Did Gears 4 Play It Too Safe?

Did Gears 4 Play It Too Safe?

Gears of War 4 is The Coalition’s first attempt at creating a new chapter in the series, and it looks fun. Cheat Code Central’s Sean Engeman even gave it a 4.2, and it received an overall score of 87 Metacritic. But I’ve noticed a common criticism that I had expected: it doesn’t push the series forward. Which leads me to wonder: are all game studios who inherit franchises of immense value doomed to face the very same criticism?

It’s fitting that the main character in Gears of War 4 is the son of Marcus Phoenix because it represents Epic Games passing the torch to The Coalition. The latter has big shoes to fill, and I assume that’s a lot of pressure. When your parent has left behind a legacy, how much of it do you preserve, and how much do you alter?

The Coalition, probably at Microsoft’s behest, is opting for preservation. However, as Sean pointed out when describing JD, “…his unselfish heart makes you root for his success, but the absent badass persona seems like it could drift the series into monotony.” Granted, he was criticizing the cast in that portion of his review, and he later pointed out that the combat still felt fresh to him.

But here’s how I interpreted the passage: The Coalition’s game is missing something that made Epic’s stand out, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the critics who were tired of the combat felt similarly. And that intrigues me, because I look to the Call of Duty series for being more of the same – although I’m sure the annual release schedule is the reason why.

Even if Gears of War under The Coalition’s watch doesn’t stagnate as fast as Call of Duty , it’s doomed to feel like it’s missing something subtle yet crucial. I’m reminded of Supernatural , which could have ended after season 5 under former showrunner Eric Kripke. The brothers begin their journey by hunting ghosts and other monsters while searching for their dad. Each subsequent season, the writers began gradually raised the stakes with demons, angels, arch angels, and, finally, Lucifer. The progression, like the formula, worked.

The show has continued, and while it’s still good. Some might argue that it’s gone downhill since Kripke’s departure.  Since preventing the apocalypse, several near-apocalypses almost came to be because how else do you raise the stakes? Major antagonists side with the protagonists just to switch things up, and the protagonists are still struggling with the same problems. The formula still works, but the progression is slow and possibly declining.

Did Gears 4 Play It Too Safe?

And that’s what I think might happen to Gears . The cover-based shooting is still intact, but the story under the new “showrunner” is already suffering. I don’t think the franchise will completely reinvent itself like Crash Bandicoot did under Activision’s control. Yet, if The Coalition chooses not to make drastic changes to the story, then who knows how long the core gameplay will hold up? If their writers can’t create characters and scenarios that equal Epic Games’, then maybe changing the gameplay a little might seem appealing after all.

Not that The Coalition has to worry about this quite yet, but it will be interesting to see how they respond in the future.

Image Credit: WarBalloon

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