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Gears of War 4 - Single Player - Xbox One Review

Reviewed by on Oct 06, 2016
Rating: 4 Star Rating

One of the biggest franchises to grace the Xbox makes its long awaited return. Check out Kidzworlds review of Gears of War 4.

By: Max Cannon

Attention: This is a review of a Mature rated game.

Gears of War was one of the few series on the Xbox 360 that could garner popularity on the same level as Halo or Call of Duty. The return of a new Gears of War to Xbox is exciting just based on the sheer importance of the franchise. Gears of War 4 takes some small steps forward in terms of gameplay but the story has noticeably more levity than the previous entries - for better or for worse.

Gears of War 4 - Tomorrow Trailer


After playing through a brief prologue to get us caught up to the timeline of Gears of War 4, you'll be playing as JD Fenix - son of Marcus Fenix from the original trilogy. It's been years since the Locust and Lambent were defeated by Marcus and society has slowly begun to rebuild itself, but that brings along government interference as well. JD, and his friends Kait and Del, uncover a new threat of monsters that could be just as dangerous as the Locust, The Swarm. There are constant twists and turns so I don't want to give too much away but as the trailers have shown you can expect some familiar faces to return.

A Heavy Handed Story In A Lighter World

There are some story beats that just don't do it for me in Gears of War 4, and at the risk of spoilers I'll keep it vague. Action set pieces have more of an importance here than ever before and there is one that rivals Uncharted 4 in terms of it's on screen excitement. These set pieces work better than they would in a lesser series because they allow you to keep the core mechanics of what you've been doing up to that point. Which is shooting, shooting, and shooting. The gameplay in Gears of War 4 is paced beautifully however the story is not. Though you're getting variety through every chapter in terms of gameplay it doesn't always accentuate the story, especially toward the end when the game abruptly finishes with something that will mean nothing to newcomers to the series. The story quickly jumps between long stretches of nothing important happening and suddenly a scene of critical importance will appear seemingly out of nowhere.

The baton is passed from Marcus to his son, JD.The baton is passed from Marcus to his son, JD.Courtesy of Xbox

The developers over at The Coalition have definitely taken some inspiration from their PlayStation counterparts at Naughty Dog, there is constant banter throughout the entire game and most of it is well-written, if badly timed. One frustration, however petty, is that dialogue is constantly cut short. Whenever you hear their Joss Whedon-esque banter it'll often be silenced when you progress too quickly and you'll miss some dialogue that ranges from humorous to crucial - but always interesting. A small, but unfortunate, hiccup during my play through.

There is a very noticeable sense of levity to Gears of War 4 and that works both for and against it. JD will do more wise-cracking than his brooding, deep voiced father would and that includes constant joking and banter with both of his friends. He's an interesting hero and much more charismatic than your typical Gears character, but the real star of the story is Kait. She becomes the driving force behind much of the team's motivations and her performance by Laura Bailey makes her feel lifelike. Though the pacing hurts the story her performance will more than make up for it on occasion. Del, while a fun character, is often in the background and we really only get insight into his character through in-game dialogue rather than cutscenes. And it's a shame for Del because those cutscenes are gorgeous.

Gears has always had an over-the-top sense of melodrama hanging over the series but a franchise that was once dark and drab is now splashed with color and life, both in terms of visuals and story. Remember how grey and green the first couple of Gears games looked? Well that is long gone in here, it's surprising that I'm saying that Gears of War 4 is one of the most colorful games I've played all year. And turning on the HDR brightness really gives the world some true-to-life lighting.  

A motorcycle chase is one of the more memorable set pieces.A motorcycle chase is one of the more memorable set pieces.Courtesy of Xbox

Same Gears, Different Number

But how does Gears of Wars 4 play? Just as it always has.

Aside from some small changes to attacking from cover it still plays exactly the same as it did in the earlier games. You'll be sprinting into overly sticky, waist high barriers and putting dozens of rounds into bullet sponge enemies. If this bothered you before then it'll bother you now.

Luckily, I enjoy much of the shooting in the game, especially when using a shotgun or sniper rifle. Dodging bullets feels chaotic and rolling around to avoid an enemy's shotgun blast will yield some exciting last minute escapes. However one frustration that really irked me is the inability to switch shoulders while aiming, a feature that is in nearly every 3rd person shooter in 2016. 

Lancers, Boltoks, and Gnasher shotguns all return, with a small handful of new weapons accompanying them. While I really dug some of the new toys, especially the blade-launching Buzzkill and the Overkill shotgun, I found myself using the same loadout I held in previous games. 

You'll be fighting a variety of enemies from the DeeBee robots to the Locust-like Swarm. Some enemies are more fun to fight than others and I found myself pretty frustrated whenever I would fight a Snatcher. These members of The Swarm will knock you down with a one-hit attack and swallow up your character. This traps your hero inside their stomach and you'll be unable to play until a teammate frees you, it's less challenging and more straight-up annoying.

DeeBees take the enemies in a new direction for the series.DeeBees take the enemies in a new direction for the series.Courtesy of Xbox

Horde and Versus modes both return and I'll be updating my review once I've had a little more time to play with them. Elements of Horde make their way into the single player campaign. Picking up the Fabricator to create barriers, turrets, and new weapons you can hold out against waves of oncoming enemies just as you would in the beloved multiplayer mode. These levels felt more like an advertisement for me to play Horde than something central to the story, but hey it was an effective ad because I can't wait to play it.

Final Thoughts

Gears of War 4 is more Gears of War. The gameplay remains largely intact from the previous entries and this is as much of a good thing as it is a bad thing. If you liked Gears' gameplay before you'll love it now, if it didn't resonate before than it'll certainly fall flat again. Story floats in a weird limbo between serious and silly which leaves much of the plot feeling heavy handed, but it is well executed enough that I can overlook most of that, aside from the sudden ending.


  • Great Color and Lighting
  • Fun Dialogue
  • Same Old Gears


  • Heavy Handed Story
  • Same Old Gears

Gears of War 4 Game Rating:4

Available for Xbox One and PC

Gears of War 4 Cover ArtGears of War 4 Cover ArtCourtesy of Xbox
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