GEARS OF WAR 4
Rising like a Fenix from the ashes
released OUT NOW!
Reviewed on XO
Also on PC
Publisher Microsoft studios
Handing control of an established franchise to a new developer is a risky business. After all, it was Epic Games that created Marcus Fenix and the Locust Horde, partly as a playable advert for its Unreal Engine. Could another studio hope to capture the same blend of snappy shooting, muscular machismo and crisp cover-handling that defined the series? The Coalition’s response is an enthusiastic “yes”, and even though Gears Of War 4 centres around an entirely new cast of characters, it feels immediately and gratifyingly familiar.
The opening act sees you at odds with the same Coalition of Ordered Governments (COG) that Fenix and Santiago once served. The COG has gone all dystopian, enforcing a mandatory reproduction policy.
That’s where Marcus’s son, JD Fenix, comes in, fleeing the COG along with childhood friend Del. The opening act sees them raiding a deserted COG settlement.
It’s only once you’re out of the city that Gears Of War 4 kicks off in earnest. A new and very slimy threat emerges, and quickly turns out to be even more similar to the Locust than the automated adversaries introduced in the first act. In dire need of assistance, you make a mad dash to JD’s family estate in search of the musclebound curmudgeon that is Marcus Fenix. It’s at this point Gears Of War 4 transitions from visually impressive to simply spectacular. The third act in particular features some of the most breathtaking environmental art in the medium.
This is a supremely competent game, but not always a confident one. There’s a level of respect for the original trilogy that borders on deference. The spectre of the Locust War looms, both in the sense of the narrative shadow it casts and the developer’s reluctance to stray too far from established enemy types. For all its successes in terms of pacing, artistry and game feel, this campaign all too often comes across as a little bit safe. Gears Of War 4 is meticulously crafted, but what it lacks, unfortunately, is that spark of inspiration. Marcus Fenix may have passed the torch on to JD, but the question is whether or not the son will ever be able to fully escape the anxiety of his father’s influence. James Nouch
Feels immediately and gratifyingly familiar
Maintaining a running joke, a fourth Carmine brother kicks the bucket. He turns up in act one, chapter four, in a guard tower.
Shots in the dark.