this year when the full game is released in October. Let’s talk a little about the multiplayer since that is what the beta is focused on.
The Gears 4 beta offers up three maps that can be played across three different game mode playlists. The main mode that will likely see the most hours of gameplay dedicated is returning favorite Team Deathmatch. Two teams of five are given a pool of 15 respawns, and the battle continues until one team has had all of their respawns depleted and one team remains standing victorious. The first team to win two rounds win the match. Since the debut of this multiplayer mode in Gears 3 it has become the go-to playlist of the majority of players, and from my experiences thus far it also seems to be the most popular and utilized match type.
The Gears 4 beta also introduces a new game mode called Dodgeball. Now as fun as it would be to actually see the humans and Swarm engaging in an actual game of dodgeball, the match type offers up a bit of a new twist on the multiplayer. Both teams of five begin with no respawns, and are tasked with eliminating the opposing team. The catch is, eliminated players can be granted a respawn when one of their teammates makes a kill. The mode invites players to be a little more cautious then the typical run in and try and kill whatever you can before you die method of gameplay (of which yours truly is frequently guilty of). Given that many rounds will typically last only a few minutes, the first team to win three rounds wins the match.
The final mode offered up by The Coalition is Co-Op Team Deathmatch. The only difference between this mode and the regular TDM is that as opposed to facing off against other players across Xbox Live, you instead play a team full of bots set at the Hardcore difficulty. For those unfamiliar with the Gears games, there are four different difficulty levels. Casual serves as the Easy mode, followed by Normal being, well, Normal. Hardcore represents the Hard difficulty with Insane rounding out the difficulties as the Expert option. Knowing that, the bots will present a decent challenge for the less experienced and could be considered as target practice for the more hardened Gears player.
In addition to the new playable characters, the beta also introduces one of the new weapons from the game, the Dropshot. Wielding the Dropshot lets you fire off a series of circular saw blades. Players returning to the series will notice somewhat of a kinship between the Dropshot and the Digger from previous games. The method of using it is incredibly similar, but also different enough to feel fresh. Another new weapon for Gears 4 is the Buzz Kill, which allows you to fire off circular saw blades which will bounce off any nearby walls and eviscerate anything that gets in the way. Finally, the combat knives that most of the characters have always had can now be used for executions in certain scenarios.
In the time I’ve spent with the game, one thing that separates Gears Of War 4 from the other games in the series is how flawless it looks and flows, despite this still being a beta a good six months ahead of release. The Coalition is running the game at a crisp and beautiful 60 frames per second, and the Xbox One hardware is being put to good use.
Gamers that had played either the Xbox One or PC version of Gears Of War Ultimate Edition have had access to the beta since last week, starting April 18th, but as of April 25th the beta has been opened to any and all Xbox One players, ensuring that you will never have any difficulty finding a match through the playlist options. As an added incentive, if you are able to reach Level 20 on the beta, you will unlock special skins and bonuses for use once the game releases in October.
If you’re a Gears Of War fan in any way, you will not be disappointed with the Gears Of War 4 beta in any way. To think that The Coalition has another 5 months or so before release can only mean the game will continue to be polished and get even better. I can’t recommend checking the beta out before it closes on May 1st. Who knows, maybe we will run into each other out there……just don’t be cheap with the chainsaw kills!
You can currently get the Gears Of War 4 beta from the Xbox One Dashboard, and you can add me on Xbox Live by visiting my Xbox profile here.