Note: This review only covers the multiplayer component of Gears of War 4. For the Single Player review head here:
Gears of War 4 – Multiplayer Review
After my Single Player expedition through the world of Gears 4 left me wanting more I logically dove into the rather large multiplayer component to satisfy my chainsawing urges. What I found was a very competent suite of game modes that should cater to all shooter fans and I must say it really rounds out Gears 4 as the complete package.
Competitive multiplayer has received a huge amount of updates and improvements over previous Gears games. There are a massive amount of modes that should cater to everyone’s tastes. There are the traditional ones such as Team Deathmatch and King of the Hill as well as some exciting new ones such as Dodgeball (which was present in the beta) and Escalation (which involves capturing rings scattered about the map and holding them for points.) My personal favourite however is Arms race where each team is charged with getting a certain amount of kills with each weapon, starting with the most powerful first. It is wonderfully refreshing and once the match gets to the point of pistols it really becomes a game of skill.
The balance of the competitive modes has had a real overhaul too. The first thing I noticed was the grading system. This system ranked my abilities after five matches and then placed me in a pool with other similarly skilled players. This worked wonders in alleviating the ever present frustration in multiplayer shooters everywhere and I find myself wanting to go back and improve my grading, something I have never really been bothered with in a shooter before. It will make it so much easier for new players and also give those returning pros a challenging match each time. The second thing that has been balanced is that there are now two modes of multiplayer play, casual and competitive. Casual mode is basically the Gears experience that we have been playing for years but the competitive mode is an altogether different beast. This mode has been designed for eSports competitors and it reduces things like aim assist and rebalances damage to make this mode highlight the skill of the player.
What the team at Coalition has done with DLC is also nothing short of awesome. At any time there will be 10 maps in play for multiplayer matches. These maps will be rotated on a monthly basis with new ones being introduced each month. The maps they remove will still be playable by owners of the season pass. The key thing is that if a group of people are playing together only one person needs to own the map to make it playable, this essentially means there will be no fractured player base as each map is released. It is a wonderful system that appears to offer the best for both developers and players.
Playing competitively is one thing but for me, the real highlight of the Gears franchise has been playing co-operatively with my friends and Gears 4 doesn’t disappoint. As always I can play through the entire campaign in Co-op which is always welcome. The other big news with this is that unlike a lot of newer games (*cough Halo *cough) couch Co-op is still an option. Nothing beats hammering through the main missions with a pal on the lounge beside you.
Of course, the real co-op attraction is Horde mode and boy o boy is that a lot of fun. Since the last Horde outing (Gears 3) things have changed a little bit. Players now start off with the choice of five different classes and it really pays to have one of each in every match. Engineers look after emplacements, Heavies carry the big guns, Snipers take monsters on from afar, Scouts move quicker and are perfect for getting the lay of the land and Soldiers are the jack-of-all-trades. These classes can be further enhanced with the new card system in play. This system rewards cards through play (and micro-transactions if you feel so inclined) and these cards grant bonuses to players. Engineers for example, may want cards that provide boosts to turrets and emplacements, Heavies get good use out of cards that increase splash damage or allow quicker reloads. There are piles of these cards so it makes tailoring bonuses to a player’s style and class super easy. It is a very robust system that I can see becoming a key reason to keep playing.
The other big change in Horde mode is the ability to setup up a base in a location that suits the team. The Fabricator (a big box of goodies that can create emplacements, barriers and weapons) can be placed anywhere on the map before the first wave. This allows a more strategic approach to the whole event. Players can then use power pickups (left behind by dead enemies) by returning them to the Fabricator. This allows the building and upgrading of base defences as well as increasing the team’s score. Unlike the previous horde mode (Gears 3) in this iteration, players are also able to place their defensive structures anywhere on the map, once again bringing more strategy into play. This all comes together to make Gears 4’s version of Horde the best one yet and I for one am looking at spending months with friends taking down wave after wave of enemies.
So, in the end, The Coalition have put together possibly the most feature complete multiplayer suite available on the Xbox One. They have really put a lot of thought into the modes, balances and structure and as a result came up with a product that is sure to appeal to just about every shooter fan out there. The net code is rock solid, there is a wide variety of competitive modes and the co-op elements are second to none. Even if you ignore the single player campaign entirely there is enough here to warrant a purchase. Sorry Halo, but this entry proves it. You are no longer the king of the Xbox shooter pile, that title now belongs to Gears of War.