[Update: Original video was taken down so we replaced with new video by our own Rob Keyes to showcase Gears of War 4 beta gameplay.]
A tidal wave of non-annualized "triple-A" game sequels have hit within the last year, including Rise of the Tomb Raider to Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain and Fallout 4. The sequel business is even stronger in gaming than polishing off remastered collections and more major franchises will have new installments land later this year and into the next including Uncharted 4, Mass Effect Andromeda and the long-awaited Final Fantasy XV.
Having of sold enough copies previously, nearly any game will have a follow-up. That is why it was no surprise at all when Gears of War 4 was finally officially announced by Microsoft as they purchased the brand from Epic Games. The Xbox One needs some must-play exclusives and will not stand on Quantum Break’s success alone. However, with a new development studio at the helm of what has become an iconic franchise for the console, will The Coalition (previously known as Black Tusk Studios) be able to create something that feels fresh? According to gameplay footage of the closed beta, it may end up being too much of the same.
A video uploaded by someone who has named their channel after Gears of War 4 protagonist JD Fenix (son of Marcus) showcases 13 minutes of gameplay from the Gears of War 4 multiplayer closed beta, but you could be forgiven for mistaking it for any of the previous five entries (including the first Gears remaster).
Nothing much, if at all seems to have changed from this limited display of gameplay. Sure the map may feature a different layout but the way the player moves around the environment looks identical to every other Gears game. It looks like the same animations have been implemented with no real difference noticeable in how characters move when downed. The units, weapons, HUD, and mechanics look as if nothing was added, innovated upon, or improved. Of course, this is just a limited sampling of a small sample.
Familiar Gears of War staple weapons - the Lancer, Snub Pistol, Gnasher Shotgun and Smoke Grenades - appear as the default loadout when the player scrolls through their inventory. If the Lancer was retired there could be a fuss given the weapon's iconic nature in the series, but the exact same loadout used and presented in the same way on the same units versus the same opponents in a mode fans have been using for years with no change? A bit boring. The footage will certainly cause some fans to wonder if the development team will offer anything that feels significantly new and worth of a next-gen release.
The Coalition has been mum on gameplay details for Gears 4, neglecting to talk about a Horde mode, Beast mode, or any new (or bigger) modes yet, and the open beta next week is designed to test balance and the game's online infrastructure so perhaps they're holding back. With E3 2016 coming up, expectations are high on Microsoft and The Coaltion showing something worthy of a new installment, especially after Gears 3 delivered so much.
Earlier today, Microsoft teased a new weapon execution for Gears of War 4 called the Dropshot. It sees the player jam the new powerful weapon into the back of an enemy’s head, before lifting them up and firing them into the air, which then causes them to explode in a burst of classic Gears chunky meat gore. From this gameplay videos and lack of info though, it's unclear of the new weapons will appear in the open beta.
Fallout 4 divided fans in being too much like earlier games in the series, especially in its graphics and mission designs. For many gamers, that's all that was needed - more of what worked before for a satisfying post-apocalyptic fix. However, others criticized that the game didn’t offer much newness or take advantage of the new console generation's power and modern PCs. Early gameplay footage of Uncharted 4, on the other hand, looks like it is taking that franchise to the next level, even adding entirely new types of set pieces, so it will be a great shame if one of Xbox’s flagship series fails to deliver more than what Gears of War 3 did.
Gamers will be able to test Gears of War 4 out for themselves soon enough. Those who've played Gears of War: Ultimate Edition on either Xbox One or PC should begin to receive tokens, granting them access to the Gears 4 open beta beginning April 18th. You will have had to have played the remastered title before 11pm April 11th to qualify. After the early access period, Xbox Live Gold members will then be able to join in the open beta from April 24 until May 1.
Gears of War 4 releases October 11, 2016 exclusively on Xbox One .