How Gears of War 4 Changed Since the Beta

What The Coalition changed and why.

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Gears of War 4 developer The Coalition today published an in-depth blog post that covers the numerous and significant changes the studio made to the game following its beta.

First, The Coalition confirmed that Gears of War 4 will, for the first time in franchise history, have two balance setups: Core and Competitive. Core is for the average player, while Competitive is for people who are looking for a...competitive experience.

"Core settings are the bread and butter of the game, aimed at providing the balanced but varied experience you know and love whether you play solo or with friends," the developer said. "The Competitive category has different settings that have been balanced to take into account the high levels of coordination and skill that come with competitive play, toning down damage and reducing certain factors like Aim Assist to highlight the best from the rest."

Gears of War 4 multiplayer modes will be spread between Core or Competitive in matchmaking, but never both. Right now, Escalation and Execution modes are in the Competitive bracket "due to their emphasis on team-based play at the highest level." However, in private matches, players can choose either Core or Competitive to use for any mode.

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Multiplayer designer Ryan Cleven said the existence of two balance setups came in part from feedback the studio received from professional Gears of War 4 players.

"We found that what the serious competitive players wanted and what the core Gears players wanted were too different to try to make a single tuning set," he said. "Rather than trying to please everyone and end up pleasing no one, we decided that we would split the tuning into two sets, Core and Competitive. We want Gears fans to be able to play the game that we all know and love while simultaneously ensuring we provide a competitive experience that can stand up to coordinated team based play at the highest level.

"This way, we hope Gears fans will be happy in being able to choose the experience they want to play, and really hone their abilities in an environment that takes more than just individual skill to excel in," he added. "Players can move between the tuning sets and their skills will still transfer between the two. The less lethal competitive settings mean landing consistent shots, making smart decisions and coordinating as a team become more important, but the fundamentals of the game are still the same. This approach also provides a clear step of progression for players looking to take their skills to the next level."

Also in the blog post, Cleven talked about some of the gameplay adjustments that were made since the beta. First, he acknowledged that the initial response to Gears of War 4's competitive Active reload system was "mixed," though people eventually warmed up to it. This system lets people use Active reload at any time. Cleven also said he heard feedback about how the Active reload system made power weapons even more lethal, in that people could instantly use the system on them, which in turn boosts lethality slightly.

Cleven said the system has been "improved" so that it will "really showcase its original design to introduce timing as another dimension to mastering Gears combat."

He added: "We want Actives to be something you choose to do, and always weigh the risk vs reward. In the Core tuning, Actives add a very small boost to lethality (on average around 5%) which is also much less than the boost from Actives in prior Gears games as well as a slight increase in the cooldown times. It's an added edge, not a fight winner by itself. In Competitive, the boost is higher but the cooldowns are much longer, increasing the risk and reward."

Additionally, every Gears of War 4 power weapon now uses the active reload system; "a few" were missing in the beta. Also, the Active cooldown now triggers every time you pick up a weapon, which introduces a further element of strategy.

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"Now, when you pick up a power weapon, you need to decide to use it while it's weaker or tactically save using the weapon until your Active is ready to gain the benefits," Cleven said.

In terms of visual and graphical improvements, the final version of Gears of War 4 will of course look better than the beta, which was unfinished and had missing elements. It will also run better, the developer said, as it should maintain 60 FPS for Versus mode. The beta was "pretty close" to 60 FPS, but averaged "slightly lower in the end," The Coalition said.

As for visuals, there is now ambient occlusion and capsule shadows, which "really makes the characters feel and look more grounded in the world," CG supervisor Colin Penty said. "Our shadows are now much higher resolution, and localized reflections in the levels have really been stepped up to provide a more cohesive look."

Art director Kirk Gibbons added that the Gears of War 4 beta maps hadn't yet gone through what he called "the process of Gearsificiation." This has now been completed, and the maps should now look and feel "quintessentially Gears," he said.

Here is a rundown of some other changes from the Gears of War beta:

  • The Gnasher weapon's range has been toned down "slightly" for Core, while Competitive tuning sees the effective range of the weapon increased substantially.
  • The Hammerbust weapon now uses three burst shots instead of six and is more effective than a Lancer at long range.
  • The Dropshot weapon's explosion radius has been reduced; additionally, "team colors" have been added to the targeting laser to help you identify friend from foe.
  • A new color blind option is also included for the Dropshot.
  • Players can now only have one active frag grenade tagged to a wall, while the explosion has an increased delay.
  • Smoke grenades now send out smaller volumes of smoke and for a shorter period of time. You will now need to coordinate with teammates to launch a more effective smokescreen.
  • Firing delay is now reduced when emerging from cover (for Core).
  • The "Back A" move, where a player exits from a corner of cover and immediately fires at an opponent, now works on left-hand corners as well as right-hand ones.
  • The "Up A" shot was not working as it should have in the beta, as players who rolled out of cover and immediately shot would hit cover, not the target; this has now been fixed.
  • The "Roadie Run" camera now has "less roll" than the beta and Gears of War 4 but a "better-feeling" shake, which overall should make it more comfortable, the developer said.
  • Some spawn points have now been adjusted to limit spawn-camping.
  • Some maps have been changed to better accommodate long-range attacks rather than focusing on close-quarter combat.
  • Because the Hammerburst weapon now has a long-range option, the Retro Lancer fell out of favor for some as a starting weapon. As such, it's been balanced into a role The Coalition is calling "Secondary Weapons." These spawn in mirrored areas on the map; and only one person on each team will have a chance to get it at any point.
  • Secondary weapons are more powerful than starting weapons, though not as much as power weapons.

You can read the full blog post here.

The game's Versus multiplayer is playable at San Diego Comic-Con this week, which is the first time the public has gotten hands-on in the two and a half months since the beta wrapped up.

Gears of War 4 launches on October 11 for Xbox One and Windows 10 PC. It is an Xbox Play Anywhere title, which means you can buy it digitally on Xbox One and get the PC version free or vice versa.

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