Gears of War 4 Campaign PC Review

Gears of War 4 Campaign PC Review

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The first Gears of War was a landmark moment for the seventh generation of consoles. It was the title that many people including myself saw as the beginning of the new generation. It ushered in the cover based shooter and introduced the world to the power of Unreal Engine 3.0. I have fond memories chainsawing Locusts and roadie running from cover to cover with my brother via split screen co-op. It was a momentous start for the franchise that would later spawn two additional sequels and a prequel on the Xbox 360.

I had a lot of questions going into Gears of War 4. It’s been five years since Gears of War 3 and the industry let alone the genre has evolved in significant ways. Epic Games relinquished the reigns of the franchise to Microsoft and aptly named team, The Coalition. Will I like the new cast? How will the old cast be reintroduced? Will we see the return of the Locusts and all the gameplay trappings they’re known for?

Gears of War 4 also marked the series day and date debut on both Xbox One and PC. I bought an Xbox 360 because the game came bundled at a retailer, so it’s only fitting that I acquired Gears of War 4 in similar fashion courtesy with my NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070. As an Xbox Play Anywhere title, my brother and I were able to complete the campaign on PC and Xbox One without any fuss. (Although, we did have to burn through a couple of Xbox Live! Gold trials to do so.)

The Xbox One version looks fine but I cannot judge it on its own merits. Seeing Gears of War 4 supersampled from 1440p down to 1080p at mostly Ultra settings running at a near flawless 60FPS was a positive experience to say the least. I had to make some tweaks to a few settings in order to maintain framerate throughout but the excellent graphical options available made tuning an easy process.

Gears of War 4 was a remarkable example of what the Unreal Engine 4.0 can do. I don’t know if it will go on to gain the market share that Unreal Engine 3.0 did but one thing for certain is that it doesn’t have a distinct look that defined early Unreal Engine 3.0 games.

The Gears of War games grew more varied with each passing installment. Greenery and a move from the dreariness of wet concrete gave the franchise more vividity. Gears of War 4 continued that trend to the point where I’m getting Uncharted vibes from some of the levels. Some of the early campaign spots reminded me of Uncharted 2’s Nepal and Tibet locales.

Women were a weak spot for the Gears of War franchise both character and rendering wise. Anya and Maria were the only two that I recall but they weren’t front and center like Kait. She’s a lovable member of the new cast of characters including James Fenix and his fellow ex-COG, Del. They’re part of the civilian population who chose not to live in walled cities. The citizens of Sera may have rid itself of the Locust threat but traded a living threat for environmental ones; they cannot do much against giant tornadoes of fire and electricity other than dwelling inside COG controlled cities.

I couldn’t tell if life under COG rule was terrible or not but apparently it was bad enough for groups of people to leave and form settlements outside its walls. It is no surprise then that the Locusts’ return in the form of the Swarm went unnoticed until it was too late. Kait’s village was decimated, her mother abducted along with the rest of the village and it was up to her and her buddies to get to the bottom of the returning threat.

I liked the new characters and got a kick out of seeing the returning ones. The were all likable and entertaining throughout. I would go as far as to say that there were numerous charming and funny moments involving the bunch. The reintroduction of Marcus Fenix as a grumpy old man who doesn’t give a shit will be a key takeaway from this game for years to come.

No one will mistaken Gears of War 4 as anything but a Gears of War game. They introduced a few gameplay tweaks to the cover system but the inability to switch shoulders while aiming and forced roadie run continues to look silly outside of combat situations. They flirted with the ability to nab enemies from behind cover and vault over cover quickly but fail to present that as a viable option (at least) in Hardcore difficulty.

New weapons, destructible cover and environmental influences such as wind and lightning shake up shootouts throughout the campaign but if I’m being honest: they didn’t do enough to break the mold. As I enter every new area, chest high walls continued to stick out like sore thumbs and I expected enemies to pour in for some good ole fashion cover based shootin’. It’s a known quantity but it’s still satisfying to hear the distinct pop after a Longshot round does its deed.

Including a tiny bit of horde mode into the campaign was novel at first but to see it return a few more times felt unnecessary. The same can be said with all those lightning segments. I was glad to see Gears of War 2 try something new with the crushing digestive teeth (lovingly referred to as Thwomp) section but they didn’t bring back the teeth again and again throughout the campaign.

I wished the gameplay aspect of Gears of War 4 ascended to greater heights and explored new frontiers but in the context of reintroducing Gears of War with a new team of developers and new roster of characters, it wasn’t too shabby — it felt too safe at worst. I was far more intrigued by the Locusts’ revival and how the people of Sera will cope with the threat again. The Coalition have built a solid foundation for the new trilogy and I look forward to what they come with next.

Verdict:
I like it

Ratings Guide

Impressions of E3 2016 Press Conferences

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Electronic Arts

TitanFall 2 and Battlefield 1 were the big tentpole titles that bookended Electronic Art’s press conference. Between the two EA shooters and Activision’s Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, I am throwing my hat in the TitanFall 2 camp. The multiplayer looks looks like a hell of a time and the promise of free modes and maps seals the deal.

Battlefield 1 looks like a technical masterpiece but it didn’t register an excitement on my end. It looked like Battlefield + WW1 which was exactly what I expected and that’s why it was so disappointing to me. The shift to a more mobile and able player makes the grounded approach to Battlefield 1 look static to me. I guess what I wanted was a sequel Battlefield 2142 with mechs, wall running, jetpacks and other ridiculous possibilities and not the dirty grit of World War I.

They showed off Mass Effect: Andromeda but it’s so tough to muster any excitement for a game that we’ve seen so little of. I need to see a Bethesda style 20 minute blowout session of the game.

B-

Bethesda

Quake is back in hero shooter form and since I have no reverence for that series whatsoever, I came away indifferent. I’m more interested in the fact that Bethesda are doing their very best to revitalize id Software’s franchises. They teased a new Wolfenstein which is by far the most exciting reveal of the conference.

The highlight of the show was Dishonored 2 receiving same gameplay showcase that Fallout 4 received last year. It’s a great looking game and the fact that I haven’t played the first Dishonored is a crime. I’m going to pre-order it but I have no idea if I’m going to keep that pre-order or just wait for a Black Friday discount. It does look very impressive though.

If there’s one thing that Bethesda nailed for the past two years is the pace of the press conferences. Even when they’re talking about a game that I have no interest in, they make it entertaining and brisk.

B+

Microsoft

Microsoft’s entire press conference lineup leaked and I still came away entertained and informed.

That Xbox One S is beautiful. I don’t see myself picking one up but I am glad it exists. I just wish it didn’t start at $399 CAD because that’s the exact same price as the original which isn’t the case in the U.S where it starts $50 lower than the old Xbox One.

The two standout games for me — and not in a positive way — were ReCore and Scalebound. ReCore looked a little rough from a tech perspective and Scalebound just looks boring.

On the flip side, Gears of War 4 and We Happy Few impressed. I’m ready for a new Gears of War 4 and it’s good to see a disconcerting dystopian adventure game featuring clowns.

Project Scorpio’s confirmation for 2017 and its promise of 4K gaming and VR in a console was the showstopper and makes me wonder what Sony are going to do with their Neo. This upcoming Xbox will be more powerful than Sony’s Neo so how will they pitch it. They had the tech advantage with PlayStation 4 and if the rumored specs target are true, then Project Scorpio will have that talking point.

A-

Ubisoft

Ghost Recon: Wildlands? South Park? For Honor? None of those resonated — especially with their canned demos filled with unrealistic banter. The South Park demonstration went for far too long. Ghost Recon: Wildlands and Watch_Dogs 2 are Ubisoft open world games and For Honor doesn’t look like my cup of tea. There was even an entire Assassin’s Creed movie segment that I took a washroom break for because the entire conference up to that point was plodding along at a snail’s pace.

The highlight of the show for me were Aisha Tyler, the enthusiasm of LeVar Burton for Star Trek VR and the reveal of Grow Up. But outside of those handful of moments, the Ubisoft press conference was disappointing.

D+

Sony

Sony enjoys announcements and so do I which is why I was a fan of their press conference. They didn’t showcase as much PlayStation VR as I thought but that was perfectly fine by me. There’s a new God of War which appears to be a reboot of the franchise. Resident Evil VII looks interesting by being first person and more intimate. Kojima’s new game was weird and perfectly Kojima.

The most impressive demonstration was Horizon: Zero Dawn. They showed off everything they needed to show without overstaying its welcome. Sony’s Bend new game Days Gone was one of the less impressive titles shown but it was new and needed a person pitching it.

The Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare was okay; I wasn’t sold on it. The Spider-man exclusive by Insomniac Games was a genuine surprise to me. Rumors were pegging Sucker Punch as the developer of the game so seeing Insomniac Games’ logo was quite the swerve. They made Sunset Overdrive so I’m optimistic that they can pull off an open world title but it’s been a LONG time since we’ve seen a decent Spider-man title.

Overall, this was the best conference of E3 2016. It was brisk with plenty of announcements and game demonstrations.

A

 

Microsoft Tears Down Multiplayer Walls

Microsoft Tears Down Multiplayer Walls

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Microsoft is tearing down the Xbox Live! wall and allowing other networks — including PC and other game consoles — to play with their player base.

I cannot imagine this being an initiative if the Xbox One was in a dominant position. Nevertheless, the end result is that games like Rocket League will have access to larger pools of players. This technically isn’t the first time that we’ve seen cross-network multiplayer but it is the first time we’re seeing it outside of an MMORPG.

Unfortunately without a game specific account, it’s not going to be possible for players of Rocket League on the PlayStation 4 to pair with players on Xbox One. In Rocket League’s case, this will enable an Xbox One party to go up against a PlayStation 4 party.

Baby steps.

With this initiative in place, I can see a game like Battlefield 5 with EA’s Origin ID allowing cross platform parties. I can see a future where Ubisoft leverages their uPlay ID to allow the agents on different networks to pair up as well. We’ll see how this will all shake up in the not so distant future.

Consoles meet PC, PC, meet Consoles?

Consoles meet PC, PC, meet Consoles?

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Today is a bit of a weird day for Sony’s PlayStation 4, Microsoft Xbox One and the traditional PC (and Mac). Out of nowhere the two console manufacturers announced some sort of PC related support. Sony’s was a small nugget but Microsoft’s announcements may make certain individuals think twice before picking up the Xbox One.

  • PS4 System Software 3.50 Will Support Remote Play for PC and Mac via PS.Blog
  • Forza Motorsport 6: Apex will debut on Windows Store for free this Spring via Xbox Wire
  • Future Forza Motorsport titles will be debuting on Xbox and Windows 10 via IGN
  • Gears of War: Ultimate Edition now available on Windows Store via Xbox Wire
  • Quantum Break will also be available on Windows Store via Xbox Wire

Sony’s little piece of news is a “nice to have”. I own a Vita and never bothered with Remote Play for a myriad of reasons that I won’t get into today. Making it available for PC makes the feature a little more attractive but I doubt I will be using it outside of curiosity.

Now Microsoft’s flurry of news, on the other hand, is setting a significant precedent. Gears of War, Forza Motorsport and Quantum Break — big first party Microsoft franchises — will be making their way to Windows 10 sooner or later. Fable and Killer Instinct were already previously announced for Windows 10 which only leaves Halo as the sole outlier. Will Halo 5 eventually make its debut on Windows 10? Will subsequent Halo games follow suit? It would make a whole lot of sense for Halo Wars 2 — a real time strategy game — to make its debut on Xbox and Windows 10 (with full keyboard and mouse support for the latter).

I have to stress the fact that I’m mentioning Windows 10 or Windows Store and not PC because there’s no guarantee or inkling that any of these Microsoft published titles are heading to other digital storefronts such as Steam. Microsoft is trying to entice people into their ecosystem through compelling software and they’re making a very good case for it with this latest effort.

The Windows Store has its limitations though courtesy of the Universal Windows Platform. They’ve sandboxed the executable to prevent things from hooking into it nullifying hacks and mods in the process. If you only care about the game Microsoft is selling then these limitations are moot. If mods are your thing then these games might as well have stayed on the Xbox One.

I’m in the former camp. I don’t care about mods or hacks (I’ll elaborate more on this at a later date). I just want to run my PC games at 1080p60 and I’m happy but I realize not everyone will be pleased with the closed nature of the Microsoft ecosystem.

Looking at this news and considering the fact that I’ve been configuring a new PC for the past couple of weeks, I don’t know how much playtime my Xbox One will receive in the future. I have Quantum Break on the way but that’s because I got it for cheap and my current PC isn’t up to snuff. I understand Microsoft’s position though. I’m not upset over their shift from hardware boundaries to software boundaries. It makes sense to expose their titles to the wider audience. There are over 110 million Windows 10 users out there compared to the 19 million on the Xbox One. If you’re a business man and you were faced with those numbers, you would be foolish not to make this shift. Not every single one of those 110 million users are running capable PCs but even a fifth of those will already exceed the Xbox One’s sales to date.

 

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