GEARS OF WAR 4 MP BETA - HANDS ON PREVIEW

THE BASICS

- Next gen Xbox exclusive sequel.

- Third person cover shooter, with heavy emphasis on flanking and power weapon control.

- Developed by The Coalition, made up of former Gears team members.

PLATFORMS

Xbox One

PLAYERS

Offline - 1-2, Online - 1-10

CO-OP / MULTIPLAYER

All game modes can played in 2 player split screen and online via Xbox Live.

DOWNLOADABLE CONTENT

- A full season of rotating DLC maps, provided for free.

- Season Pass offers access to developer testing playlist, as well as permanent access to DLC maps for private matches.


TAKEAWAYS

- I can’t say enough good things about the jump in frame rate. Gears 3 could never quite manage a locked 30fps experience, especially online, and seeing The Coalition deliver an almost rock solid 60fps in the beta was especially pleasing. You no longer feel like you’re fighting against inconsistent engine performance.

- The “yank and shank” addresses the age old Gears problem of facing down someone on the opposite side of your cover point. It completely changed how I approached one on one encounters. The “wack a mole” pop and shoot showdown that always looked so silly has been replaced with a neat timing based mechanic that lets you grab players and pull them over for a quick finish. Just like the vault kick (another speedy new animation), this can be countered, which makes it feel balanced and thoughtful.

- There’s a glorious new power weapon in the “Dropshot”, a re purposed mining tool that offers some of the most hilarious death animations I’ve ever seen in a Gears game. You fire off a hovering explosive in a straight line by holding RT, and then let go when you’re above your target for a gruesome finish. It’s quite possible to dodge if you’re on the receiving end, but still very satisfying to use (especially when you encounter players unfamiliar with the mechanics who inadvertently blow themselves up). I’ll BET this ends up a fan favourite.

- Although I don’t know exact measurements of how they stack up, the three maps on offer here feel slightly bigger than those in previous entries. This actually works well, as the multiple flanking routes prevent camping opponents from becoming too entrenched.

You can’t help but feel the weight of responsibility placed upon The Coalition for this long awaited sequel. Gears of War is a beloved and passionately debated franchise, and is in many ways the series that cemented the identity of Microsoft’s Xbox 360. Picking up the mantle from Epic Games, the new team have created a sequel that’s both faithful and refined. This isn’t the radical reinvention naysayers are calling for, nor a like for like replication of classic Gears (the definition of which remains open to interpretation).

We’ve put two solid weeks into this first beta; the first during the early access period and the second when the floodgates were open to all. Our immediate takeaway is that of comforting familiarity, with enough tweaks and additions to justify its place as one of this years hottest console exclusives. The pleasing rhythm of slamming into cover and scrambling for power weapons is present and accounted for, but it feels faster. The sense of weight to player movement and deliciously gory executions are here, but it feels slicker. Although not without it’s problems (disconnects were a semi regular occurrence, and the graphics were clearly not firing on all cylinders), this beta has proved beyond any doubt that this work in progress is shaping up nicely.

- I’d be remiss not to point out a few other tweaks that, as a huge fan of Gears, are genuinely welcome additions. The physics of the B-button kick execution are a lot of more reactive to player positioning. It always used to be very limp and under whelming. Cover is slightly taller, which is huge because players are now better concealed (unless they’re sitting on a corner). Cover is useful again! Marked enemies are also now highlighted with a glowing silhouette on the tac-com, which encourages teamwork and rewards support play styles.

- The addition of a bots only practice playlist is nice, but this is still a very unforgiving game for new comers. The learning curve here is substantial, and will likely be very off putting for those jumping in for the first time. Be ready for a fast paced, hardcore, highly competitive experience. Gears of War 4 multiplayer is rewarding, but prepare to invest the hours.

- After two weeks of playing around with various loadouts, it’s fair to say the Hammerburst is basically redundant. The burst firing rifle has horrible recoil and feels very inconsistent (especially when trying to execute downed enemies at range). The execution camera angles are also borked, leaving you with a view that lacks impact. Hopefully these will be balanced / addressed in the full game.

It was fascinating to see so many players still exhibiting the same old pop up behaviour when faced with an opposite cover showdown. Yank and Shank! It’s the best!

There she is. The Dropshot of doom. Although the splash damage is a touch generous, I still think it fits nicely into the power weapon rotation of a typical Gears TDM. That execution though... Mwah!

JTGA

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and / or unexpected response to a
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a mixed response. It’s normally
something that works in principle,
but could have been executed better.

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you know this is something negative
that’s either disappointing, frustrating,
rage inducing, or all of the above.

TARP BADGE KEY

- The BEST WITH FRIENDS badge is
earned if a game is significantly
more fun playing with people you
know, either in campaign or online.

- The PICK UP AND PLAY badge is
for when a game is better suited to
brief, impromptu sessions that
give a quick blast of escapism.


- The LONE WOLF badge tells you
that a particular game can only be
played, or is more enjoyable, when
you’re flying solo.

- The DEEP DIVE badge is a heads
up that what you’re about to play
is a huge undertaking, and best
enjoyed in extended periods.

- The KITCHEN SINK badge is an
indication of a game that is
bursting at the seams with
content (either on disc or DLC).


- The BAM! DONE! badge lets you
know that within minutes of
picking up the controller, you
can play this like a pro.

- The HOT POTATO badge makes
a really clear statement: this
game is making waves, and it’s
definitely worth a look.

- The LEARNING CURVE badge
is awarded if you’ll need to
allow a fair bit of time in
order to fully grasp the controls.


- The SCEPTICAL FACE badge is for
when a game doesn’t leave a strong
impression. Perhaps more time
is needed to decide?

- The LEFT FIELD badge is awarded
when a game surprises us by being
really good and we’d never heard
of it before.


BEST WITH FRIENDS

PICK UP
& PLAY

LONE
WOLF

DEEP
DIVE

KITCHEN
SINK

LEFT
FIELD

SCEPTICAL
FACE

LEARNING
CURVE

BAM!
DONE!

HOT
POTATO

BEST WITH
FRIENDS

DEEP
DIVE

HOT
POTATO

LEARNING
CURVE

LET US KNOW YOUR THOUGHTS ON THIS ARTICLE!
LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW, TWEET US @JAYTEE_GA, OR E-MAIL: EDITOR@JTGA.CO.UK.

CONCLUSION

Although I’ve soared past the beta level cap and brought to bear my considerable experience with the series, Gears 4 still felt fresh and enticing. I couldn’t help but pick up the pad for “just one more go”. Revisiting this old franchise, smothered in a smooth coating of The Coalition’s iterative ideas, has been a lot fun. There’s a lot to take away here, and I’d be very surprised if this is the one and only opportunity for public beta testing. Gears of War 4 is definitely one to watch.

For more information, check out: https://gearsofwar.com/en-us
Or follow @CoalitionGears on Twitter.

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