It looks like Gears of War 4 is fulfilling its early promise of a return to the leaner, altogether scarier play of the earlier games. Not that it’s skimping on the spectacle, mind. The game’s – gorgeous-looking - E3 2016 stage demo was a swirling nightmare of wind, lightning, exploding debris and flying corpses, blending relentless environmental threats with more claustrophobic, indoor carnage. It’s a very promising balance, making the game feel aggressive, wide and pacey without stumbling into any of the bloated scale that crept into Gears of War 3.
The new enemy Swarm faction sums up Gears 4’s vibe, feeling very much rather like Turbo Locust. Galloping zombie-like units hurtle over cover and through open ground with little care for self preservation, while the larger Drone warriors feel similar to the traditional Locust footsoldier, albeit with a notable shot of rapid offense.
But it’s the dynamic blend of ‘standard’ action, collaborative, co-op set-pieces, and character interaction that really makes Gears 4 feel much more alive than previous entries. One moment it’s a forthright charge through intense, cover-based battling, the next we have one player rolling over a dead Siege Beast to launch its biomechanical bombs while the other trap-shoots them out of the air to take down a nearby sniper. Seconds later we’re on the move again, blowing up palettes of junk and letting the tearing wind scatter detritus across the battlefield as lethal bludgeons and blades.
At its core, Gears’ tight, close-range strategy looks entirely present and correct throughout, but it’s wrapped in an exhilarating blanket of fast, arresting, organic peripheral action. But it’s not just the gameplay that’s exciting. Gears of War 4 will operate within Microsoft’s new Xbox Play Anywhere scheme, meaning that any digital copy will have cross-play between console and Windows 10 PC, with Achievements and saves carrying over between formats, and co-op play – in campaign and the new Horde mode – following suit.
Check out every announcement and full summary details on our Microsoft E3 press conference page.