Last Monday, Microsoft ensured the E3 2016 masses felt Gears of War 4’s presence. For The Coalition, the series’ new developers, it was a press conference showing worth glorifying, too. Epic Games redefined third-person shooters over the course of the original trilogy, honing that cover-based formula until the company foolproofed it. With its majestic display of thunderous explosions and action-laden bloodletting, the latest Gears of War 4 demo kept the franchise’s indomitable energy booming.
The jury is still out on the story, yet I have faith. The Coalition may be a tenderfooted team, but Rod Fergusson lends his history with Gears of War to the fourth’s creation. The campaign is in good hands, whether or not it lacks the emotions that Delta Squad’s heartfelt climax had. And following Rod’s Horde 3.0 announcement, I can’t wait to curbstomp the Locust-like Swarm for hundreds of hours alongside friends.
If we’re talking Gears of War 4 multiplayer, however, readers have the right to worry. These thoughts stem from a beta held back in April, but no game – to my understanding – takes its gameplay in a dramatically different direction six months before release.
For starters, Rod confirmed the public beta wasn’t actually a beta. It was an alpha labeled as a beta because The Coalition knew the word was more recognizable (just to give you a picture of the fanbase we’re dealing with here). If we want to talk track records, too, Splash Damage (the studio behind Brink) has been hired to assist with the game’s online component.
Honesty could not save the Gears of War 4 alpha from its ability to underwhelm. Gears of War: Ultimate Edition was almost immaculate, excluding a handful of glitches that hindered players through no cause of their own. Weapons clipped through the hitboxes of various characters, for example. When you discharged a shotgun into their guts, the blast inflicted minor damage; the enemy would eat your shots and keep fighting. Close combat became a danger to avoid in the early days of Ultimate Edition.
Gears of War 4 pawns its gameplay blueprint from newer installments. Of note, the Gnasher is unreliable in that Gears of War 2 sort of way. You cannot whip your shots, Wanted-style, when someone ambushes you, pulling the trigger half a second before the slug escapes the barrel. I also bore witness to friend and foe shrugging off Gnasher ammo at short range and collapsing from headshots a dozen feet away. The shotgun’s consistently inconsistent.
Frag tags return as well, and I don’t think I could loathe a mechanic more. Sticking grenades to walls slows down the game’s pacing for the wrong reasons. People don’t rush the last person standing because they’re afraid of stumbling into hostile crossfire; they refuse to blitz because triggering planted frags is an assured voyage to the afterlife. Gears of War 4 leaves insufficient time to clear the blast radius. The moment a grenade beeps, you’re done for; you entered a kill zone. Or maybe not. Unintentionally, explosions still nuke targets through solid concrete.
That said, I care about getting splattered less than the cursed respawn timer. The clock counts down from 15 seconds, resetting and repeating, reviving any and all deceased when the dial reaches zero. But any time limit upwards of ten seconds is too excessive for a Gears of War 4 match. Considering the speed at which scuffles play out, that quarter of a minute is significant enough for a decent crew to erase the other, refill power weapons, and secure objectives.
The innovative Dodgeball mode negates the necessity for respawn timers, so its approach on team-oriented coordination kept me the most enthralled. A faction wins the round if they kill the entire opposing squad before the members respawn, yet a key dodgeball rule applies. When a player perishes, that person cannot be brought back unless an ally murders somebody on the enemy’s side.
Tug-of-war skirmishes happen frequently in Dodgeball; potential victories change hands on a half-dozen occasions within several minutes. I noticed the figurative rust shaking off as I tore defenders apart in succession, bringing my party back from multiple-player deficits to sweep hostile teams and the game. Obviously, that’s quite hard to do in Team Deathmatch and co-op Team Deathmatch, the two remaining 5v5 playlists available to alpha participants.
Of course, when someone broaches topics about Gears of War’s multiplayer, lag becomes a heated part of the discussion. Did I truly outwit my adversaries, or did latency issues interfere? Was your Internet provider the mastermind behind a recent triple kill? How many fatal shots did enemy players land that Gear of War 4 failed to register?
High kill/death ratios depend on a stable connection to the servers. Sometimes I’d accumulate damage from shotguns or grenades before the shrapnel reached me, sometimes the Dropshot didn’t detonate its payload until my rivals jogged outside the area of impact. The Torque Bow’s volatile shots also succumb to lag. Sporadic connections delay a bolt’s explosion and determine whether your projectiles pierce victims or pass through them.