Gears of War has been one of Microsoft’s flagship franchises, giving us many memories of bulky dudes wielding chainsaw guns and grunting a lot. It’s obviously a very important franchise for Microsoft as a lot of Xbox’s current fans were turned on to the consoles by the games. So as we are entering the sophomore era of the current generation, Microsoft is about to drop a new Gears on us in the form of Gears of War 4, following the story of Marcus Fenix’s son, JD. We got an opportunity to try out the closed multiplayer beta for the game, which will go live for people that have played the Ultimate Edition today and will be in open beta on the 24th of April. Of course, as is usual with Beta impressions, this isn’t a representation of the final product and a lot of things can change between now and release.
When I jumped into my first game, which was a traditional team deathmatch, I got a sudden wave of familiarity when I got thrown into the action. I knew which buttons to press and what to do just based on instincts that I’ve gained throughout the years of playing the franchise. Everything felt just like I left it, but it also had an air of newness to it. Like an old car that had a spraypaint and some new rims attached.
The game ran buttery smooth at 60 fps, but I can sort of see they had to make some compromises for it when I look at the visual fidelity of the immediate environments. But everything still looked pretty good and also slightly different than what I was used to. It feels more bright than the previous games in the franchise, but of course, my eyes and memory can deceive me. The maps I played also looked a bit more generic if I can use a slightly derogatory term. Almost standard fare compared to the lavish and interesting locations of previous games.
The gameplay makes you feel right at home. The good old cover system is back without a lot changes made to the formula, you still roadie run your ass off, roll around trying not to get Gnashered in the balls and so on. Active reloading is back with the great feature of reloading even if you have a full clip for that delicious damage boost. There are some new features, however, in the form of Close Cover Combat system that allows you to yank people out of cover opposite you or vault over cover and kick someone in the teeth. This makes you a little more aware of your cover since some jagoff can just yank you out of it and stab you in the face with a knife. If you’re quick enough, you can counter this by pressing B during a sort window of time. It’s honestly not much, but it gives the combat a touch more excitement.
Standard weapons remain much the same as their older counterparts, with the Lancer, Gnasher, Hammerburst and Snub Pistol making their new generation debut with their previous charms intact. The power weapons around the map include the classic Torque Bow, Boomshot and Longshot, as well as a new weapon called the Dropshot that launches an explosive in the air and whoever stands under it gets blown to smithereens.
But what was the gameplay actually like? It was much the same old fun experience I enjoyed from the previous Gears games albeit with a new coat of paint and a new enemy force called the Spawn. While there’s something to be said about the fact that the gameplay hasn’t really deviated from the standard Gears formula, I think of it in a more “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” style. Sure, there’s not that much innovation, but it’s still a really fun experience. The Gnasher duels are still pretty rampant and the satisfaction of chainsawing someone in the face that didn’t expect it is still very much there.
I think once they introduce more weapons into the fray, more diverse maps and more gameplay modes, then there’s real potential here for a genuinely good multiplayer experience. Does it have me worried? A little. There’s the slight niggle in my mind that it will just a be a copy paste from previous iterations which I’ve played so much of already, but a part of me is still pretty excited to be back in the fracas that is a Gears of War multiplayer match.
A local problem that I have to address is how much latency there was in matches. The ping wasn’t super unplayable with it hovering at what I think is 200ms, but it did impact my play quite a bit at times. You can tell that us South African can hurt not having a local server, but that might of course change. Also the matchmaking sometimes took forever and a day, but this can be because the servers aren’t really populated, which they will be real soon.
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