A New Beginning for the Franchise

Gears of War is back. The original was one of my favorite titles on the Xbox 360, and for a while, it might just have been one of my favorite titles on any console. However, I played it so much that by the time the sequel came out, I was already burned out on the franchise. I didn’t play much of Gears 2 even though I had pre-ordered its collector’s edition. When the third game rolled around, I was more in the mood to play yet it still didn’t even come close to having the impact the original had on me. I skipped the subsequent games (Judgement, Gears of War: Ultimate Edition) altogether. My interest in the series lately had been nil.

Then the trailers for Gears of War 4 came out, and it piqued my interest. I liked that you played as Marcus Fenix’s (the original trilogy’s main protagonist) son, and I was curious as to where they were going with the storyline. When I got the chance to review the game, I thought “Eh, let’s give it a shot!”

These are my impressions of the single-player campaign so far.

Gears of War 4

Marcus Fenix, all old and grumpy. That last part isn’t new though. (source)

How Does it Play?

Gears of War 4 plays like Gears of War. Surprised? You shouldn’t be! It’s almost exactly the same. However, there are a bunch of new weapons to play around with which does change up the gameplay somewhat, and makes it feel fresh. Oh, and they didn’t stop at new weapons! Be prepared to face off new enemies. As someone who didn’t closely follow the game’s development, I was very pleasantly surprised when seeing the new foes. This definitely helps the game distinguish itself from its predecessors.

Gears of War 4 gives you more mobility options than the previous games did. It’s now easier to jump over cover for example, as the game gives you a few ways to do so. This is very helpful, as the game’s pace is (sometimes) faster than I remembered from the previous releases. Some of the enemies are so fast that staying in cover while shooting at them is not a viable tactical decision, which is a departure for the series, at least from what I recall. You also get some new moves, such as being able to grab enemies close to you while behind cover, and violently bring them over to your side and executing them. Satisfying! Plus, in some parts of the campaign, you can build weapons and fortifications like you can in the game’s multiplayer horde mode, which greatly suprised me.

All in all, if you’ve played the previous games, you will feel right at home here, while appreciating some of the subtle changes Gears of War 4 is bringing to the table.

Can you spot some of the new weapons?

Can you spot some of the new weapons? (source)

How Does it Look?

It looks AMAZING. I cannot say this enough: the game’s visuals blew my mind. The Gears series is known for having fantastic graphics, but they were also set in nightmarish post-apocalyptic environments, where everything was smashed up and destroyed. Not exactly a paradise island. But this Gears of War 4 is set 25 years after Gears of War 3, which means that the war against the Locust has been over for a while. People have had time to rebuild, and nature has grown back with a vengeance. I cannot state how beautiful this game is, it’s like they hired a bunch of nature and beauty lovers and went “Can you pretty up Gears of War for us please? We’re tired of the brown and black.”

The characters also look great, and a lot of them have actual clothes on in lieu of the bulky, manly armor we’re used to see. For the admirers of everything tough and manly among you, don’t worry: the bulky armors do make a comeback eventually. Yet the characters wearing them are not as bulky as the previous ones were, and that’s good.

Oh and, just wait until you see some of those environmental effects. I almost crapped my pants. I literally stopped trying to survive just to look around me during a few sequences. Hey, if I’m going to die, I want to die with my eyes tearing up!

Gears of War 4

The game has gorgeous visuals. (source)

How Does it Feel?

Gears of War 4 feels modern. Gone are the overly macho characters, or most of them at least. Gears of War was the poster-child for everything macho in video games, with bulky muscular characters screaming, shooting and chainsawing their way through equally muscular humanoid enemies. It was bloody, it was aggressive, and, well, it was macho. And while Gears 3 had two female characters as part of the main squad, which was quite progressive for 2011, even they were rough and bulky.  This could be explained by the game’s setting (it could be argued that there is no place for tenderness in an all-out war against invading monsters), but it was still pretty obvious who the games’ target audience was.

This new title however is a bit more subtle. Now now! It’s still plenty aggressive, don’t get me wrong, but with a touch of humanity added in. Its characters are more relatable, that’s for sure. These might be the best set of characters the series has ever had, and they’re a diverse bunch to boot. The game also seems to touch upon issues of governmental oppression, and the characters have some comments about gender norms, which I found interesting and refreshing.  I’m really onboard with this new storyline.

Marcus Fenix in the center, and the new characters on the sides. Notice the difference in bulk?

Marcus Fenix in the center, and the new characters next to him. Marcus looks like a freaking bodybuilder. (source)

This is Where I gushed All Over it

I’m stunned by what I’m about to say, but I am absolutely loving Gears of War 4 so far. Yes, I haven’t really played a Gears title in 4-5 years, so that’s certainly long enough for me to get over my series fatigue. Still, this is a step in the right direction. It has diverse characters, great visuals, amazing environmental effects, and a storyline that feels relevant-ish to our current political and social climate and it still has a whole lot of satisfying action! We’ll have our final review of the game — including our impressions of the multiplayer — out for launch day. Update: read the full review here! Have fun!

DISCLAIMER: Gears of War 4 review copy provided by Xbox Canada. The opinions expressed in the article above have not be affected by, dictated or edited in any way by the provider. For more information please see Girls on Games’ Code of Journalistic Ethics.