Gears of War 4 Hands-On: Horrifyingly Good

LOS ANGELES — A lot of heavy-hitters appeared on behalf of Xbox during the gaming console's E3 2016 press event, including Gears of War 4. Set to launch October 11, the latest entry in the Gears series takes place 25 years after Gears 3. The Locusts have been all but eradicated, but a new threat is rising to take its place.

This time around, the hero is it's J.D. Fenix, son of hero Marcus Fenix. I had the opportunity to play through a mission of the new game and I'm happy to report that this is the Gears you know and love with more refined gameplay.

The Mission

My game started with J.D. and his friends Del and Kait trying to track down a monster that swallowed Oscar. He's the one person that can help them find Kait's mom, who's also been taken by that monster. Suspecting these beasts are using humans for some purpose, they know Oscar isn't dead, so they have to track down the monster — nicknamed a Snatcher — to free its captive. I quickly discovered that finding that Snatcher is easier said than done, as the fort where the creature has flown to is crawling with glistening horrors eager to stop you.

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Like Riding a Bike

If you've played any Gear of War title, the control scheme should be familiar. After a short cutscene, I quickly began trying to dispose of a gooey pink pod with a few bursts from my trusty Lancer. It only took a few shots before the gelatinous form burst only to reveal a pale white humanoid monster with every intention of clawing me to death. I fell back, quickly pressing the A button to take cover behind a crumbling pillar. Pressing the right trigger let me blind fire, but with a pale white mob hurtling toward me and my team, it was time to get serious.

Using the left trigger to aim I trained my gun on the first creature and dispatched it while the AI-controlled Del and Kait provided suppressing fire. After a few tense moments of shooting and taking cover, we cleared the threat and proceeded to move through the fort. I switched to the Hammerburst gun I found and prepared for the next firefight.

A New Threat

These Gears monsters make me miss the Locusts from the previous entry. The yet-to-be-identified enemies gave me the heebie-jeebies. Similar to the Locusts, these new foes are kidnapping humans for nefarious purposes. But where the Horde was using their captives as slaves, this nascent force are turning their human victims into monsters themselves.

I'm not going to lie, I definitely felt a wave of revulsion when those former humans slithered out of their pods. The feeling only deepened as I saw the fleshy tendrils embedded into human structures, slowly transforming everything familiar into a pink gooey horror. But if pod transformation isn't enough for you, the new drones can evolve (mutate) into hulking pale giants that are smarter and stronger, complete with the ability to shoot a gun and flank your position.

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Your Team is Your Strongest Weapon

Similar to other Gears titles, your AI-controlled companions can be your biggest asset. Kait and Del definitely pulled my butt out of the fire when I was on the brink of death. And unlike most AI, these two can actually take down an enemy or two. Just be sure to return the favor every now and then.

Unfortunately, multiplayer wasn't available during the demo, but I'm definitely looking forward to some grisly action courtesy of Horde mode, as well as some team Deathmatch.

Bottom Line

In a world full of shooters, it can be hard for a game to stand out, even one as popular as Gears of War. However, boasting great graphics, tight controls with fun and familiar gunplay, Gears is going to get plenty of play in my house when it launches in October.