Gears of War 4 Beta Impressions

Posted on April 20, 2016

So I’ve spent an irrational amount of time in the Gears of War universe over the years. When you ask people which game they’ve spent the most amount of time playing, a common answer would be a time-sink like World of Warcraft, or perhaps a massive RPG like Skyrim or Fallout. Not many would comfortably say ‘Gears of War’… except for me, of course. The original title was the first online shooting game I’d ever played on console, so it holds a special place in my heart. I even got the ‘Seriously…’ Achievement, which requires you to get 10,000 kills in mutliplayer – a mode at the time that had no respawns, so often you’d play for an hour and only get 10 or so kills (20-30 if you were really good, which eventually I was). So I would say based on that rationale that… hang on… 500 hours playing the original Gears.

The scary part is, that doesn’t even shock me.

What I’m saying is I LOVE GEARS OF WAR, OK? So yeah, I’m just a little bit excited about getting stuck into the Gears of War 4 beta and giving it a real crack before the game releases on October 11.

Early thoughts are very positive. It already is looking pretty damn good. Clean, crisp textures and new character models look great, but even the weapons seem to have more detail, and the gore is as satisfying as ever. There’s still nothing quite like turning someone into chunks with a well-placed shot with a Gnasher Shotgun, but even the heads popping under a sniper and the impact of the much-loved Torque bow work well here.

“Basically you guys, it’s super fun.”

While the core gameplay hasn’t evolved a lot since the last time we played Gears multiplayer in its ‘upgraded’ form in Gears of War: Judgment, the multiplayer will likely have a very fresh feeling to anybody who played Gears of War: Ultimate Edition back in October. See, Ultimate Edition was a HD remake of Gears 1, and the multiplayer mostly stayed true to that; older weapons, less execution variety and no meat-shields, for example.

While those things featured heavily in Gears 2, 3 and Judgment, the break from when they were last experienced  3 years ago brings a level of excitement and experimentation back into the multiplayer space which will help give it some legs. Basically you guys, it’s super fun.

Multiplayer lives and dies on the power and accessibility of the maps available, and the three that are on show here so far in Gears of War 4’s beta are all unique yet very familiar in that warm-fuzzy-blanket way that only a bloodthirsty macho game like Gears can provide.  Harbor takes place on docks and docked ships while raining, so visually feels distinct from the more mechanical Dam, which still looks good but often bottle-necks in the same spots for players. Foundation might be one of my all-time favourite Gears maps already though, as it has lots of gaps in the terrain and different vantage points that take place across different heights, which makes for some creative use of the power weapons available and gives a sense that you need to keep your eyes on every angle to avoid a surprising and brutal execution.

Oh!! Did I mention the Dropshot? The new power weapon that is in the beta is  an awesome mine, that you send flying through the air above opponents until you let go of the trigger, dropping it down in all of its explosive glory. The execution for this one is also highly recommended – trust me. Then there’s Dodgeball, a new game mode that strips away your respawn but allows you to bring a teammate back from the dead with every kill. It’s a cute mechanic and reminded me of the Gears of old, and I’m a sucker for nostalgia.

The beta is just a taste of the action we will be expecting in October, but already it’s feeling very refined and well thought out; I can only hope that the rest of the maps (and of course the games co-op single player game) can live up to my own lofty expectations. Consider me planted firmly on the hype train! Toot toot!!