It’s been a while since we last practiced our shooting skills in the world of Gears of War, but after 3 years since the release of Gears of War: Judgement the franchise returns as The Coalition makes their debut with their first complete installment in the franchise. The game was being demoed on Windows 10 at 4K resolution which looked absolutely insane. Microsoft and The Coalition gave us the opportunity to test out a slice of the campaign at Microsoft’s press event.
But is Gears of War 4 the same old Gears? Or is it something new? The answer actually lies somewhere in the middle, as The Coalition has clearly left their mark on the franchise various reason. Gameplay-wise it’s quite familiar to what returning players have come to expect from the franchise, though that is in no way a negative remark in this case. I pretty much knew the ins and outs of general traversal and combat beforehand, but once you pass a few combat scenarios one of the biggest differences in gameplay design becomes quite clear.
Combat encounters, in general, seemed a lot more varied in nature, even though we only got a short 20-minute taster of the game’s contents. I was met with traditional Gears-like encounters with the AI remaining in cover and helping out their allies, but at one point I was met with a World War-Z like onslaught that really played well onto the game’s more dark and horror-like nature, which is where we head into the biggest difference that sets the game aside from its predecessors, which is the rather ‘different’ tone that the game has set.
Whilst the game isn’t setting up to go full into the horror genre, it does have a certain horror-esque tone that plays well into the darker nature of the franchise and sets itself up to refrain from heading into events of a blockbuster-scale, which is rather refreshing considering the AAA market has kind of been saturated with these kinds of titles. Alongside the new thematic narrative, the game has also lost a lot of its dude-bro-themed dialogue, exchanging it for a more natural flow of dialogue with more grounded characters, though, the classic balls to the wall action of gameplay remain unaffected by this welcome change in writing.
Does it play well? Definitely. Do to core mechanics feel fresh? I wouldn’t say so, but in the case of Gears of War, that may not exactly be a bad thing. Seemingly taking notes from the later titles and the Gears of War Remaster, Gears 4 feels tight and responsive in its controls and core gameplay, which is arguably what a lot of returning players have been waiting for, and acting as an easy point of entry for new players, The Coalition may have done a good thing by adopting familiar gameplay elements and doubling down on a thematic semi-reboot of the franchise. Active-reloading feels as satisfying as it always did, and the tighter controls of the sequels remain intact, creating a strong basis that will rely on the combat scenarios within the campaign itself, though the taster we got in our demo did give us a lot of assurance that this is being well taken care of.
This all comes down to the fact that Gears of War 4 doesn’t seem like an incredibly renewing chapter in the franchise, but it is the kind of thematic reboot that the franchise may have needed in order to fight off any possible franchise fatigue in the near future. What we’ve played and seen shows lots of promise, and it’s good to see that the franchise is in capable hands with The Coalition.