I have always been a fan of Gears of War when it comes to the single player, but multiplayer has been touch and go. I loved the first one, and the Ultimate Edition was a fantastic return to that, so when The Coalition said we would return again with Gears 4 I got excited. Yet after playing the beta, or Alpha dressed up as a beta, I think they have a lot of work to do.
This is a beta and hopefully it is treated as such. If the beta is a legit test then what the developers want is for us to tell them what isn’t working, or what might be broken. So no I’m not judging the final game on my beta experience, this is simply how I feel about the beta in current form.
Also, I did some looking around and I guess this “beta” is technically an Alpha dressed up as a beta? I don’t really know, but it sure does play like an Alpha.
After playing the beta, and getting annoyed to no end, I went to the forums to see what people are saying. In my eyes I don’t think there is a middle ground for what people want. Some want changes, others want a clone of Gears 1, and yet this game is lost between the two sides. On one side it changes almost nothing. The controls are clunky, there are dead points, and it plays a lot like a last generation title. On the flip side the developers made some changes that make it feel just a bit different, while slightly smoothing over some key features.
Being bluntly clear, I am not having fun playing the beta. The game isn’t friendly towards new players at all, and you can clearly tell who the returning Gears players are. The people running around with shotguns is a clear indication. In fact the game is pretty much nothing but shotguns, and I’m told that is a Gears thing so hardcore fans don’t want it changed… I don’t really care though because I find it lame. I constantly see two players blow up simultaneously due to shotgun blasts, or two players bum rushing each other to get a one shot shotgun kill. Gun fights and strategy never really develop because everyone is too busy blasting shotguns. Anytime you go into cover you will often find an enemy player rushing at you with their shotgun in hand. It just gets old.
Then when you do try to play cover and fight back through strategy other problems arise. There is no way to hear people walking around you. I had my headphones turned all the way up and I was still randomly exploding by something off screen. Most of the guns feel absolutely pointless in most battles as well. The assault rifle takes a ton of bullets to do any damage, and enemies will almost always dive to cover before anything can be done. (Which, again, wouldn’t be so bad if they weren’t setting up shotgun blast zones.) A lot of the time your head is being blown off, or your body is exploding, and you really have no idea what just happened.
The problem being there is a clear skill level advantage for returning Gears fans. Those of us that are a bit more casual in the Gears online environment don’t feel welcome at all. For us the game just feels like a clunky frustrating mess. Personally I play shooters all the time and never have trouble at all, yet this beta has me frustrated every time I play it. Plainly put all the exploits of previous titles are clearly still there because nothing was touched.
It seems as though they were afraid to really do anything new with the franchise because when other franchises venture too far off they get heavy backlash from core fans. Yet I think they could have essentially kept the core game intact, while improving upon it for a new generation of Gears. I’m not asking for loadouts or Call of Duty style approaches, but making the gameplay a little swifter would be nice. Limiting shotgun deaths would also make it a bit more fun.
One of my major gripes is how useless a majority of the weapons are. They do little to no damage in the environment. You could unload on a guy and feel like you did absolutely nothing to them. The hit markers seem to be a bit off as well to make it even worse. Other gripes are the environments, which I hope are simply plain because it is a beta and they wanted to keep downloads minimal.
Instead we get very finite changes like a new cover melee attack. When you run to cover and another player runs to cover opposite of you, there is an ability to reach over and grab them. They get stunned, you do an epic melee move, and they throw their controller in anger. To me simple changes like this are awesome and it’s all Gears really needed, but that’s about all the change we got. Other things like fixing the sprint to be a little less clunky, better cover movement, or just plain better gun perks would be fantastic. All weapons need some clear adjustments made across the board too. “Dedicated fans” won’t like it because it ruins their shotgun fun, but if they want a bigger audience then it needs to be done.
Then there are some technical elements that need adjusting. I would assume visually the game will look better in final form, but in the beta it looks a lot like a 360 title still. Basically Ultimate Edition. I also constantly run into hiccups where the frame rate drops noticeably and becomes choppy, and maps start glitching out for no reason. It becomes really hard to aim when the maps become hectic at times.
Also the maps are large and I’m seeing a lot of complaints about them being “too big” yet I don’t understand why. Every single match I’ve been in ended up being a spawn camping nightmare. One team was always pushed back to their spawn area and fighting for ways to get out. This is a very old school problem in my books. Very rarely are games taking place over the entire map, granted the few game modes we have are linear deathmatch style modes. I’d like all game modes to see multiple spawn points, or at least switch spawn points when a team is push back too far. There is a reason why other shooters have implemented moving spawns in their games. This also fixes the complaints about the large maps because you could spawn people closer together, instead of far away at their initial spawn point.
That all being said the game has potential, it just isn’t reaching it in this beta. I hope the team spends the next few months fixing it up and making it something great. I understand and respect their decision to play things safe for their entry title in the franchise, but playing it too safe makes it boring. At the end of the day it is very important to remember this is a very early beta for the game and they have six months to fix things up. We have seen Gears change in similar time period before and what we see in the beta could be totally different in the final game.
I hope the game I play in October is way different than the game I played in the beta.