Since posting my Gears of War 4 review yesterday, I finally finished the grueling and tedious single player campaign, and I have a few more thoughts about Microsoft’s rejuvenated gaming franchise, and the latest game, which could have been so much better.
First, please do read my review. As has long been the case with the Gears franchise, I have a mixed reaction to this game, which delivers an incredible graphical and audio presentation and a great, immersive experience … that falls flat because of its repetitive, tedious, and derivative game play.
Towards the end of that review, which focuses only on the single-player experience, I wrote that I had just begun playing the fifth and final of five acts and I was sure that, whatever happened, it would not impact my view of the game.
So, I did finish the game a few hours later. And while it is both true and fair to say that the events of that final act in no way change my overall view of the game, something interesting does happen as the game wraps up. Something that should have happened much earlier in the game, and more frequently.
That is, after slogging through the single player campaign for over 8 repetitive and tedious hours and logging over 1000 enemy kills, I was finally presented with something different and new. Something that points decisively to how Microsoft should have and could have made Gears of War 4 both truly great and an evolution of the previous games.
Some old friends arrive, including a fan favorite from the original trilogy. (I won’t give away who, fear not.) And in a suddenly more colorful and bigger outdoor world, you suddenly hop into a giant mech that has the size and the power to take on this world’s bigger baddies. And you then proceed to go to town on them in a display of firepower and scale that is both fun and refreshing.
Yes, mechs have been done before. But never in the Gears games, where your on-screen character is typically crouched close to the ground, and hiding behind immovable objects. This ploddingly horizontal game, briefly and to great effect, suddenly gets faster and far more vertical. It is freeing, wonderful, and brief.
The mech’s weapons are unlimited, but overheat from overuse. There is nothing you can’t kill, including the giant Brumaks, which you take down like dinosaurs fighting in a Jurassic Park movie.
After a surprisingly easy final boss kill, the plot wraps up—again, no spoilers, but there is at least an ending to what is clearly the beginning of a new multi-part story—tears are shed at the sacrifices made, and the credits roll.
Oh, and be sure to stick around for this post-credits bit of plot wrap-up and light comedy. I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler for you to watch this, but the basic gist is that the fate of a new comedic character from this game is explained.
So, what’s my point here? It’s that the first 85 percent of Gears of War 4is largely a grueling and tedious repeat of the previous three games, and a terrible waste of money. But in that final act, we see how Gears should have been moved forward, with new and diverse experiences like the mech sequence from the end of the game. What Microsoft should have done is come up with at least two more new experiences like the mech, and left the old game play to 40 to 60 percent of the game. Some new, and some old. Not just mostly old.
That game would have been worth praising, could have been a masterpiece. But the game Microsoft did deliver was just same old, same old. Until the bitter end.
And that’s too bad: There was a great game hiding in there somewhere. Microsoft should find the courage to ship that game someday.