Gears of War 4 Multiplayer Beta – First Impressions

Gears of War 4, now headed by The Coalition rather than Epic Games, is coming soon, and it’s Multiplayer Beta has just opened up for everyone. You get the chance to play 3 new maps, a new game-mode (Dubbed Dodgeball) and good ol’ Team Deathmatch. But has anything really changed or improved for the next in the franchise?

The short answer is, no. Though there are new weapons in the game, and the Dodgeball gametype is an interesting twist on the classic Deathmatch modes found in multiplayer shooters, Gears of War 4 seems to stay in the lines of “Very Safe” in terms of it’s online play. This will mean different things to different people. If you love Gears, then you’ll be thrilled. If, however, you were growing tired, this won’t bring you back in.

First, talking about the way the game plays, it’s familiar with a few minor additions. Instead of having a poke your head out battle with someone on the other side of cover until one of you decides to move, or gets a lucky shot, you can now utilize a few close quarter combat moves. This could be grabbing the enemy on the other side of the cover, or kicking them in the face while you jump over yourself. While this sounds incredibly fun and interesting, it’s never used. In my 10+ matches I have never seen any of these new moves. Granted, I’m pretty bad at it, but I never see people utilizing the cover so that it would be effective. On the other hand, the maps that we can play on have very few sections that even allow for these moves to be used, so people just don’t try or don’t even know they exist.

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Additionally, the Roadie Run seems to have upped the shakiness of the camera when you’re charging towards your doom. Whether it’s just been far too long since I’ve played, or the updated graphics, it’s actually pretty disorientating, and more so than I remember it ever being. While it’s a minor concern, and of course can be changed in the future before the full release, it can be frustrating when you’re trying to get back into the action after a respawn, only to feel a tad dizzy when you finally come to a stop to shoot at an enemy.

On a positive note, the game does look great, and doesn’t have too many problems with frame drops or any graphical hitches here and there that I’ve noticed. It’s a lot more colourful than past Gears games too, and enemies are distinctive no matter what team you’re playing on. It’s a nice fresh coat of paint on an aesthetic that suits the franchise, but seems to have gone a bit past “Destroyed Beauty” of the first game. There are some disappointing areas, such as a Harbour level where the water thrashing onto the platforms your fighting on look extremely pixelated in an otherwise detailed world. It’s enough to throw you out of the moment, though you probably should be more worried about the guy behind you with his shotgun to the base of your skull.

The issues I’ve had with the beta so far is one that increased as the Gears franchise gained popularity. Gone are the days of old where you played a cover based shooter online with your friends. These days it’s a shotgun fest, with people “gliding” across the map at full speeds trying to get as close to your fast as possible. The only other weapons people use are those Power Weapons (The Torque Bow, Long Shot Sniper, Boom Shot and newcomer Drop Shot) but even that is a rarity.

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The problem is, this is how Gears of War seems to be played now. Even looking at some trailers for the eSports events being held show the same thing, sliding from cover to cover just to get a better shotgun angle. It detracts from the game for me, and means that most of the fun I have is only when I manage to do well in my own playstyle, which certainly isn’t “shotgun first, think later.” It could be that I’ve just grown out of the Gears formula, but for me, it was a lot less fun than I have had in the first three games. Saying that, the multiplayer became less and less a focal point for me, as the Horde modes were far more interesting to play after I had made my way through the campaign.

Now I know I may sound overly negative and critical, but I did have my fun with the beta for Gears 4. Once you get the hang of how other people play, it can be a fun and fulfilling experience. It just requires you to play a certain way, and unlike The Division or other cover based shooters that came out after Gears of War popularised the genre, cover isn’t the name of the game any more. It’s a fun experience for those who want more Gears, but it’s not convinced me to pick it up at release.

 

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