Actual gameplay was showcased at this year’s E3 for Gears of War 4 during Microsoft’s E3 press conference. It was blink-and-you-missed-it quick, and was basically just under 10 minutes of what could be considered banal decade-old gameplay. Oh yeah, and this JD kid and his Scoopy Doo friends act like they came right out of a Saturday morning cartoon for tweens.
The horror themes that overlaid the first two Gears of War games have been traded in for vocal high-fives and teenage confidence syndrome. Players take on the role of JD and his two racially diverse friends. It’s like someone looked at the formula of a CW show and thought “If it worked for these teen dramas, by golly it’ll work for Gears of War. You can check out the seven minute video below, captured by YouTuber GolemDe, which features some major cringe from a script that seems to be pandering to an audience that obviously is not above 18 years of age.
Opposite of the edgy hipster angst that Marcus Holloway displays in Watch Dogs 2 – where for better of for worse, he does come across as a realized character who draws from a lot of real life traits from today’s hacker youth and black culture – the three kids in Gears of War 4 leave me with absolutely nothing but ambivalence.
Outside of quips and lame one-liners, the jolly trio of power-friends seemed to lack any defining traits other than being checkbox token characters. From the average as an American pie white guy, to the reliably mundane black guy, and the tough and sassy Hispanic chick, one would think they were watching the lead characters from the NASCAR cartoon from back in the late 1990s transformed into gun-totting space marines.
Outside of the tokenism, the gameplay itself is rather ho-hum. I love the tech under the hood, though. The lightning barrage near the end of the video was impressive. The wind effects from the storm looked convincing. The physics being affected by the wind was a really nice touch. Also, the particle effects and dynamic physical based light emissions were great.
Seeing how the screen space reacted to individual light sources helped bring the environment to life, especially as the blue glow from the lightning traveled around the level and subtly reflected on the ground and throughout the ambient occlusion. You could even see some of the light reflections emitting across objects that were being affected by the post processing, such as the bokeh depth of field that was in effect during the 5:34 mark was very impressive. If this was a tech demo it would get fairly high grades.
As a game, though, there’s absolutely nothing new here that we haven’t already seen before. I was kind of hoping we would get the kind of gameplay depth and mechanics that were present in games like Lost Planet 2, but sadly it appears as if a lot of the focus will be on this new JD kid and his Saturday morning wonder friends.
If I ever decided to get around to playing Gears of War 4 it would probably be to check out the new special effects and what sort of creative Blueprint designs they used in the Unreal Engine 4, because the story and gameplay haven’t won me over at all.
Gears of War 4 is due to drop on Xbox One with Windows 10 compatibility come October 11th, 2016.