Gears of War 4 kicks you in the jaw

After a few years away, it feels good to slip on the old chunky armour to bro-fist through enemies that end up looking like a butchers floor by the end. Gears of War has always had fun in its and in the fourth iteration, it keeps chugging its chainsaw teeth through our hearts.

Gameplay is not too dissimilar from previous iterations; it still has that punchy edge but with added extras that increase both yours and your opponent’s options on the battlefield. The ability to grapple opponents over cover or dive over for a knockback creates added danger from aggressive opponents or allows you to disrupt those unwilling to poke their precious dome from out of cover.

New weapons like the Dropshot, that can blow up behind cover, and the Buzzkill, that can rebound off walls, can all pressure opponents to not stand still and consider tactical options. While not a huge change, it adds to the variety that keeps the pace going on a game that can get tediously slow with cautious players.

Environments start interesting, with the COG settlement adding a fresh splash of colour that quickly drains away. The wind flares are more an inconvenience than an interesting design point and after you’ve seen one factory or mine, you’ve seen them all so a little more variety would have been pleasant on the pallet.

The campaign is lifted by those great game design choices but falters in its storytelling. It feels on occasions that you’re ahead of everyone involved in the story before they realise it and yet they do not confirm it solidly enough. It’s almost like a slow-burning joke that a friend doesn’t quite understand straight away but when they do catch up to your undoubted genius, they let out a gentle chuckle.

Characters fall flat too, with none quite having the punch of the previous cast they drag into it anyway. JD is white bread, Kait is naïve and angst-y and Del is smart but throw those three stereotypes in the air and wait to see which it falls onto as they interchange frequently, which either comes off as silly or like they are slightly bipolar, which would at least be progressive if unintentional.

The introduction of horde-esque moments will be fun for those unfamiliar with them but they also feel a tad forced, like your mum making you play with your cousin. They might be pretty awesome but at the same time, you shouldn’t need to be coerced into it if they fit the billing.

Luckily, Horde mode absolutely does. The crown jewel in most Gears games returns with aplomb, adding classes to make you choose your options wisely as well as diversify the team a little more than generic shooter man with guns.

It’s a ton of fun again, even without your friends. Mowing through wave after wave of robots or spawn can be incredibly satisfying, especially as you hold on for dear life in the one specific spot you chose to hold up in, it just really shines in those moments.

Online multiplayer is great fun too, although the Gnasher still reigns king of everything ever invented. Modes like Dodgeball and Arms Race are great additions to the traditional modes that give you a real Quality Street selection of delectable goodies.

There were connection issues for me at launch, similar drop-out issues that affected the Ultimate Edition from The Coalition, but luckily this time around they were fixed with a patch. At least this time they acted swiftly as if it stopped others like it did me, the online section would fall off incredibly quickly.

Overall, if you want a shoot-em-up where you run like you’re ducking through a swarm of low-hanging trees, stick to chest-high walls as if you gain sustenance from it and want to pop heads like you’re at a Pringles convention, this is right up your alley.

While the story lacks real punch or memorable characters, the hard-hitting gameplay and fantastic online modes will keep you coming back over and over and over again to scratch one more grub.

To summarise, in the immortal words of the Cole Train: “Woo, yeah, bring it on sucker, this my kind of s***!”

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