Feature Article

Gears of War 4 Multiplayer Plays It Safe (For Now)

Grinding Gears

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Three days ago, Microsoft posted a 10-second teaser showing Gears of War 4's newest weapon in action. A day later we saw a COG soldier rip an enemy from cover before stabbing his victim in the face. And yesterday we got a clip of a COG seamlessly vaulting over cover and kicking a Swarm gunner in the chest before slicing him up with that same combat knife. All three snippets arrived with no context or explanation, but thanks to some recent hands-on time, we can finally fill you in.

All these clips came from Gears 4's multiplayer component, and while the weapons and maneuvers on display provide new solutions to old problems, the core experience is steadfastly devoted to recreating the trademark Gears gameplay established in the original trilogy. That means slower, heavier movement than typical shooters; intimate, close-quarters violence; and cover that serves both as a defensive tool and a traversal mechanic. It also means wall-bouncing, curbstomping, meatshields, active reloads, five-on-five matches--basically everything Gears fans grew to love before Gears of War: Judgment decided to shake things up.

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While the team at burgeoning studio The Coalition affirmed their commitment to delivering "authentic" Gears multiplayer, they also expressed a desire to resolve several persistent issues by introducing new mechanics. That clip of the COG soldier pulling an enemy over cover, for example, displays a new move called the "yank and shank." As the name implies, when two players take cover on opposite sides of the same object, maneuvering into the proper position produces a button prompt that, when pressed, initiates a yank animation that drags your opponent over to your side and leaves him open to a quick combat knife finisher.

I never actually encountered this situation during my playtime, but in theory, the yank and shank should eliminate the awkward blind fire battles that used to ensue when two players found themselves in a shared cover stalemate. Similarly, you can now execute a "vault kick" when roadie running through the environment. Basically, with some seriously precise timing, you'll be able to vault directly over a cover object without breaking stride and automatically kick anyone on the other side, again leaving them open to a fatal stabbing. This should allow you to maintain your momentum--something the existing mantle kick could never accomplish.

The yank and shank can be countered with a well-timed button press.
The yank and shank can be countered with a well-timed button press.

The new weaponry also aims to alleviate certain Gears-specific issues. Gears 4 takes place 25 years after the events of Gears 3, which means the Locust are still very dead. And with the Locust gone, organic weapons like ink grenades and diggers are gone too. In their place, The Coalition is introducing modified mining tools like the Dropshot, which shoots a drill bit that dives straight down and explodes as soon as you release the trigger. This should help you root out opponents who like to remain hunkered down behind cover, much like many of the Locusts' weapons used to do. Don't worry, though--the Locust guns may be gone, but classics like the Lancer, Torque Bow, and Gnasher live on.

So too do traditional game types like Team Death Match, though they'll be joined this time by a few new modes. The highlight of my hands-on time was a mode called Dodgeball, a subtle but exhilarating TDM variant. Basically, any time you get a kill and survive at least another five seconds, one of your dead teammates is allowed to respawn. That means a single kill can turn a five-on-one match into a four-on-two and another kill could bring the teams back to even numbers. This natural push and pull made for some seriously nail-biting turnarounds during my playtime.

The developers also teased another new mode called Escalation, which pits two teams against each other in a series of thirteen consecutive rounds. After each round, the losing team can choose where the next power weapon will spawn on the map, potentially giving them a strategic edge over their opponents. According to the devs, this mode was designed with eSports in mind and should yield deeper team tactics and plenty of dramatic conclusions by encouraging both teams to compete all the way to the bitter end. These matches will even offer two dedicated spectator slots for shoutcasters, as well as brand new spectator tools for smooth camera swapping.

Chainsaw bayonets and curbstomps? Oh yeah, this is Gears.
Chainsaw bayonets and curbstomps? Oh yeah, this is Gears.

While Escalation openly caters to the hardcore crowd, The Coalition is also adding options for more casual players. For example, you'll be able to easily create matches that pit you and your friends against a team of customizable AI bots, allowing you to practice and even earn unspecified "rewards" without getting slaughtered online. The devs have also added a visible ranking system that openly displays each player's skill level. With six skill brackets in total, it should now be much easier to avoid being utterly outmatched by more experienced competitors.

Finally, The Coalition plans to include the most dreaded of all features: microtransactions. If you choose, you'll be able to buy Hearthstone-style card packs that contain cosmetic items and other gear that, according to the team, will not impact gameplay. The devs were also quick to emphasize that all these items can be earned through play; spending real money to gamble on a Gear Crate just speeds up the process. You'll also be able to buy maps, though again, you'll never have to. The Coalition plans to add new maps and rotate out old maps for free approximately once a month, which should provide fresh content without segmenting the player base. However, if you want permanent access to a map so you can use it in private matches, you can buy it and host all your friends (who will not need to own it to play).

With so much added to the overall experience, it's somewhat disappointing to report the actual gameplay is enjoyable yet unremarkable. The movement and weapons need fine-tuning and the visuals are currently a bit underwhelming, but more importantly, the entire approach feels safe and predictable despite thoughtful gameplay additions like the vault kick. It absolutely feels like Gears of War, which should please longtime fans nostalgic for the earlier games. But with major shooter franchises like Halo and Call of Duty constantly progressing (or reinventing themselves entirely), Gears 4 may need to do more to remain competitive.

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Fortunately, the team still has plenty of time not only to polish the mechanics but also to surprise us with new modes and ideas that spin the classic formula into something fresh and exciting. Gears of War 4 launches exclusively on Xbox One on October 11, but Gears of War: Ultimate Edition players can check out the multiplayer beta starting April 18 before the weeklong open beta begins on April 25.

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

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Scott Butterworth

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Ripper_TV

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Do the screenshots scream Next-Gen to you?

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MartynGiles

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The new character looks far more like Baird to me.

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arrowhead927

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card packs.....that rng

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deactivated-578f2053b4a13

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My hopes for a great Xbox One exclusive are gone after watching this boring gameplay. Why bother with this? It's going to come out on pc, like all other Xbox games. Xbox One us dead. Bury it already.

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streetsmarts13

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@halvedlife:

Then we shouldn't see you in any more xbox one articles since you feel that way.

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deactivated-5845a9a3984cb

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fable legends was Xbox's best looking game by far , maybe this generations best looking game by far .drx 12 , unreal 4

and im really looking forward to it ... oh wait ms canceled that

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Ripper_TV

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@al2ian: I wholeheartedly agree. Best looking game on XOne and it's never coming out. Gears 4 doesn't come close.

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Leanologist

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All I want is the horde mode. Bring that shit back please

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codeB3ast1

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Edited By codeB3ast1

it looks visually appealing, cant wait for this for sure. Gears of war 3 was pretty fun online.

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santinegrete

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Looks pretty fun, but I get what they say about the visuals.

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MaxIrons

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@santinegrete: The campaign looks better though, but it runs at 30fps.

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StephenSays

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Edited By StephenSays

Looks like it ready

Can't waite

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DRowePrice

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So people are criticizing betas now...? The gaming community is lame! Tbh most of you probably don't even own an xbox...

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Ripper_TV

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Edited By Ripper_TV

@droweprice: you don't have to own anything or be anything to critisize.

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xantufrog

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Edited By xantufrog  Moderator

@droweprice: isn't the point of a beta to identify the bugs and flaws so the dev can improve them for consumer release?

Not saying you are wrong about WHO is doing the complaining. Just pointing out that, in theory, a beta exists for the sake of critique

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MartynGiles

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@xantufrog: it used to be, now betas are nothing more than a renamed demo mostly.

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FreeRyu

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@xantufrog: The people that won't buy the game are complaining more than the fans lol.

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angellc

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Edited By angellc

looks as bad as halo 5 maybe even worst!!!

watch this https://youtu.be/xaEdzkKp5ws

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maximo

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Nothing new here then. It looks very similar to previous editions. I hope that they have improved the movement mechanics though. It always seems to feel like I'm walking through tar playing Gears.

I don't know, after seeing this I'm not that impressed. I guess I was hoping for some massive changes/improvements.

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MartynGiles

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@maximo: I always that that walking tar effect was done on purpose? The guys are pretty big, they wear heavy looking armour, their weapons are huge. It makes sense to me that their movement would be more indolent than a sprint.

I'm not a fan of the slow movement personally and the gun play always felt a bit off to me.

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deactivated-578f2053b4a13

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@maximo: I, as well. What a letdown.

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greaseman1985

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@maximo: The movement felt realistic to me.

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maximo

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@greaseman1985: sure

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ecs33

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I liked GoW and GoW2. Never really played the 3rd one. Honestly I'm too excited for Doom to be excited about this right now.

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gamer4sp

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@ecs33: I can't wait for Gear of War 4 on October 11, so to keep me busy till then I'm buying Doom next month.

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courtneyringer

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Edited By courtneyringer

Looks very good. Happy with the overall gameplay and mechanics. An improved gears 3 is all I ever wanted for judgment and never got that so I feel like this a perfect progression into gears 4.

I also really appreciate TC letting us get our hands on this 6 months from launch that way they can really have time to implement our feedbacks/criticism and iron out any technical issues.

Thanks Rod, TC and Microsoft for bringing back, IMO, the best series ever.

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CrimsonSheep

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To address all the misinformation in the comments:

Rod Ferguson said the other day on Twitter that the multiplayer "Beta Tour" that was shown to journalists and played (The above video) is a PRE-ALPHA build of the game.

They are calling it a beta for the sake of simplicity but the game is still in an alpha state. Rod also stressed multiple times that this beta isn't for marketing purposes and that it is, and I quote,

"An honest to God technical beta".

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greaseman1985

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@CrimsonSheep: But....but.....but TEH GRAFXZ SUCKZ!!!1!11!!!

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Fedor

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Fedor  Online

@greaseman1985: well they do. Your attempts at damage control won't fix that.

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greaseman1985

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@fedor: lol yeah it's called an alpha build, genius. Now go play Knack.

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Fedor

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Fedor  Online

@greaseman1985: who cares if its an alpha? (It isn't) it's not going to look any better. Deal with it, lem.

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Jestersmiles

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Edited By Jestersmiles

why do the cogs armor looks so bland. meh.

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LouiXIII

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This game looks dated...BIG TIME.

I know it's just a beta but the DOOM beta looked awesome and so did Battlefront. The whole "it's a beta" excuse is getting worn out. I seriously hope the end game looks sweet because I'm not impressed.

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santinegrete

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@louixiii: after all I read here, looks like the beta will also have marketing porpuses instead of polishing and tests.

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LouiXIII

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@santinegrete: Of course

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greaseman1985

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@louixiii: You know what's actually worn out? Idiots like you not knowing the difference between an actual beta, and in this case an alpha build, and a glorified demo masquerading as a beta, and shouting "TEH GRAFXZ SUCKZ!!!!"

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LouiXIII

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@greaseman1985: They said it's a beta...NOT a alpha...so why ae you saying its a alpha? Who's the idiot again?

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ecs33

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Edited By ecs33

@louixiii: I think GoW4 is not as far in develpoment as Doom and Battlefront were when they had their betas. The Doom beta happened just 45 days before release. I don't think GoW4 is near release any time soon.

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LouiXIII

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@ecs33: The game releases in fall. I played the DOOM ALPHA before the beta was released and it looked a hell of a lot better than this

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CrimsonSheep

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@louixiii: Hopefully you saw my above comment. but Rod Furguson confirmed on Twitter that the "beta" that was being demo'd in the footage we saw today is a pre alpha build of the game. A lot can still change, especially graphically.

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LouiXIII

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@CrimsonSheep: I don't buy it. People aren't playing a freaking pre alpha right now. That's damage control at it's finest

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deactivated-5845a9a3984cb

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@louixiii: exactly, is this the graphical showcase that we were promised ?!

this looks last gen and more like gears judgment

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LouiXIII

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@al2ian: THANK YOU for confirming that I AM NOT BLIND. I appreciate you sir

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drknessfeeds

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@louixiii: the doom beta looked great? Are you serious? I have never been disappointed to that extent in a very long time.

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LouiXIII

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@drknessfeeds: Sucks to be you. I loved the ALPHA and I'm loving the beta xD

DOOM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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ecs33

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Edited By ecs33

@drknessfeeds: I thought the Doom beta was amazing and so did all of my friends. Doom is to have a PVE focus and I thought the PVP was surprisingly fun and had unexpected depth which makes me even more excited for the single player. Can't please everyone I guess.

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GoodGamesGuy

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Edited By GoodGamesGuy

I just hope it's a little less sluggish this time around.

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maximo

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@goodgamesguy: yep, that's exactly how I feel!