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Gears of War 4: New Cogs in a New Machine

Fuel up those chainsaw bayonets! Gears of War is back and promising to be better than ever. With Epic Gamesí original trilogy wrapped up satisfactorily, itís time for a new generation of COG soldiers to step up and defend the human race just like Marcus Fenix, Dominic Santiago, and all the other heroes of Sera. With Gears of War 4 hitting the Xbox One in just under half a year, The Coalition (an infusion of fresh blood mixed in with series veterans) has recently dropped some details on the game and launched an open beta for the multiplayer component. Weíll wait for the full review to tell you whether or not the adventures of J.D. Fenix and his comrades-in-arms holds up to the legendary exploits of his father and Delta Squad, but we can share some impressions of the multiplayer in the meantime.

Most of what Iíve played of Gears of War 4 so far can be described as "safe." A handful of mechanics, a mode, a weapon, a small selection of maps, and the character models are all Iíve seen in the beta that can be described as wholly new to the series. Mechanically, it plays almost identically to Gears of War 3. Since that game is easily one of the greatest third-person shooters of all time, thatís by no means a bad thing. This is a series that has skirted so close to perfection that iteration and subtle improvement are absolutely welcome.

As far as modes go, only one in the beta is new. Rounding out the Team Deathmatch offerings, Dodgeball is a tug-of-war style game type that charges you with eliminating the other team while keeping yours alive. If you lose a teammate, he/she canít respawn until an enemy has been killed. Itís a game of numbers that requires adaptive strategies.

Letís talk mechanical differences. First off is the change to the active reload system. Playing any previous Gears games online invariably begins with a strange ritual. Everyone begins each round by emptying the gun they wish to use. Then, when an engagement presents itself, each combatant executes a perfect Active Reload Ė the signature mechanic that not only shortens reload times, but adds a damage boost to each shot. Gears of War 4 adds the Competitive Active Reload, which allows players to Active Reload with a full clip to gain the damage boost without sacrificing their ammunition or their suspension of disbelief at the beginning of each match. It doesnít make much logical sense, but it beats watching everyone shoot at nothing in particular for ten seconds at a time.

Another change has been made to the seriesí cover system, which most other third-person shooters try, but fail to emulate. Gears of War 3 brought us the mantle kick, and Gears of War 4 one-ups that with the Vault Kick, a faster version that opens the stunned enemy up for a knife to the face. Another addition is the Yank and Shank, which is an incredibly risky maneuver, as the animation is quite lengthy. By aiming over your cover and hitting (X), you reach over and grab the individual on the other side and bring him/her on over to yours, where (again) the business end of your knife awaits.

Classic weapons such as the Torque Bow and the Boomshot make an appearance, and the Hammerburst seems to have been changed back to its original burst firing scheme. But the showstopper weapon for the beta is the Dropshot, a seriously strange weapon that launches a hovering mine down a linear path until you release the trigger, which sends it hurtling down into the ground. Splash damage with the Dropshot is insane, but landing a direct hit has gory (and hilarious) results.

Gears of War 4 looks and sounds amazing already, and considering the developer has another half a year to polish it up, itís safe to say that we are in for a treat when October 11 rolls around. Check back then for a full review.

-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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