At PAX East 2016, I wanted to find out if Gears of War 4 still plays like Gears of War.
Spoiler alert: it does.
Multiplayer in the franchise’s newest release, and first endeavor by Black Tusk Studio, plays like the Gears fans already know and love. A lot has changed with the cover based shooter genre since then, however. Most recently, Ubisoft’s The Division features a cover-based control mechanic that easily allows players to maneuver their away through post-outbreak New York City while constantly staying in cover. My initial reaction from my first match of Gears 4 was “wow, this control set-up feels completely outdated.”
My muscle memory meant that I tried to employ the controls I’m used to with The Division in Gears of War 4. I’d quickly (and often) have to remind myself that I’m not playing The Division; I’m playing Gears. It took a couple of minutes but eventually I’d fall right back into the swing of things, but every so often I’d try to hold my A button to easily maneuver from cover to cover. Every time I did this, I’d tell myself “Jake, you’re not playing Division, stop it.”
It turns out that I’m not alone in this regard. A couple of developers on the show floor mentioned that they ran into the same issue. “It’s definitely something we’ve come across and find ourselves doing” said one. I asked him if they’d consider reconfiguring the control setup in the future, but that doesn’t seem likely. “Gears of War is its own thing.” Clearly it’s something that the team is aware of, but I understand where they’re coming from. Being able to keep constant cover in Gears multiplayer may drastically change things. Part of the risk with moving from point A to point B has been exposing yourself, so I understand why Black Tusk wouldn’t want to change a thing.
Truth be told, the more I played Gears of War 4, the less often I found myself relying on The Division’s control setup. It could be just that I’m out of practice; I haven’t played a Gears game since Gears of War 3 released and The Division is the last console game I’ve played. Still, you have to wonder if an “update,” for lack of a better term, to its control scheme is needed.