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← Gears of War 4 Review

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Showing Revision 1 created 10/11/2016 by Ebony Adams.

  1. "Ok! Good meeting."
  2. "Oh, it's not over."
  3. "You two!"
  4. "Grab the fabricator and follow me!"
  5. "Carmine!"
  6. It's been 10 years since
  7. Marcus, Dom,
  8. and the other members of Delta Squad
  9. first shot and chainsawed their way
  10. across the planet, Sera,
  11. in a desperate attempt to defeat the Locust.
  12. And in some ways,
  13. both those characters and
  14. the gameplay we so strongly associate with them
  15. now feel like relics from another era.
  16. Gears of War 4 seems to recognize this,
  17. reinvigorating the series signature combat
  18. without reinventing it;
  19. and shifting the narrative focus
  20. from Marcus and his buddies
  21. to a younger generation,
  22. who have grown up without the threat
  23. of the Locust looming over them.
  24. Unfortunately, Gears of War 4 still
  25. plays it safe:
  26. teasing us with the potential for a story
  27. that could have taken the franchise
  28. in a fascinating new direction --
  29. before settling into yet another
  30. simple and straightforward
  31. fight against the Locust.
  32. The result is a solid, competent shooter;
  33. a decent game that could have been much better.
  34. Gears 4 gets off to a promising start,
  35. suggesting that the COG,
  36. the Coalition of Ordered Governments,
  37. that fought so valiantly for humanity
  38. in the original games,
  39. has become an oppressive, authoritarian force
  40. in a post-Locust world.
  41. The press conference that begins the game
  42. shows us how the government-controlled media
  43. glorifies the COG and its de facto leader,
  44. First Minister Jinn --
  45. presenting her as a noble figure,
  46. with humanity's best interests at heart.
  47. "It's a world of safety. Of family."
  48. The reality of Jinn's politics turn out to be
  49. more complicated, however,
  50. as people are required by law to live in
  51. fabricated cities;
  52. and women are required to participate in post-war
  53. repopulation efforts.
  54. Kait, the squad's one female member,
  55. understandably takes issue with this.
  56. "You got an issue with babies?"
  57. "No. I have an issue with being told
  58. I need to have one."
  59. And I'd hoped the game might explore
  60. this idea some more.
  61. But it's quickly dropped and never mentioned gain.
  62. The game play also starts off strong,
  63. before becoming more conventional
  64. and expected.
  65. As "Outsiders,"
  66. humans who have chosen
  67. to defy the government
  68. and live in their own settlements,
  69. the protagonists face off against
  70. the COG's robot army
  71. in the early sections of the game.
  72. During these encounters,
  73. the combat feels simultaneously
  74. swift and hefty.
  75. Spherical enemies called "trackers"
  76. can be kicked away like soccer balls,
  77. lending the combat a playful physicality.
  78. And the spectacle of robots being dropped
  79. into the environment by massive planes
  80. flying overhead
  81. makes these battles feel dramatic
  82. and desperate.
  83. It's also during these first few acts that
  84. we see far more of Sera's natural beauty
  85. than we ever have before.
  86. But soon, the game retreats into
  87. more standard and familiar territory.
  88. All the interesting early concerns about
  89. how the COG is misusing its
  90. military and industrial power
  91. go out the window,
  92. when the game once again pits you against
  93. the Locust,
  94. in the sorts of grimy, industrial environments
  95. that were so common in the original Gears games.
  96. The Locust continue to be an enemy
  97. with all the nuance of J.R.R. Tolkien's orcs;
  98. they're seemingly an inherently hostile,
  99. aggressive species that we can feel
  100. justified in slaughtering without
  101. any moral qualms whatsoever.
  102. Still, the interpersonal dynamics within your squad
  103. set Gears 4 apart a bit from its predecessors.
  104. The central character, Marcus Fenix's son, JD,
  105. isn't terribly interesting.
  106. He's the sort of blandly likable protagonist
  107. who might have been played by Chris Pratt
  108. if this had been a movie --
  109. and not the funny, quirky Chris Pratt,
  110. more like the Jurassic World Chris Pratt.
  111. But what is interesting is the difference between
  112. Marcus and the younger members
  113. of the squad.
  114. Marcus is as gruff, grizzled, and crusty as ever;
  115. but JD, Kait, and Del
  116. bring a different kind of energy to Gears.
  117. They're a bit more lighthearted than
  118. the men of Delta Squad were --
  119. joking and making wisecracks,
  120. suggesting that they've grown up in
  121. a more peaceful time
  122. than the previous generation did.
  123. "Looks like their ship just came in!"
  124. Unfortunately, Del, the squad's
  125. one black member,
  126. doesn't get to do much of anything
  127. but joke and make wisecracks.
  128. "Uh, how can someone be terrible
  129. at Rock Paper Scissors?"
  130. "Easily. Because you always pick paper."
  131. " I?"
  132. JD, Marcus, and Kait all have the suggestion
  133. of lives that extend beyond the battlefield.
  134. But Del's character arc begins and ends
  135. with being JD's warm, wisecracking buddy.
  136. Meanwhile, Oscar, Kait's uncle,
  137. is presented as reckless and drunk,
  138. teetering over into being a racial stereotype.
  139. "How about I call you hungover?"
  140. [laughs]
  141. "Oh, you got some tough, boy, don't you?"
  142. "Uncle!"
  143. It's also frustrating that the game employs
  144. a standard damsel-in-distress device,
  145. with Kate's mother, Reina,
  146. who is introduced as a strong leader,
  147. being reduced to a plot mechanism
  148. when she's taken by the Locust early on.
  149. Sure Marcus is also captured
  150. for a brief period of time,
  151. but it's not the same sort of overarching
  152. plot motivator that Reina's capture is.
  153. On the other hand,
  154. Kait is presented as a capable,
  155. and competent member of the team,
  156. with Marcus and everyone else
  157. treating her with respect and a sense of solidarity.
  158. "We'll be right beside you."
  159. Of course, not treating a female character terribly
  160. is hardly something we should celebrate -
  161. it's simply something we should expect.
  162. And ultimately, Gears of War 4 is all about
  163. giving us exactly what we expect:
  164. nothing less and nothing more.
  165. It's a solidly built machine that,
  166. 10 years after the release of the original game,
  167. wants to convince us that this franchise
  168. can still be relevant.
  169. But if it's going to be relevant,
  170. it needs to take some chances.
  171. Gears 4 starts off suggesting that it
  172. might take us to new places,
  173. but then shies away from that.
  174. And in the end,
  175. it's yet another cover shooter
  176. that centers the experiences of its
  177. white male characters
  178. and has us fighting the same straightforward
  179. battles we've fought before.
  180. It could have been
  181. fun, and suprising, and special --
  182. but in the end, it's content to just be
  183. fun, and familiar, and predictable.