If you have been loyal to the Gears fanbase and are caught up with the story, please read on. Otherwise, please play the damn games before reading a review for the fourth. Yes, they do claim its a new story, but it wouldn't be called "Gears of War 4" if it weren't connected to the 3 before it. So yes, the stories are connected, albeit loosely. But being a Gears fanboy myself, I consider it vital that you are well versed with the story to feel connected to the characters because this is not a run of the mill shooter. Here the characters matter. Here the only thing you will care about, are the characters. And the stories that accompany them.
25 years have passed on since the end of the Locust war, where Marcus Fenix once and for all killed the grubs using his father's weapon. There is peace on Sera, and a new First Minister. The cities and settlements have been renovated, and peace prevails. The game starts exactly on the 25th anniversary of the culmination of the locust war, where First Minister Jinn delivers a speech and claims to miss Marcus Fenix being amongst them, who are apparently become a recluse after losing his wife and the most important thing for a soldier - a reason to fight.
He has also cut ties with his son, JD, who joined the COG and came up to the post of a lieutenant, but is now an outsider, living with his friends outside the COG rule. These friends will be your companion for the rest of the game, and it will be their stories which will drive you on. Yes, the locust are not entirely dead, for then we would not have this game, but have evolved into something fiercer, more intelligent, and faster than ever before. The Swarm, which they are now called, have made their return and are ravaging villages for food. One such village is led by Reina, mother of Kate Diaz, a friend of JDs. It is Reina's kidnapping at the hands of a Swarm Elite which changes the course of the story and forces our characters to take the help of one man JD wanted to avoid bringing back into his life - his dad Marcus Fenix. This is also the moment you feel properly introduced to the game, the new players will be well acquainted with the gameplay and will now be expected to play full throttle, the way Gears was meant to be played all along. With Marcus at your side - albeit not all the time - you will make your way through hordes of Swarm through their hives into the heart of their territory to rescue Reina, driven by Kate's anger and determination to be one with her mother, a very interesting dynamic compared to the relationship between JD and Marcus which over the course of the game will get closer and tighter, as Marcus learns to accept his son for the way he is, seeing certain similarities with himself while having ample differences between them at the same time. The story is what Gears fans will be here for, and while it doesn't offer a closure - in fact, it ends on a cliffhanger - it does take you on a familiar journey of duress, determination, emotion eventually giving you a part-ending you could see coming from a mile away, but with doses of adrenaline-pumping shooting you did not.
But everything about the game might not be familiar. The camera work has changed and mimicks a modern shooter. It is fast and manoeuvrable, in contrast to the heavy wide camera we are used to in the previous games. The enemies are quite the same, and the tactics they use against you will make you nostalgic, but environmental factors have now come into play and offer a different shooting experience than before. The dialogues are fun to listen to and never get in the way of the action. The story is divided into 5 chapters as with the games before, and are decently long yet never overstaying their welcome.
Multiplayer aside - which never interests me in a Gears game anyway - the story alone should keep you hooked throughout its duration, and even though not revolutionising the structure, it offers enough changes to make it worth your while.