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.  

Preview: We Happy Few

*Please Note: The Gamer HUD was given a preview build of the game since the final product is still in development.

     It has been almost a full day since my last meal and the lack of sleep has also begun to take a toll on the stories character, Arthur Hastings. Since my rations at the bunker have long since been consumed, I now find myself combing the darkened streets of Wellington Wells, the setting for Compulsion Games next title We Happy Few. With my vision now becoming blurry, I come across an rather worn looking building that has some kind of a hand made security alarm rigged of cans and string. Glancing inside, I see a gentleman standing over a fire with a pot of some kind of food slow cooking over it- and it’s at this moment that I start to realize that this has become a “better me than you” situation. While I normally find myself taking the high road in nearly all previous games where they offer a choice system, it is becoming more apparent that Arthur is starving to death and his time is running out. It is once that I have accepted this terrible reality, I burst through the front door of this mans home, causing the cans to crash to the floor and him immediately turning towards me, ready to defend his meal. Using a rather large stick that I had found on the street outside, I take the man down in a few solid swings- dodging his counter attacks. As he melts to the floor and I realize the fight has been won, I make my way to the score. Just as I pick up the food and am now considering scavenging the rest of the flat, I hear a woman running past the doorway saying aloud, “This means more food for us!”- and once again I am fighting for my survival. 

     Probably the best part about this entire scenario that I just walked you through, is there were at least 10 more moments that I could have chosen- none of which are scripted, but rather random events that I stumbled upon while exploring the immersive world of Wellington Wells. Thanks to the procedurally generated world, my version of Wellington Wells and yours, although both will have the dark and ominous presence that is intertwined with every aspect of the world, both will be setup differently. In my 5+ hours that I have spent with the preview build, I am happy to say that the gaming community will have a lot to look forward to when the final version releases sometime in 2017.

     We Happy Few is a first person survival game with RPG elements in which you have to monitor your characters well being such as: water intake, sleep deprivation, and food consumption. From weapon creation and item gathering, this game has a lot more depth than I had originally anticipated. For the alpha build that we were given to preview, we did not have access to any additional narrative content other than what was shown in the E3 gameplay demo, however we were given access to its open world of Wellington Wells and some of its side quests that it offers.      

      When first approaching the preview and learning that it would not include anymore of the incredibly enticing narrative shown off during E3 2016, I was interested to see how the rest of the game would hold up. It is safe to say that it will not only be the narrative that will keep you coming back for more, but for the gameplay loop that challenges to you survive as well as the interesting side missions they offer. One quest in which I was challenged to stop a runner by the name of “Crazy Legs”, was an interesting feat for me to complete since I had to time it perfectly and those around me immediately wanted to join in the fray when it would begin. So what started out as a task to stop an individual from running, turned into an all out street brawl between some of the towns citizens and Crazy Legs himself. 

     One thing that I have been asked now on multiple occasions, is the games comparison to the Bioshock franchise. Coming out of the E3 gameplay preview, people were buzzing about We Happy Few since it offered a similar artistic style to that of Bioshock Infinite, however that is where the similarities stop. While it is understandable to get that impression initially, its gameplay and ominous tone offers a completely different take- leaving this comparison rather flat. We Happy Few will be a title that stands on its own two legs, rather than the fame of another. 

     Both PC and Xbox players have the ability to check out the alpha now via the respective systems Preview Program. Compulsion Games has promised that players will get to experience the continual expansion of the procedural world over the course of the games development, but we get to use this small taste of the game as a chance to get acclimated to the rules and features of Wellington Wells before We Happy Fews final release next year.  In the mean time, I think I’d better take my ‘Joy’ and try to blend in, people seem to be getting suspicious of me and I’ve got to avoid detection if I’m going to survive. Wish me luck.