Chase Charaba, Co-Editor-in-Chief
Microsoft released the long-awaited Gears of War 4, the fifth game in the Gears of War video game series, on Oct. 11 for Xbox One and Windows 10. The third-person shooter series was first released in 2006 and has since sold more than 22 million copies, according to Microsoft.
The game was developed by The Coalition, a Canadian developer owned by Microsoft. However, all previous Gears of War games were developed by Epic Games and not associated with Microsoft.
This change in development is a breath of fresh air for the franchise, but it also brought new problems into the mix.
Gears of War 4 is one of the first games under Microsoft’s new Xbox Play Anytime program, which allows players to purchase a digital copy of the game and play it anywhere, including on an Xbox One and any PC running Windows 10.
This new feature is amazing for gamers who want to play the game on multiple devices, yet don’t want to pay $60 for another copy. However, this involves saving game data to the cloud, which has led to long sync and retrieval times and even freezing at the game’s start up.
Some players have lost their saved game data in the cloud and were unable to resume playing where they left off the night before because the levels were now locked, despite both Xbox and Windows versions showing that previous levels were completed and achievements had been earned.
Furthermore, support from Microsoft and The Coalition has been unresponsive and difficult.
The game features Horde 3.0, a multiplayer game with teams of up to four others, that allows players to battle 50 different waves of enemies. VS Multiplayer is a standard multiplayer format where players fight each other across different maps. As with other Gears of War games, Gears of War 4 allows two players to battle through the campaign missions together in Co-Op mode through split-screen or Xbox Live.
One problem with the game, as with all Xbox One games, is its file size. According to Microsoft, the size can range from anywhere between 54.65 GB and 80 GB. Although this is much smaller than other Xbox games like the newer Call of Duty games and Halo 5: Guardians, it still adds up and pushes users to purchase external hard drives just to play a handful of games, unlike the Xbox 360. Installation time for a digital download was just over an hour on the Xbox One and just under an hour on a PC.
The campaign missions consist of five acts, which are subdivided into multiple chapters just like previous Gears of War games. The game starts with a prologue that recaps the events of the main trilogy, where players have the opportunity to battle the Locusts in between cut scenes.
The cut scene graphics are unimpressive. They’re simply behind the times when compared to the masterful work of Halo 2: Anniversary and Halo 5: Guardians. However, they’re considerably better than the cut scenes of previous Gears of War titles.
The graphics in the prologue are poorly done for this new generation of gaming, looking more like Halo: Reach or Call of Duty: Ghosts. However, graphics improve considerably by Act I when the full scale of the new graphics engine is revealed. The campaign missions have more color than previous games, which often appeared dull and gray. The details in mountain ranges and skyboxes, along with realistic weather effects on the trees make the game livelier than any other Gears of War.
Act I is boring to play. Walking around with new characters battling COG robots while trying to sneak into a facility isn’t fun, neither is defending a village and setting up defenses between waves like in Horde. It just didn’t feel like Gears of War.
Things improved drastically by Act II, when the game’s action picked up, and by Act III it felt just like previous games, running through dark maps and chainsawing through hordes of enemies with a Lancer. There were times where the campaign seemed better than previous games and much more difficult.
Overall, Gears of War 4 is slower-paced and darker themed than previous Gears of War titles, and the campaign, while short for Gears of War, is fun to play through. All other aspects of the game remain similar to the rest of the series that millions of gamers have fallen in love with.
If Xbox Play Anywhere issues could be resolved, this game would receive a four and a half star rating. The ending points towards the future of the franchise in an exciting way. However, the failure of the game’s launch is something that can’t be ignored.
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