It has been 5 years, almost 6, since the last numbered Gears of War game has come out. Players have been asking, “Where is Gears? It is usually a launch game to bring in the new generation of Xbox.” Well, it is on the way. I had the luxury of playing Gears of War 4’s demo story mode, as well as having some time with the new Horde 3.0 at PAX2016, and it was definitely an experience worth waiting for. They have kept almost everything that we loved in Gears 3 and added a goodly amount of new content as well.
I will start with Horde mode, as it was the most engaging (for me, anyways). Before you start fighting locust in swarms in Gears of War 4, you get to pick from a number of class cards that add to your abilities. These range from increasing damage to giving you extra ammo or adding different mechanics to your guns (this is by no means an exhaustive, all inclusive list). Depending on your player level you can have up to 5 or 6 different cards selected.
During the start of the mode you and another teammate must bring a giant chest that acts as a sort of hub that all you and your teammates will go back to periodically. A new mechanic introduced is when an enemy dies they will leave behind energy. Energy is basically parts or materials to create barriers, turrets, and even revive dead teammates back at the hub. Everyone can collect these, and you all share the same pool of it, but the Scout class collects them at double the amount if they collect Energy during combat.
Speaking of the Scout class, there are now classes in the game. All of them play a role in the mode and you can have multiple of the same class, but it is good to have different classes all spread out so you can cover an array of options during the encounters. The list of available classes includes the Heavy, a Sniper, Engineer, Scout, and a Soldier class as well. The ways these classes modify gameplay varies. Heavies, for instance, get to start the mode with a Boomshot weapon, while Engineers get discounts in the Hub when making barriers or turrets. These additions definitely add to the depth of the mode and make it MUCH more team oriented.
There were a few enemies I encountered in my ventures in Gears of War 4 that have not been seen before, either. One that stood out was the Snatcher. This freaky enemy looks like a giant leech with legs and is NO ONES friend. He leaps around the battlefield trying to latch onto any of the human players and take them out of the fight. If the team doesn’t come to the rescue of the downed player, the Snatcher will proceed to eat said players face (and no one wants that, except the Snatcher).
Another new enemy was the Guardian, a flying shield with a machine gun. It has an energy shield surrounding about 3/4ths of its body that you can choose to focus and destroy, but it takes concerted effort. When you do down this enemy, it acts sort of like a weapon spawn, as you can pick the machine gun out of its rusting corpse and use it against the rest of the oncoming foes.
Don’t think I (nor the Devs) forgot about the new weapons either. The Coalition have developed some new killer hardware for Gears of War 4 that I will personally rave about now. First, we have the Dropshot. This weapon shoots out a flying mine with a laser pointer pointed directly down. The first enemy to break this line has the mine drop directly onto them and explode. The thing about this weapon is that there is a small delay for it deploy the laser sensor because it moves so quickly, so timing and positioning are going to be key to making this weapon really effective.
The second weapon that bears mentioning is the Buzzkill. Now, this thing is something right out of a post-apocalyptic movie, as it shoots a buzz saw blade that bounces around all the walls, cutting everything in its path. Pretty sweet. Horde and multiplayer are also bringing new spiked and exploding bats to the ballgame as well. The myriad of new weapon choices further increases your tactical options on the battlefield.
The curated story mode on offer during the demo wasn’t that long. While it only took me about 15 – 20 minutes to complete, it wasn’t short on entertainment. I progressed through a corridor as the new main character alongside 3 others in your group, including old man Marcus Phenix. After a series of cover shootouts with the Locust, I came across a giant lightning tornado that threatened the life of my party. The tornado constantly pushes the player backwards, so you’re fighting for ground the whole way, whether there are enemies or not.
Old man Marcus decided we need to press forward and get to a shelter building just ahead. The closer we got to the shelter, the worse off the tornado seemed to be. At this point, we were racing against time, as the tornado continued shooting streams of lightning while we continued fighting Locust. So, as you’d expect, I get to the shelter, but the storm destroys it and the demo ends. It was epic all the way through, and I am excited for the actual game to continue.
Gears of War 4 is going to be the a much needed sign that there are still good games coming out for the Xbox One. If you aren’t already, you’ll want to be paying attention to this game when it comes out, as it will be a critical title for the platform.