‘Gears’ multiplayer beta shows promise

By Michael Battista
Sports Editor

I reviewed “Gears of War: Ultimate Edition” for the Xbox One a few months ago and praised its ability to recapture and reinvigorate the game series on the next-generation console. Now, the game developer called The Coalition is set to add another game to the series, “Gears of War 4,” to be released for Xbox One on Tuesday, October 11, pending any delays. The Coalition also recently gave the public a chance to play some of the game’s multiplayer features.

Starting on Monday, April 18, for those who played “Ultimate Edition” — Monday, April 25, for the general public — the “Gears of War 4” multiplayer beta allowed players to take part in three game types, while putting the game’s servers and matchmaking abilities to the test. This lasted until Monday, May 1, when the beta ended and all of the stats set during the two week span were reset in anticipation for the game’s October launch.

Unfortunately, there were issues when finding a multiplayer game throughout the two week span. Whether it had been due to the game only being a beta or an unreliable internet connection, I was not able to find a game, had to deal with lag — or slowed down matches — and was even kicked out from games multiple times. Hopefully, if this was a beta issue, it will be fixed by the time the game comes out.

Nonetheless, the game looked great. Although it is several months from the release date, it clearly showed that the graphics and technology will be using the Xbox One to its full potential. The best example of this was in rainy Harbor — one of the three maps available in the beta. Some of the rain droplets moved in the wind and the entire map shined with the coating of rain, however, the characters’ appearances were unaffected by the weather.

The “Ultimate Edition” had a bleak color palette, with a few brighter colors thrown in to show off the new graphics, which matched the tone of the original game. “Gears 4” introduced more dynamic settings in its environments that allowed for new colors to emerge. These ranged from the dark and stormy Harbor to the bright and sunny Dam map, which takes place on a mountainside. Dam has bright equipment and other set pieces that allowed it to standout.

Regarding the gameplay, the beta felt somewhat similar to the “Ultimate Edition,” but brought some of the feeling from the third series installment. Unlike previous games, the characters were more nimble, so movement around each map was smoother and more natural. Matches felt more fast-paced, with some matches lasting under 10 minutes. The camera was also farther back from the character than it was in the “Ultimate Edition,” allowing for an open view of the surrounding area. This made the biggest difference since the maps included several points to observe large amounts of land, so spotting an enemy and observing others’ movements played a larger role than in previous games.

All the standard weapons returned to the game with one new piece making its debut — the Dropshot. An interesting weapon, the Dropshot launches an explosive into the air and, while the player holds the right trigger, the explosive moves forward until the player releases the trigger to slam the weapon into the ground and explode. However, the Dropshot may need balancing before the full game is released because the blast radius was too large. There were deaths that came seemingly out of nowhere with no nearby explosion.

The modes available included the standard Team Deathmatch, as well as a Co-op Team Deathmatch, where players can take on a team entirely composed of high difficulty artificially intelligent players and a new game mode called Dodgeball.

Dodgeball is an extension of Team Deathmatch, and each team starts with five players. Once someone is killed, it is up to their teammates to kill someone on the other team to bring them back into the game. A round can only be won when all players on the opposing team are dead and the ultimate winners have to win the best of five rounds.

Overall, the “Gears of War 4” beta showed merely one-half of the upcoming game and not even all of the multiplayer gameplay, but was enough to gain a solid idea of the game. The multiplayer looks to be shaping up quite nicely with enough new advancements to keep players interested, while staying true to the series’ traditions. Although I am more excited for the story of the upcoming game, I was entertained for hours while playing the beta.