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5 Things That Need To Improve In Gears Of War 4
I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with the Gears of War franchise. While I lean more on the “love” side of the fence, there are moments throughout the series’ history that are truly infuriating.
Cliffy B. and the developers at Epic broke new ground with the mind-blowing Gears of War back in 2006. However, there are certain aspects that have turned this amusing experience into a roller coaster ride of joy and disappointment as the series has evolved over the years. This all seemed to culminate when the dud known as Gears of War: Judgment was released in 2013.
While Judgment appeared to have the same hallmarks that we loved about the franchise – the pretty graphics, the over-the-top violence, the juiced up super-powered COG heroes, the satisfying curb stomps, etc – it didn’t take long before fans realized that there was a steep drop in quality from Gears of War 3.
To begin, the story was lackluster. Playing a prequel as supporting character Baird was neat for awhile, but both the man and his arc ended up as dull and cliched as ever. The newly tweaked control scheme just didn’t fit a Gears game, nor did the more fast paced, run-and-gun style (which seemed to me as an attempt to emulate Call of Duty). The multiplayer was as chaotic, difficult, and frustrating as previous titles, and not in a good way. Any sense of pacing and strategy seemed minimized or absent, making way for a John Rambo-style explosion circus. On top of all that, there were the game’s strange, exploitable quirks such as the over-powered melee option.
While the original Gears trilogy had its share of flaws, it was overall a well-crafted and fun experience. As much as the passion and dedication shone through in the original trilogy, Judgment felt more like a cheap, rushed cash-in.
Now that the Xbox One has had some time to get settled in, fans are waiting with cautious optimism for the inevitable next installment of the Gears franchise. There has been little information regarding the game thus far, so we’re left to our imaginations. On the one hand: Gears of War 3. On the other: Judgment. Gears of War 4 will be closely overseen by the capable minds at Microsoft, and Rod Fergusson, former Epic Games executive producer. On the other hand- it won’t actually be made by Epic, but by Black Tusk Studios.
So what are we to make of this? What route will Gears of War 4 take? Will it shine like a hammer of dawn beam of death? Or will it crumble and sink into the deepest pits of the Locust hollows?
Gears of War 4 certainly has the potential to be an excellent game. To reach this potential, there are several things that need to be added/fixed/adjusted in order for the game to reach this mark of greatness.
Since this next entry into this franchise will be the fifth game, it seems only fitting to list the top five aspects that will help to make this highly anticipated Xbox One title the best in the series.
#5. Remove the host advantage
While Epic had made promises in the past for an improvement in balancing out the so-called “host advantage” it seems these promises went unanswered. While the problem certainly improved since the first Gears of War, there are still moments where my friends and I are left scratching our heads at some of the things the server host can get away with. This needs to be completely eliminated for the next Gears of War game, as it remains one of the biggest blemishes in an otherwise outstanding online experience.
#4. Improve the weaponry (balance and diversify).
Every veteran of the franchise knows that the series has essentially been “Gears of Shotguns”, as the Gnasher (and the Gears 3 addition of the Sawed-off Shotgun) are easily the strongest and most effective weapons in most situations. This doesn’t mean Black Tusk should completely nerf the shotguns like in Judgment, but players need more incentive to use different weapons.
Perhaps some weapons could be added that aren’t completely centered on super-close range (shotguns, sawed-off), Rambo-style assault weapons (lancer, retro), or explosives (boomshot, frags, etc). Maybe some more SMG style weapons? Or perhaps some more burst-style weaponry similar to the hammerburst? Maybe even a weaker, more fast-paced type shotgun? In essence, we need a few more options for that practical “go to” weapon, and not just one-trick ponies or gimmicks like the digger, retro lancer, or hammer of dawn.
#3. New, inspired stages – and bring back the classics!
While this is somewhat suggestive, there is generally a consensus on certain multiplayer levels within the 3 main Gears of War titles that most can agree are the most interesting and enjoyable. Stages like Gridlock, Jacinto, Blood Drive, War Machine, Fuel Depot, and Pavilion are all quality stages. They have a great balance of open space without being too empty, nice to look at, and diverse in style. Gears of War 4 would win over a lot of us nostalgic fans by having a melting pot of the classic stages from the previous entries, and maybe even some levels that haven’t been touched since Gears 1 and 2 (rooftop and river, anyone?). Maybe have a separate retro multiplayer mode, that uses only the old levels?
Black Tusk needs to take a look at the popular levels, the ones that really worked, and use them as a template for designing their new stages. I feel like as we get more current with the multiplayer stages, they seem to get more barren/spacious, and less inspired, and thus less enjoyable. We need a return to levels like the Fuel Depot and Gridlock, that have a unique flavor. To further drive this home, the next Gears of War could implement a voting system for online matches similar to those in Halo and Call of Duty games, where players can pick their preferred next level.
#2. “Borrow” the game modes and mechanics that work, remove those that don’t.
As I’ve mentioned before, Gears of War has been a mixed bag, filled with attributes, game modes, and mechanics that either work well or end miserably. Black Tusk needs to study up and analyze the past games, as well as fan reception, and frankenstein together the best aspects from all.
For instance – keep the awesome curb stomps (or better yet, add more), keep the chainsaws (of course!), bring back “down but not out” (ahem, looking at you, Judgment), keep the active reloads that deal additional damage, et cetera. Remove the host advantage, quick and overpowered melee attacks, and gimmicky weapons like the digger.
In terms of gameplay – keep the multiplayer modes that work (king of the hill, execution, horde mode), perhaps include a new and improved “overrun” mode (one of the very few redeeming aspects of Judgment). Remove submission, capture the leader, judgment-style domination (too chaotic and easy to be killed).
#1. A more Interesting and fleshed -out Campaign
A more interesting story would be a start, as the narrative has never really stood out, besides some crazy actions scenes or major plot twists here and there. We need less cliches and more unique and interesting plot points throughout, to keep the player interested in the actual campaign beyond just wanting to earn the achievements. More colorful and diverse environments couldn’t hurt as well. I’m thinking of more areas like the giant worm in Gears of War 2. Any opportunity Black Tusk can create to take the players away from grey, waist-high cover corridors will help.
Somewhere spread in the DNA of the 4 current Gears of War titles lies the perfect Gears of War creation that is begging to be made for the Xbox One. All Black Tusk Studios and Microsoft need to do is analyze the blueprint in detail and research what the majority of fans responded well to, and what they didn’t.
Read Leviathyn’s review of Gears of War: Judgment here.