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Microsoft wants to show you that it can do cover shooting without Epic.

Gears of War 4’s beta is coming April 18 for players who qualify for “early access,” according to Microsoft. This is a test of the first new release in the series for the Xbox One and Windows 10, and this early trial period will run through May 1. Anyone who boots up Gears of War: Ultimate Edition, a collection of the Xbox 360 Gears of War games, before April 11 will get entry into the early part of the beta as Microsoft begins sending out invite codes in waves. On April 24, anyone who has Xbox Live Gold on Xbox One will have access to the Gears of War 4 technical demo.

These kinds of tests are a big deal for both players and gaming companies as they enable consumers to try out something new and exciting while giving publishers an easy way to check how their products perform in real-world situations. Simultaneously, Microsoft is also using this beta to market Gears of War 4 and to get gamers engaged so that they are more likely to buy the final release.

Gears of War is a cover-based sci-fi shooter. It takes place in a grim world where players control hulking marines who fight off waves of monsters. On the Xbox 360, Gears of War was one of the first major releases, and it helped define that generation of consoles. This helped Epic Games, developer of Gears of War, to establish the Unreal Engine tech that it used to build the shooter as an industry-standard tool that dozens of companies ended up implementing on  Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

In 2014, Microsoft acquired the full rights to Gears of War, and now the company develops it internally under a new studio called The Coalition.

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