Wednesday 19 October 2016

A.J Waters' Spoiler-Free Review: Gears Of War 4

Now, as the title suggests, this is going to be a spoiler-free zone as far as Gears of War 4 goes. However, I am just going to go ahead and assume that, seeing as you are reading this and taking an interest, you have played and completed the games in the franchise that came before it. So if you’ve not completed its predecessors but plan to in the coming days, weeks or months, then I suggest you scream at your computer, hit yourself in the ear a couple of times and look away now. Seriously. There will be spoilers.

Dom dies in the third one. See? That could’ve been avoided if you just did as you were told. So are we ready? Excellent. Now then, let’s move on.

As far back as I can remember with the Xbox 360, I have been a huge fan of the Gears of War franchise. The characters, the story, the badass weapons, the way that the Carmine family can’t even soldier, and even the varieties of Locust that try to drink your bloodzies. There have been plenty of games that provide you with deep character profiles, customisable mechanics, plot twists, alternative endings with multiple choice decisions, breath-taking cinematics and OSTs that just make your heart pound.

By contrast, Gears of War said ‘Fuck all that!’ and just gave you balls-deep gun action until your thumbs hurt. And that’s all we’ve come to expect from The Coalition (and formerly Epic Games) when it comes to this particular co-op friendly series that gamers across the globe have had such an amazing relationship with. However, like all relationships, we’ve noticed that this certain love of ours has picked up some very annoying habits along the way.

Let’s start from the beginning. Gears of War 4 takes place 25 years after the war against the Locust has ended and all is well in the world. Well, sort of. Marcus’ kid takes the lead role and he is somewhat of a shit, running around with some raggedy-arsed “outsiders” (their word, not mine) and stealing stuff from the COG for a living. So with that, you get to fight some COG-Manufactured robots (after all, we can’t have you killing living members of the COG, that would defeat the purpose) and it’s a mechanic I found to be a breath of fresh air into this very linear but lovable franchise. But wait…

Shortly into the game I found that I cared very little about the main characters, a new trio going by the names JD (that’s Marcus’s kid), Kait and Del. JD is a very two-dimensional character that I personally couldn’t stand. I don’t know what it was, but I just couldn’t relate to the guy. Kait, probably the best of the bunch, was a character with potential, but whose only function (at the fault of the developers) seemed to be to appeal to female players. I mean that in the most cynical way possible, in a way that almost seemed alienating, as though she was created by a bunch of guys who knew nothing about what women wanted, but thought “Yeah, that’ll keep the feminists off our backs!"

It's to the point that it made her quite unlikable, and without going into too much depth there's a bit in a hospital that feels particularly clunky. It's a shame because she seems to be the only character who has more than one level to her personality. As for the character Del, well, he’s just your “Ah hell no” or “oh dayum!” comic relief black guy that, again, just gave me the impression that all the developers were not only all-male but also all-white, and maybe didn't know any black people apart from those off the TV. To sum up, the characters were crap. It's a shame, because I loved all the older characters in the past games, including all those Carmines that kept dying.

Another thing about these characters is that they tell way, WAY too many jokes all the time which just made them so irritating that I wanted nothing more than to brush their teeth with wire brush angle grinders until they finally stopped twitching and gave in to the sweet release of death. When they weren’t making crap jokes, they were constantly repeating themselves with poorly-timed audio bites. One in particular was Kait forever saying “Get back in your pod!” every fucking time she killed something, which made me want to put her in the naughty corner to think about what she’s done and that she’s not allowed to leave until all the Locust are dead. All of them. Every last one of them. And when I say ‘poorly-timed’, I mean exactly that. For example, you’d be in the middle of a firefight, bullets flying everywhere, you’ve already dropped six Locust and someone will suddenly blurt out “we’ve got a Locust!”. Really? You think so? Because I would never have fucking guessed! And don’t get me started on the AI. Too late! I’ve started!

In the old days, it was a pretty level playing field. Everyone shot at everyone and everything was fun, furious – but fair – mayhem. Nope. Not anymore. Now the baddies will come after YOU. And just YOU. They don’t care about the other Gears shooting at them anymore. In fact, they will even barge past the other Gears, completely ignoring them, just to come after you, which sucks. Another crap mechanic of this game was the new Storm flares they have. This isn’t a flare you throw at things. No, no, no, this is an electrical storm that they keep trying to use as a plot device every few chapters because they can’t be arsed to think of anything else to throw the game off balance. Plus, when it comes to your teammates reviving you, they will (6 times out of 10) run over to you, and just stare at you while you bleed out.

You think I hate this game. Don’t you?

Well, on to the good stuff!

I have to say, as far as the baddies go, there are some awesome new additions thrown in to keep the combat fresh and playful, like, seriously! Whether it’s the comical – yet somewhat terrifying – juvies that come at you 30 at a time at great speed, the new pouncers and snatchers that take hella damage and don’t take no for an answer, or what are called Carriers (and not for the reasons you think), I loved them all! Plus, as I mentioned before, you get to fight robots! Yes! Sounds mad, doesn’t it? But it works! And you fight them with what, you might ask? I’ll tell you what: awesome new guns! Man oh man, the new guns for this latest offering in the Gears franchise will make you wonder how you coped without them all this time! They are bangin’! I really was impressed with the new arsenal of snipers, assault weapons, explosives and more!

Also if you’re that way inclined, the online gaming side of it is stupidly fun! This is smooth, frantic PVP that the likes of Gears has not quite nailed like this before and I have to say I was stupidly impressed with how fluid the online gaming element was (even more so than the campaign, so what does that tell ya?). I think there can be hours of fun to be had with just the online mode ‘Horde 3.0’ where you take on wave after wave after wave of baddies with your mates (or strangers) with new defenses, those delicious new weapons I told you about, and razor-sharp performance. Ruddy top, that is, guvnor!

So all in all, I think the story and new characters were literally thrown together overnight on this one, which is a real shame, because like I’d mentioned before, I am a huge GOW fan and have been since day one, so this was kind of a let-down as far as the main story is concerned. However, the price tag is redeemed (for me, at least) with the fantastic online modes that are on offer. It’s just a shame we had to wait so long for such a wet bag of dead snakes, and I’ve literally no idea what that means.

Aaron's Verdict: 6/10 - Wait for a price drop.

AJ Waters is a pulp fiction writer from Kent in England, who specialises in horror and flash fiction. With a novella in the works, AJ Waters is an up & comer in the British pulp scene.

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