One editor goes hands-on with the beta for Gears of War 4 prior to its release, and comes away impressed and eager to see how the final game will turn out.
I was in attendance during Microsoft’s E3 2015 press conference, when Rod Fergusson stepped out on stage and revealed Gears of War 4 to the world. The darkened USC Galen Center exploded with excitement as the demo played through to its cliffhanger climax, leaving many longtime fans eager to get their hands on the title as soon as humanly possible – myself included. Quite a bit of time has passed since the game was first shown off, but newfound Gears developer The Coalition is finally ready to give fans a taste of what they can expect from Gears of War 4 later this October.
After much anticipation, my time finally came to try out Gears 4‘s beta through an early access code, and it quickly hit me in a way that the series’ latest iteration, Judgment, had failed to do. In that sense, it’s been almost five years since I’ve felt a rush similar to the various and recurring circumstances of Gears of War 3, but that all changed once I booted up the beta and dove into my first round of Team Deathmatch. Suffice it to say, there’s a lot more familiarity in this fresh take of the series – oh, and it’s an absolute blast.
The tried and true, heart-racing multiplayer gameplay that so many Gears fans have come to know and love has officially made its triumphant return on Xbox One. Diving into the beta’s Team Deathmatch mode felt like a homecoming of sorts, as I rolled, roadie-ran, mounted cover, and got blown to gory chunks over and over again. As it turns out, all that time away from the battlefield left me incredibly rusty, but it all started coming back after a dozen or so rounds – at least enough so that I was able to pull off the new knife execution.
To clarify, while this feels like a return to form, The Coalition has been busy implementing several changes within Gears of War 4 to make it feel more like a natural evolution of the series. One of these additions comes in the form of a new grabbing mechanic which encouraged me to reach over a piece of cover and pull a foe on the opposite side over to me. In this moment, I was given the option to pull out a knife and brutally murder my nemesis by tapping the ‘Y’ button, causing me to draw my blade and carve up the sad sap like a turkey at Thanksgiving dinner. Yes, it’s as violent as you’d imagine.
Of course, executions are challenging to pull off in the heat of battle, and they rarely present themselves as an option in the shotgunners’ paradise that is Gears 4‘s multiplayer. Hammerburst and Lancer fire still light up the battleground, but the Gnasher is an invaluable weapon when it comes down to those crucial final moments of a round. Of course, power weapons cause plenty of upset to this dynamic, with the Torque Bow and Boomshot making their triumphant return. Then there’s the Dropshot, a brand new armament making its debut in the beta that sends a floating mine of sorts over cover – allowing users to drop it down on foes behind cover by releasing the right trigger button.
For those curious, there are a total of three maps featured within the trial: Foundation; Harbor; and Dam. Despite lacking major set pieces or various levels of interactivity that multiplayer maps in recent Gears titles have featured – something that is hopefully rectified in the final game – each battlefield feels unique because of the colors that fill them and the locales they take place in. For example, the blue and orange accents of Foundation work incredibly well, as they strike an engaging chord for anyone that’s grown tired of the grungy brown and gray aesthetic of the series. Meanwhile, the seaside environment of Harbor makes for an incredibly nice change of scenery, loaded with relevant and appropriate waste-high cover options.
The only detractor from the beta is that it lacks the visual polish that many may have expected from the first true current-gen iteration of the franchise. This will likely change in the build up to the game’s release (it is a beta, after all), but the textures featured on each character look like something that could have been rendered on the Xbox 360. Still, it’s the gameplay that will rope players in, as the thrill of survival and the rush that accompanies each and every hard-fought kill is central to the experience that The Coalition is trying to provide.
I found the experience I’ve come to know and love in a brand new setting during this beta, and I’m confident that fans will realize the exact same thing after booting it up. This is just a taste of what is yet to come – with some awesome rewards for those willing to play to level 20 – and it’ll be interesting to see how much everything changes in the final few months leading up to the game’s full release. After sinking hours into the beta, however, it’s nice to admit: Gears is finally back.
Gears of War 4‘s beta will open up to Gears of War: Ultimate Edition owners on April 18th, with everyone with Xbox Live Gold having the option to participate beginning April 24th. It will then come to an end on May 1st.