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'Gears 4', one of 2016's best

October 12, 2016

By John Powell - G4 Canada

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Gears of War 4You can blow his world to smithereens. You can destroy his family home. If you dare touch his tomatoes though, you have crossed the line.

"They are going to mess up my f-----g tomatoes!" growls an angry and grizzled Marcus Fenix as battle bots descend upon his greenhouse in one of the most entertaining and hilarious scenes in the brilliant 'Gears of War 4'.

Although 'Gears 4' has so much greatness it is hard to pack it all into one review, it is the writing and the dialog that really steals the spotlight. On the same level as any great Hollywood movie or television show, the script is one of the best written for a video game. The dialogue itself is clever, often so hilarious and also very touching and deeply emotional. Words speak volumes but so do all of those haunting and awkward silences.

It helps that there is such dichotomy between perpetually grumpy Marcus Fenix and his carefree, breezy son J.D. The polar opposite personalities play off each other exceptionally well. J.D.'s friends Del and Kait also have their own unique dynamic rounding off a fantastic cast of fully developed, memorable characters.

Gears of War 4'Gears 4' takes place 25 years after that weapon of mass destruction wiped out all of the Imulsion, Locust and Lambent on the planet Sera. To refresh our memories, the first phase of the game transports us back to the key battles in that war as the COG leader gives a speech commemorating the storied victory for humanity in the present.

The Coalition of Ordered Governments now rules Sera, for good or for bad. The newly evolved COG not only has human soldiers but also an army of varied battle robots and droids, called “DeeBees”. There are rolling Trackers that are kinda like the Droideka in Star Wars, Guardians which are flying drones with force fields and deadly laser blasts, Shepherds and DR-1s, robot soldiers in humanoid form. The COG also have at their command killer Kestrel helicopters and Bird of Prey-like drop ships.

As we are quick to learn, although the COG army is one impressive war machine, critics believe they often overstep their bounds. The COG has become a divisive force with many inhabitants believing they are being oppressed by the very organization that once protected and even saved their planet.

Dissatisfied with the COG's strong-arm mentality, J.D. and his bestie Del have become deserters. They unite and team with a rebel named Kait when her mother is taken captive by a strange but perhaps familiar enemy, this after they run afoul of the COG.

Gears of War 4The trio head to the Fenix family estate where a Marcus is living like a hermit, cutting himself off from the rest of the world and more importantly, the COG. When J.D. and friends plead for his help and his battle-tested experience, Marcus dons his armour and picks up his Lancer once again to shoot and saw anyone who gets in his way.

Along with the new enemies in 'Gears 4' there is a wicked ability. The game-changer is the “yank and shank”. If an enemy is taking cover behind the same barrier as you are, by pushing up on the joystick and pressing X, you can reach over, grab them, pull them over to your side and execute them by pressing Y. That move alone adds a whole new level to the combat.

The environment itself can play a factor as well. Wind Flares, cyclones spitting lightening, descend often, causing lethal bolts to hit the ground and generating high winds that impede movement and toss debris into the air. That debris can be used as cover or even as a weapon against enemies. The cool thing is that enemy bodies get blown away in Wind Flares as well. Cool that.

Gears of War 4A new Gears wouldn't be complete without new weapons. The most fun is the Buzzkill, a chain-gun that fires bouncing blades which if directed properly, can take out multiple enemies. So much fun. The Dropshot is a piece of mining equipment that fires mines and drills. The Embar is a sniper rifle that you shoot from the hip. The Enforcer is a flexible SMG and the Overkill is a powerful shotgun shooting multiple bursts.

Gears' big strength is it has a lot of gameplay variety so the entire experience isn't just cover and fire combat. There is a crazy motorcycle chase and combat scene climaxing with players taking out a huge drop ship. There are a number of defence missions where you have to guard a particular object or area and survive waves of enemies.

Another action scene has players being pulled to the surface via a huge chain. As the heroes ascend, the goal is to shoot falling explosive objects, dodge debris and swing around dangerous barriers. Players also have the opportunity to operate a mining suit to move debris and better yet, charge through foes splattering them as you go.

Gears of War 4The Coalition (formerly Microsoft Vancouver and Black Tusk Studios) have produced one of the best Gears installments, breathing new life into the series. The new generation of characters carry the mantle of their predecessors well and are actually more relatable based on how much effort went into developing them. Introducing new enemies and resurrecting some old ones in new ways honours the past while paving a bright future for the series. The first 'Gears of War' was a classic, a seminal milestone in the history of gaming. If the original game didn't have that distinction, 'Gears of War 4' would assuredly be the very best in the series.

Gears of War 4Gears of War 4
Format: Xbox One
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Developer: The Coalition
ESRB Rating: M for Mature

Official Site:

Rating: 9 / 10

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