Microsoft

Gears of War 4 (Xbox One)

gearsofwar41

Hokey killer robots carry the limited narrative power of Gears of War 4. Not so good when read aloud in text (low grade pulp sci-fi at its best), but weirdly innocent and quaint for a franchise made famous for chewing on hunks of meat with a chainsaw gun.

Years after the Locust war, Sera transformed into a police state. Circumstances stay muddied, although the ludicrous exaggeration in scale feels so Gears of War. New developer The Coalition builds on the idea of lingering fear, alluding to conservative paranoia, situating the government’s COG soldiers as corruptible villains, if soon to be replaced by cliche androids.

It’s dumb and repetitive and same-y, yet brash and nonsense and gleeful. So, it’s Gears of War. The game ends with a march akin to Pacific Rim, then transitioning into a mournful suicide, arguably the most Gears of War tonal shift possible. The Coalition gets it.

Story threads beat in a theme of family bonding, generally fed with sarcasm, screaming, and overlong shooting. As with the rest of Microsoft’s main top tier of franchises – Forza and Halo – their design safety is interactive comfort food. Robots appear new (although Binary Domain did it better), then they begin moving like Locusts. And then come the Locusts.

It’s distressing not to see a growling big bad; the stakes enter a reductive phase with this sequel, less a planet under siege than a village. A sense of thematic urgency drifts off into the air, leaving the cover/shoot mechanism to carry the abbreviated narrative. It works.

3/5

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