Gears of War 4 Preview

If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a dropshot!

At a ;Gears of War 4 multiplayer event held at Microsoft's loft in San Francisco, members of developer The Coalition spoke with an almost sheepish sense of humor about Gears of War: Judgement's multiplayer. It was an insightful talk that laid out the developer's approach to multiplayer on the table, as prior Gears games had tried to force players to change the way they played multiplayer. Gears of War 4, embraces—rather than tries to correct—the way that people play Gears of War's multiplayer.

Developers mentioned specifically that each subsequent ;Gears game had tried to force the player away from the "wall-popping, shotgun" approach to Gears' multiplayer by trying to force the player into a longer game with the Lancer or other weapon types. Rather than continue with this trend, Coalition devs said their new goal was to give players more options in the way that they actually play the game.

One new mechanic they were very excited to show was the game's new Yank and Shank and Vault Kick mechanics. Prefaced with a slide from prior Gears multiplayer sessions of two players on opposite sides of a wall blind-firing at each other over the top, the goal of these abilities are to give players the tools to reach over and execute a character on the other side. Yank and Shank allows them to drag an enemy across the top and then be dispatched with a knife. If approaching a wall with someone in cover behind it, the player can rush it, executing a Vault Kick in the opponent's chest, putting it in a daze where it could be similarly gutted.

This technique was simple enough to practice, but hard to put into play in a live multiplayer session. It can be blocked with a counter button, if the opposing player has got quick fingers; and even if the grab or kick is successful, it requires a follow-up to perform the execution. Several times during a live session I saw one character reach across a barrier to pull his enemy across, only to be caught in the maneuver by a flanking foe whose shotgun blast reduced him to a bloody paste (while still in the process of pulling their enemy across).

With the new Gears game taking place after a 25-year peace, the game empowers players with peacetime industrial tools that have been turned into weapons. The most dynamic of these that we got to see was the Dropshot, a mining tool that fired a floating explosive that would move in the direction it was fired until the player released the trigger, at which point it would drop and explode. A strong cover position becomes a liability while this weapon is in play. We were also told about the Buzzkill, a weapon that shoots ricocheting sawblades, but it wasn't available for play during the demo.

Getting to the Dropshot, or the Longshot, became a major focal point in matches, especially the new dodgeball mode. The new mode leverages the rules of dodgeball, having a player who's knocked out come back in when the rival team's player is killed, making it a furiously lopsided combat experience where the balance in the 5v5 matches could change in a heartbeat. I haven't felt more like a team player in a multiplayer match in any game I've played than I have cheering for the last man standing on our team to get a kill and bring one of ours back in to help even the balance.

It's great to see The Coalition aiming to support the way competitive gamers actually play, but it's not surprising. They noted the small but intense eSports community that is supporting Gears of War: Ultimate Edition as an inspiration for their choices. If Gears of War multiplayer is your raging cup of tea, you'll be able to play on Xbox One or PC on April 25th with an Xbox Live Gold account. Players who bought Gears of War: Ultimate Edition before April 11th will get a headstart on April 18th. Gears of War 4 is slated to release on October 11th for Xbox One and PC.