What you won’t like

Cynics may suffer from Gears fatigue

JD performs an execution in Gears of War 4.

Above: JD performs an execution in Gears of War 4.

Image Credit: Microsoft

Gears of War 4 fans who are not among the faithful may get tired of this kind of game. You’ll encounter several familiar tropes in this story. A father who spurns his son. A mother who needs to be rescued. A squad of four brothers (and a sister) who develop a camaraderie. Plenty of banter that keeps the tone from getting too dark. And above all, you’ll see plenty of blocks in the terrain in Gears of War 4 that tell you you’re about to be in a very big firefight.

These are the things that Gears of War fans want, but they may also feel like the game has become formulaic. I didn’t mind this myself, but I can see cynical gamers saying that they’ve played this game a few times already. As an example, I really didn’t need one of the bosses in the game to be a helicopter. I’ve done that enough in many other games.

I also felt the design of The Swarm was a creative failure, particularly in the characters that bore too much resemblance to the Locust grunts. That could produce some serious Gears fatigue. I have to say that I didn’t mind this all that much, as I saw some nice variety between the DeeBees and the Swarm. But I could see those prone to negativity getting angry about this.


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Sometimes the story gets silly

The old Fenix household in Gears of War 4. Did we really have to spend all that time there?

Above: The old Fenix household in Gears of War 4. Did we really have to spend all that time there?

Image Credit: Microsoft

When the giant mechs come into the story, you get some serious payback against the Swarm. But while I was gleeful when blowing up the tiny monsters, the developers lost a little bit of their control with the storyline. Not only did some of the scenes become unbelievable, they shook off some of the effect of the drama around Kait and her lost mother. If you pack too much humor into a dramatic story, you get some tonal dissonance.

I enjoyed a joke or two when Marcus Fenix complained about the loss of some of his heirlooms at his estate. But the game spends an awful long time at that estate, and that joke gets old. It only takes one or two such transgressions to make you feel like the developers crossed a line in trying to insert one more joke or funny scene.

I also had some questions about the plot, like why it takes so long for Jin to figure out The Swarm is a really big threat and that she should really be fighting with JD’s squad, not against it. It tests your patience, particularly if you really want a story to go with all the fighting.


A guard in Gears of War 4.

Above: Battling a helicopter in Gears of War 4.

Image Credit: Microsoft

Gears of War 4 is a very well-executed, bug-free game with awesome technical effects. The single-player campaign is on the short side at nine hours, but it gives you everything that you want and expect in a Gears of War game. The Coalition does a decent job walking the tightrope of providing something that fans want and giving them something different at the same time. The Horde mode has taken the co-op play in a very good direction, and I expect that fans are going to enjoy multiplayer quite a bit as well. If I had to pick one flaw, it’s that this game has too wide a range, with a lot of humor and a lot of terror all at once.

But I’m confident that this won’t be the last Gears game, and it will be a much-needed boost for Microsoft’s fortunes in the console war.

Score: 87/100

Gears of War 4 comes out on October 11 on the PC and Xbox One. The publisher supplied GamesBeat with a copy of the game on the Xbox One for the purpose of this review.

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