Review: Gears of War 4

As a ring into October, I challenged my followers on Twitter again to engage in yet another “Tina’s First” poll to decide what would be the next big leap into a new game franchise.  This was a big step as I had just come away from an incredibly hard month that caused me to shy away from all video games.  I needed something to just veg out on and was so excited when Gears of War 4 was selected as my latest game to test out.  I remember watching the gameplay demo at E3 and thinking just how stunning the game looked and how pumped the fans in the audience seemed to be excited for what was to come.  Needless to say, I was jumping aboard the hype wagon for a game I had never been a part of.  To say that this is my first exposure to the Gears of War franchise would be misleading.  I have seen about 20 minutes of gameplay from the first game in this series.  I own all the original three games in the franchise because the Xbox I purchased last Christmas was the Gears of War special edition, but I have never once played through them (much to the dismay of my gear head boyfriend).  Looking back, I consider the purchase of this special edition Xbox a foreshadowing of the fact this game has become one of my favorite co-op games.

One thing that got me pumped about this game was the fact that there was a female as one of the four main characters you play throughout this game.  As a female gamer, often I end up playing a man in the more ‘shoot ‘em up’ style of game.  This is something I’ve accepted and for the most part, I do not have a problem with.  Gaming has, historically, had a larger male audience than a female one and so it makes sense that developers would appeal to their audience.  But when a game markets the fact that there is going to be a key playable character who is female, I’m going to be a little excited and want to choose the girl.  When I bought this game, I got super excited to play the campaign mode as Kate.  It was thoroughly disappointing when I found out that if you are playing the single-player campaign mode, you are forced to play the main protagonist JD.  It is only with the co-op playthrough of the campaign mode can you get the option to choose to play either Kate or JD’s friend Del.  This is one thing I don’t understand, because the game plays out in almost the same manner regardless of if you play as JD or if you play as one of the other characters.  There is only the slightest difference but not enough to warrant a complete removal of this option from the single player mode.  It irked me because it meant that the character that I wanted to play, the character that was sold to me throughout the E3 presentation, and the character that I could relate to the most was not an option unless I had a friend who wanted to help me out for the campaign mode.  Do you know how hard it is to convince a friend to play co-op CAMPAIGN mode with you?  It’s not easy, especially if all they want to focus on is getting skins in Horde mode.  If you are going to sell a female character in your presentation, at least make sure it’s a viable option across both solo and co-op campaign so that way your female audience doesn’t need to try and find a friend to play with.

After I bribed my boyfriend to play co-op campaign mode with me, and after purchasing a brand-new controller to actually play co-op, we were able to play through the game.  It was surprising to me how easy the controls could be picked up by someone new to the series.  The game is kind in that theprologue not only functions as a sort of catch up in the story for those, like myself, who are not as familiar with the story of Gears of War, but it also functions as a tutorial for basic functions you will use throughout the game.  During this prologue, you also get familiar with some of the guns you will find in the series which is a huge plus to learn before getting into the actual game.  The motions were fluid and smooth and the punishment for not getting it done perfectly the first time around was not harsh which was a huge plus.  Even in the actual game itself, the games mechanics just felt so polished.  There was never once a moment where I felt like the game was bugging out or the controls were clunky.  From the beginning to the end I felt totally comfortable and within my element, which made for a very pleasing gameplay experience.  This kind of ease is so crucial for when you want to try and revamp a series as it helps transition new players into your game and ensure gameplay longevity.  Coalition did a great job at maintaining existing fandom while appealing to the newer generation of Gears.

 The actual story itself is decent, but it’s not amazing.  It kept me engaged while I was playing through it, but it’s not something that I will be playing again.  There are collectibles spattered across the game that you can discover throughout your adventure, but that is the only incentive to go back and play through it again.  There was a lot of throwback to the previous games that I was only able to pick up on because my boyfriend is an avid Gearhead and could clue me in on some of the key moments that went over my head.  Regardless of the throwbacks, the games didn’t rely on these moments to write the story of this game.  I appreciate this immensely, since it shows that the writers at Coalition are serious about revamping this series and are not looking for an easy way to make a buck from a popular game franchise.  I very much got the “Here’s where we’ve come from, here’s where we’re going” vibe from the games writing and it makes me extremely excited to see what’s in store.

All in all, this game was a lot of fun to experience.  At this point, I’m still playing the game but I am playing on Horde mode only which is a ton of fun.  If any of our readers are curious as to where to start post beating campaign mode, I highly recommend this since it’s familiar mechanics but does require you to multi-manage your base and mitigate damage a bit more.  I am not a great shooter in video games, so I don’t feel comfortable going into the PVP realm just yet.  I’m hoping to in the next week or so I’ll be ready because I’ve heard nothing but amazing things about it.  This game has created a new fan in me, and at this point, I’m planning on going back to play the first three games in this series within the next few weeks.  This game is heavily multiplayer oriented as the campaign story mode only lasts about 8-9 hour’s total.  This was disappointing as this was a $60.00 game and as a predominately RPG oriented gamer, I would’ve liked to see a little bit more from this side.  But this game has other perks surrounding the different modes including different skill points or skins.  The split screen co-op is also a huge bonus since this is a feature that is sorely lacking in many video games as of late.  All in all, this game gets an 8 out of 10.