Published on November 6th, 2017 | by James Wright
Gears of War 4 Xbox One X Review
Summary: Gears of War 4 once again proves why this franchise is so damn good!
Welcome back to Gears of War with a graphical overhaul that can only be described as spectacular. I think you already know what this spectacular is as the developers add glorious 4K graphics and HDR to this entertaining franchise and it’s never looked better. Oh… it even supports Dolby Atmos to add to the immersion factor and by the gaming gods does Gears of War 4 sound pumping on the Xbox One X.
Although this is the ‘4th’ game in the franchise, it is set 25 years after the previous game, The Coalition (the developers of the game) return gamers back to this turbulent and broken universe that saw mankind finally get the upper hand over the nefarious Locust ‘plague’. Unfortunately over time, another threat has arisen that sees two generations from the Fenix family brought together to stop this new menace in this sci-fi action-packed third person shooter.
The story driven campaign mode (which supports co-op) of Gears of War 4 starts in the past as the player controls an unknown Gear that with the help of his team and key members of the Gears of War franchise help retell the struggles and victories between the humans and the deadly alien Locust. These short missions not only serve as a tutorial but supports players back into the gaming mechanics which highlights key moments from the ‘history’ of this memorable franchise. In terms of co-op, Gears of War 4 offers local split screen (yes) and the ability to host an online game for a friend or a public game.
The last flashback is when the COG (Coalition of Ordered Governments) unleash their last resort at ending the war between the Locust and the humans which is situated on the planet of Sera. It is here where they unleash the Imulsion Countermeasure which literally decimates their enemy and as a result, almost pushed humanity back into the dark ages which forced them to look at new ways to survive. So in this brave new world, humanity attempts to rebuild without the dangers of the Locust.
However the biggest setback for those who survived on Sera is that this weapon caused the planet to be ravaged by windflares which are powerful storms that destroys anything in their path. To help counter these storms, COG created giant moveable walls around their major cities in order to protect their citizens but some have rejected their laws and live outside these boundaries as outlaws which does cause some interesting conflicts. Cue the Fenix family!
In the present, gamers control James ‘J.D.’ Fenix, the son of Gears veteran Marcus Fenix who is living the simple life after the war but uncovers another threat that is very close to home. In order to get help, he seeks his father who has been living in solitude after the death of his wife and needless to say, he falls right back into his role as a Gear. This next-generation of the Fenix family is quite an emotional one and without spoiling the story, there’s a great moment between J.D. and Marcus which really tore at your heartstrings. What I like about the story are the ‘wtf’ moments as the developers throw some great twists and turns at the player which at times left me guessing how it will all play out.
However after a few minutes of play, I must admit that Gears of War 4 brought a big smile to my face because it was like coming home again and it’s great that the old mechanics are still used, especially the clever cover system. Then as I played, I thought not much has changed, however the developers have added some new tweaks to the mechanics such as different executions and the ability to pull enemies from cover. Sure, it’s still the same old Gears but it’s really nice being back. Furthermore, it’s quite a graphical impressive game and although it looks open-world, the developers carefully ensure that you can only follow a handful of paths which is a little unfortunate in this modern world of gaming, Given that, it’s almost as if the game is on rails at times but one that is still very entertaining.
Initially enemies in the game are COG robots that come in all different shapes and sizes, each with their own strategies that require you to change your gameplay strategy. Some are just your standard robot soldiers, whereas others include flying guardians with shields to snipers and powerful Kestral which are basically deadly helicopters. There are even Condors or drop ships that add more enemies into the fray. One interesting enemy are these rollers which basically roll to your direction and then explode. One defence against them is to push the B button in order to kick them away which can cause damage to other enemies as well.
Of course, a Gears game would not be a Gears game without the Locust that are the Swarm. Although the Locust are creating their own army again, they are also kidnapping humans to help in the process which is quite a scary scenario for your in-game characters because one of the major characters does get taken. Enemies for the Locust include ‘juvies’ which are juvenile attackers that are weak but when swarmed together, can sometimes be a challenge to defeat. Others include pincers, drones, scions, snatchers (these guys eat you) and some REALLY big bosses and needless to say, there’s plenty of enemies to keep you quite busy. Ammunition can be scarce but thankfully before major battles, the game does help by giving you some items to stock up on.
In terms of weaponry, many of the old favourites return such as the Lancer or the Frag Grenade, including new ones such as the deadly Buzzkill which fires deadly blades at your enemies in order to slice them to smithereens. Add in other machine guns, shotguns and even this cool railgun which helps spice up your battles. You can even build your items via a fabricator to add to the battlefield like turret drones to other automated defences which once again adds to the overall strategy of the title.
The loader returns for Gears of War 4 which not only allows you to move objects in your way but you can run through your enemies and also squash them as well. However the highlight of the vehicles is the gigantic Pacific Rim type Mech which is massive and there’s even this memorable almost Godzilla type battle at the end of the game. The Mech even has the ability to call in airstrikes which is needed when you go against some of the more powerful Locusts. There’s also a cool motorbike scene with flying COG vehicles which is pretty damn impressive so the developers keep things quite unpredictable and fresh.
Apart from single-player, Gears of War 4 has some great multiplayer components that includes the really fun horde mode with up to 50 levels, including bosses to some very entertaining versus modes. Classes in multiplayer include soldier, engineer, heavy, sniper and scout with each performing a different yet important function. There is also this ‘card game’ that allows for micro transactions in order to give your characters more perks. Maps are also quite diverse an thankfully not everything is doom and gloom as there’s some really great outdoor maps. All in all, both the single-player and multiplayer aspects of this game really deliver!
As mentioned, Gears of War 4 has received a graphical and audio makeover that includes 4K graphics for high resolution textures, fully dynamic shadows and improved reflections to name a few of the improvement. It also boasts the most amazing colours in this gaming universe thanks to HDR which adds a realistic depth and helps create this true gaming blockbuster.
Characters are extremely detailed, backgrounds look stunning and the special effects and lighting just add to the overall immersion experience. The game has some great weather effects (some that are to die for), especially those powerful storms called windflares that literally tear the environment apart which even pushes you back from its ferocity.
Furthermore, the environmental damage looks quite stunning and I’m guessing that’s because of the hardware platform as you can really see the difference between this console and the last. In-game cinemas flawlessly integrate with the main gameplay as well. The voice acting of Gears of War 4 is brilliant and it’s great hearing those old and new voices. Sound effects are great as is the musical score and all those chaotic sounds of combat. Then you have the indistinguishable Gears of War bell that rings when your current threat is over which is made even more meaningful thanks to the Dolby Atmos.
Sure, Gears of Wars 4 is not a new game but on the Xbox One X, it could almost be thanks to the graphical and audio updates. This game also showcases the power of this console and the title not only pays homage to what came before it but enhances the entire journey for the player. Sure, the mechanics are almost identical to the previous games but with new executions, vehicles, defense building plus new enemies/weapons and you have everything you need for a great Gears of War 4 adventure on the Xbox One X!