sdcc 2016

Gears Of War 4

Marcus Fenix Joins The Squad
by Brian Shea on Jul 21, 2016 at 02:35 PM
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Developer: The Coalition
Release:
Rating: Mature
Platform: Xbox One

To this point, all of our time spent with Gears of Wars 4 has seen JD Fenix's squad of three facing the new threat of the Swarm alone. In the latest demo, which was on-hand at San Diego Comic-Con, JD, Kait, and Del are joined by an older, somehow more grizzled version of the main protagonist of the original Gears of War trilogy, Marcus Fenix.

As I start up, the characters remark at the impending wind-flare that's about to hit. They know they've got a limited time to get to shelter, so they begin moving toward a service tower in the distance. Of course, nothing can be as easy as moving from point-A to point-B, so the squad is immediately ambushed by the swarm.

The first encounters are ordinary enough; waist-high pods fill the battlefield as the two sides exchange bullets. I accidentally pop one of the pods and a screamer emerges and shrieks, attracting more enemies. As Marcus gets downed, his signature "Revive me!" brings a smile to my face as I recall how many times I heard that while I played the original three games. Marcus' voice hasn't changed much with age, but subtle differences are evident the more he talks. 

Then the wind-flare hits and everything changes. Debris that was once safe cover deteriorates and even flies to other locations, creating cover where before there was previously none. What was once a safe-haven from the enemies' barrage quickly turns into a wide-open area where I'm a sitting duck. I try to make it to the nearest cover, but the wind works against me to kill my momentum, even in a sprint, and I'm downed.

Del makes it to me to revive me just in time, but the chaos is only getting more widespread. As I kill enemies, they ragdoll and blow away. Nearly every aspect of the battles is affected, giving it a distinct feel from previous games, while remaining loyal to the mechanics of the series. As we get closer to the tower, the windstorm only intensifies.

The effect the weather has on the battles is never more evident than when lightning strikes begin raining down death and destruction onto the warzone. The tower is in sight, but Swarm and a raging lightning storm stand in our way. I use the lightning to my advantage by letting it help me destroy the enemies in front of me, but once the field is clear of adversaries, the lightning quickly becomes my most pressing issue

I dodge lightning as it spreads throughout the field. It comes down in one earth-shattering bolt before spreading out as it zaps toward me, creating a bullet-hell-like feel to the sequence. I get too close and the lightning knocks down a chunk of my health, making me grateful that I already cleared out all of the gun-wielding opponents. I'm told that had that happened on higher difficulties, I would have seen a much more substantial amount of health knocked off, with touching lightning on the highest difficulty even spelling instant death.

After dodging the lightning and sprinting for the door, my squad finally makes it to the tower. They try to open the door to what they thought was a safe haven, but before they can, the weather shows it has other plans as it tears apart the tower. The screen cuts away as my demo concludes.

This is the second segment I've played in the Gears of War 4 campaign, and the weather effects make it easily my favorite of the two. The intense shootouts coupled with the unpredictability of nature's wrath show that The Coalition isn't satisfied with just coasting along with what has already been proven as successful.

Gears of War 4 hits Xbox One and Windows 10 PC on October 11. Those who preorder the Gears of War 4: Ultimate Edition will get early access to the game starting on October 7.