The Gears of War holds special place in the gaming canon as the game that defined cover shooting and added in heaps of violence to a mainstream, first party game. After its release every game unabashedly stole its innovative cover shooting system. Grand Theft Auto 4 even featured the system. It broke ground for the generation of video games on the Xbox 360 and defined the more mature, yet often over the top in a way that was, in a sense, genuine. Gears of War 4 does not break ranks with the rest of the games, in a way that the Halo series did, which I cannot even go any further with those games. The Halo lore took a giant leap off a cliff when Halo 4 came out that left me scratching my head for days and then finally just giving up because I do not care what the librarian was or was doing. What the fuck is a Dydack. Seriously Halo, get your shit together. I’m not reading four novels so I can know why I am about to punch this grunt in the head. Gears of War 4 brings us back to the world of Sera and all its lovely knew problems, such as crazy weather, body snatchers, and Marcus Fenix do-rag. He puts the do-rag back on. This game puts the chainsaw gun back in my hands and I have never been more ready for it.
It’s hard to imagine the first Gears of War game was released ten years ago and the trilogy was complete five years later. I have been pining for one of these games to come out for awhile and even dusted off the old Xbox 360 to see if I could slog through the first entry. I could not. The graphics made it look like I was treading through a messy brown puddle with a chainsaw gun. Needless to say, the game had not aged well and I am glad to be back in the world of Sera; blowing the legs off of would be locust. The gore is back and filled with more goo than ever, although I certainly loved cutting my way through that giant worm in Gears 2. Damn, that thing was awesome. I have a soft spot for giant worms in which one kills them from the inside and video games need more of that; forget new ways to interact with the fictional characters or spooky knock-off Chuck E. Cheese games. The gaming industry needs to give me more needless gore and ways to interact with it.
Now, it is time to move passed all the unnecessary chainsaw violence and get down to the heart of the game that Gears of War 4 wants to become. It takes very few risks and banks on nostalgia earned by the first three installments. For that one where Baird was the protagonist. No one should ever play that thing. I feel that Gears needed to be brought back to its roots with relentless murder of grubs. A Gears of War game would simply not be complete if someone was not yelling, “One dead grub” a hundred times into my hears. Not only does Gears bring up the next trilogy of the game, which is already better than what is going on with Halo. I talked about that earlier, but man did those games go off the rails in ways I do not care about. Sometimes it’s just better to shut it down than drag out of the death. One aspect that Gears always had over the Halo games was the characters. For a major first party game, the characters in Gears always stood out a little and in some ways were a little flat. There certainly never lit a fire under the characterization in gaming debate but they had a little more flair to them than the Master Chief, who was and is a nameless green robot man.
Gears brings in the family connects to a game that sorely lacked and connections at all. Every character now feels like they have lived an entire lifetime, said or unsaid, between Gears of War 3 and the newest entry. Old characters are referenced and then the references are suddenly dropped. Marcus brings up going to see a friend before they head out to wrangle up Kait’s mother. I have not finished the game yet, but my mind went to several different characters that all could have shown up at that scene and been a welcome surprise. Baird was not one of them. I certainly hope it was the Cole Train. Because, that is my kind of shit.
Gears of War 4 deepens the mainstream knowledge of the Gears universe for those who did not read the books, because hey, I’m not that big of a nerd. It fleshes out events, albeit briefly, before Emergence Day and in between Marcus doing his dirty business by killing the queen of the Locusts and I think the game’s universe responds well to that enhancement. Some game universes really go off the rails if and when the creators start to tweak them at all and I think by being an ultimately low stakes game it manages to give the whole world some breathing room. Plus, he puts the do-rag back on his head. Scratch one grub!