Opinion: Gears of War 4 does multiplayer right
In the past, I have made it known on numerous occasions that there are certain tendencies within the multiplayer gaming industry which I am not a fan of. I don’t like how most developers settle for a purely competitive experience, I don’t like how co-op modes, if they’re even present at all, often feel half-baked and unsatisfying, especially when compared to their competitive counterparts.
In all my time as a gamer, there has never really been a game or game series that has felt, to me at least, like it gives an equal amount of respect and time to its competitive and cooperative multiplayer elements. None apart from the Gears of War series that is.
The Advent Of Horde Mode
The Gears of War series, created by Epic Games and later handed off to The Coalition, may not have invented the idea of pitting a small group of players against waves of AI foes, but it certainly helped to bring such a concept into the realm of public knowledge thanks to the introduction of the IP’s popular Horde Mode in Gears of War 2, a mode which would later show up in every Gears of War game afterwards and which would also become a defacto template for co-op multiplayer in many other games both shooter and otherwise.
The most recent Gears of War game, Gears of War 4, was no different, ushering in a new generation of Horde gameplay thanks to what The Coalition dubbed “Horde 3.0,” but Horde Mode is just one of the various ways in which Gears 4 shows just as much respect to its co-op playerbase as it does its competitive fans.
A Friendly Skirmish
Being able to engage in skirmish competitive matches against AI bots is something which Gears of War players have been able to do ever since Gears of War 2 and unlike virtually every other competitive multiplayer game which includes the option to fight against AI bots, bot matches in the Gears series actually grant the same rewards as actual competitive matches such as XP and cosmetic unlocks.
For Gears of War 4, The Coalition took that concept one step further by including a dedicated co-op vs. AI playlist for the game’s competitive suite, letting players who prefer not to throw themselves completely into the competitive grind still get their competitive fix and earn rewards for doing so on a much more casual-friendly scale.
An Example To Lead By
Gears of War 4 isn’t a perfect game by any means. Despite the various innovations which The Coalition has made to the Gears formula, the gameplay still doesn’t feel quite as fluid as other shooters (though it does offer a different sort of shooter experience for someone who is looking for a change of pace from the more prevalent FPS options) and, much like many other current game releases, Gears 4 has also been loaded onto the dubious-at-best microtransactions bandwagon which nickels and dimes players who want to unlock new multiplayer content at a steady clip. However, as far as offering a fair and compelling balance of competitive and cooperative multiplayer options, there’s really no other game on the market which can compete with Gears of War 4.
Hopefully The Coalition will continue to offer such a balanced multiplayer experience in future Gears of War games (ideally with less emphasis on microtransaction-based unlocks), but in the meantime, Gears of War 4 is still an excellent example which other multiplayer games could learn from. I don’t mean to imply that every single multiplayer game needs to cater equally to co-op and competitive players, but the folks behind the Gears of War series have really been the first (and pretty much only) developers I’ve seen who made it a point of making sure that there was something on offer for virtually every kind of multiplayer fan right from the get-go. If more developers approached their games with a similar mentality in the future, I certainly wouldn’t complain.