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Gears of War 4 Beta impressions

After Quantum Break, this year's hottest Xbox One exclusive is undoubtedly the upcoming Gears of War 4. The Gears of War series has a strong focus on competitive and cooperative game modes. To make sure Gears 4's multiplayer plays and works well, a closed beta is currently underway. Anyone who bought and played Gears of War Ultimate Edition should receive a code within the coming days, with all Xbox Live members gaining access on April 25.

Don't worry if you haven't gotten into the Gears 4 beta yet – we'll show you just what it's like with these detailed multiplayer impressions, screenshots, and 60 FPS video!

Beta incentive

Gears of War 4 Beta Xbox One

Multiplayer betas serve multiple purposes. They help developers test a game's online performance as well as gather valuable feedback from players before the game launches. They also give players a sneak peak at what am upcoming title will be like, with the caveat that the game will change and hopefully improve prior to release.

One of the most tantalizing aspects of betas like this is when beta participants receive some reward in the final game. Not every beta provides such an incentive (ahem, Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2). But back in the Xbox 360 days, the Gears of War 3 beta promised a slew of unlockables like an exclusive weapon and character skins. The same holds true of Gears 4.

Gears of War 4 Beta Xbox One Match Score Ribbons

The Gears of War 4 beta features its own leveling system that should be familiar to series fans. To unlock the beta rewards in the final version of Gears 4, players just need to reach Level 20 before the beta ends on May 1. I reached Level 10 after 2-3 hours of play, and I'm not great at multiplayer. Hitting Level 20 shouldn't be a problem for most Gears fans.

The beta unlock this time is the 'Vintage Kait Reward Set.' This set consists of a steampunk-inspired skin for Kait, Gears 4's primary female character, Vintage skins for the Lancer Rifle and Snub Pistol, a Vintage Kait Emblem (presumably used to customize one's in-game profile), and a unique Bounty card featuring Vintage Kait.

Actual multiplayer level progress won't transfer to Gears of War 4 when it launches in October, of course. But more skins and items are always nice to have, so it's certainly worth your time to shoot for Level 20 while the beta lasts.

Beta game types and maps

Gears of War 4 Beta Xbox One

The Gears 4 beta features the standard Gears/Halo party system in which you can invite friends to an in-game party and enter matchmaking with them. The final game will support 2-player screen in online game types, but that feature is unavailable in the beta.

Beta players can select from three "Versus" playlists. Each of the three available game types is team-based, with five players per team. One side plays as the COGs, the heroic human inhabitants of planet Sera. The opposing side this time out is the Swarm, a monstrous race that bears more than a passing resemblance to the Locust antagonists of the original Gears trilogy.

To aid with playlist selection, the game displays the average match time, squad size, and other information. After choosing a playlist, the matchmaking process begins. If you haven't tried that playlist before, your first five games will serve as "Placement Matches" that help determine the skill level of future opponents.

Gears of War 4 Beta Xbox One

The beta playlists include:

  • Team Deathmatch: Returning from Gears of War 3 and Gears Ultimate, this competitive mode pits two teams of five players against each other. Each side has a fixed number of respawns shared between members. Once a team uses up, its respawns and its last player dies, the opposing team wins the round. The team that wins three rounds takes the overall victory.
  • Dodgeball: This brand-new competitive mode does not involve actual dodgeball, sadly – you'll have to play Stikbold for that. But it does take inspiration from the dodgeball mechanic in which catching a ball in a certain way not only eliminates the thrower, and it also allows one of the catcher's teammates to return to the game. Here, neither side begins with respawns. But killing an opponent and then remaining alive for five seconds causes a member of your team to be resurrected.
  • Co-op TDM (Hardcore AI): If you're like me and stink at competitive multiplayer, then this cooperative spin on Team Deathmatch is for you. A single team of five players battles against a team of AI enemies using the standard Team Deathmatch rules. All Gears 4 game types will support bot matches, hopefully through matchmaking playlists like this one.

Gears of War 4 Beta Xbox One

Three brand new maps are included in all three playlists of the beta. Before each game, teams can vote on the map they prefer:

  • Dam: This brightly lit, colorful map has a large crane at the top-middle, a raised platform in the center upon which power weapons spawn, and junked cars at the periphery.
  • Foundation: Set within the industrialized portion of a city, concrete, fans, and pipes dominate this two-tiered level. The dark clouds overhead result in a muted color palette.
  • Harbor: Gears 4 features a variety of weather effects, one of which players will experience in this map: rain. Although the rain density isn't very high, the reflections it makes on the ground look fairly impressive. As you might expect, the Harbor map takes place on an elevated platform covered in shipping containers.


Gears of War 4 Beta Xbox One Bounty

Gears 4 features a new Bounty system that loosely resembles Halo 5's REQ Pack system. Players can collect Bounty cards and spend them to receive bonuses when they complete certain conditions during a match. For instance, a bounty might require you to achieve a target number of kills or points during the match's three rounds. If you accomplish the goal, you'll receive an XP bonus.

Bounties have two levels of rarity in the beta: Normal and Epic. As far as I can tell, activating a bounty does not consume it at present – that will surely change in the final game. Likewise, players only start with an assortment of bounty cards here.

In the final game, you'll be able to collect bounties by opening Gears 4's new crates. These crates can be purchased with credits earned from playing or with real money via in-app purchases – just like Halo 5's REQ Packs. Crates will also contain random assortments of cosmetic character and weapon skins.

Beta impressions

Gears of War 4 Beta Xbox One

Gears of War 4 won't be released for six months, so things will naturally change and improve by the time it launches. The current visuals have a few rough edges (such as an excessive level of screen shake at times) but still manage to maintain a 60 FPS frame rate at 1080p.

One graphical effect that already impresses is the new look of the TAC/COM. In recent Gears games, pressing and holding the Left Bumper button highlights the location of your teammates no matter where they are on the map. It still works that way in Gears 4, but you and your teammates will really stand out thanks to a pattern of circles and squares that scroll over friendlies.

Gears of War 4 Beta Xbox One controls

As for the gameplay, the Gears 4 beta plays just like Gears Ultimate and previous Gears entries. Chainsaw kills still feel great when you pull them off, and overpowered shotguns dominate the game as ever. The new Dropshot gun adds nicely to the balance of power weapons that I can't hope to use effectively. It shoots a projectile upward that rains down on the target for an explosive kill.

The Gears cover system remains the most intuitive in gaming, with one significant addition. When two players hide on opposite sides of a low piece of cover, one can grab the other and execute him or her with a knife. Count on Gears for satisfying instant kills!

Gears of War 4 Beta Xbox One

Gears of War 4 still has many months to go before it releases exclusively on Xbox One on October 11 this year. The beta only hints at the many game types we'll get at launch, but it should be more than enough to whet the appetites of Gears fans.

Remember, beta early access codes are still rolling out to Gears Ultimate players who logged into that game before April 11. Once Monday, April 25 rolls around, the beta opens up to everyone until its conclusion on May 1.

Have you got your Gears 4 beta code yet, dear reader? And are you pumped for a fresh return to the war-torn ruins of Sera?

Paul Acevedo is the Games Editor at Windows Central. A lifelong gamer, he has written about videogames for over 15 years and reviewed over 350 games for our site. Follow him on Twitter @PaulRAcevedo. Don’t hate. Appreciate!

  • I got the code and I'll give this a shot but Horde mode has always been my preferred MP mode, but the TDM against bots might be interesting, keep those vulgar 14 year olds away! :) Nice impressions, thanks.
  • Yeah, I'm a big Horde fan as well. Co-Op Team DM is the next best thing for now. :)
  • Agree horde is good fun I played for hours back then on gears 2&3 Posted from Windows Central for Windows 10
  • Horde mode has always been my favorite!
  • Looking forward to it, although I'm worried about the graphics for multiplayer, I know it's a beta but Gears 2 seems like it has better graphics
  • Gears 2 is running at a way lower resolution and FPS, and has less graphical effects. The graphics are a bit unpolished in the Gears 4 beta, but they're objectively superior and will surely look better when the full game comes along.
  • Uk o2 priority offering code for beta
  • Microsoft is rocking with these exclusives.
  • I got the code yesterday downloaded it and will play later after I finish clockwork tales on hard Posted from Windows Central for Windows 10
  • Pre ordered and played on Day One, still waiting on my code. I don't understand why they have this much prep time they bumble these code rollouts.
  • Good to read a review from a fan of the game that actually appreciates the formula. Too often you find people saying "It's more of the same and it's just boring by now" but they don't realize that you change the formula and you change the game (Like what happened in deadspace 3). Seems like Gears 4 is adding only some small changes, enough to make the game feel new without making it feel different (like a taco with extra cheese). Off Topic: Paul, Are you going to review Hyper Light Drifter?
    Pretty sure you're going to like it :D
  • Glad you liked the impressions! Yeah, the changes in Halo 4 and 5 have been controversial. With Gears, I'd rather they not change it too much. I'd be okay with nerfing shotguns though. I'll definitely try to review Hyper Light Drifter when it comes to Xbox One. Been interested in that one since the Kickstarter campaign. :)
  • Bot matches are a welcomed addition. I've not played Gears in forever, so I'll have to check this out on 4/25. It's been a busy month of betas, between Battleborn, DOOM, this, and the opcoming Mirror's Edge. I'm a bit disappointed to hear that the shotgun is still overpowered, almost 10 years after it wrecked people in the first online mode. The new mechanics and Dodgeball mode sound cool though. I hope they do a good job with the skill rankings, because I can't remember the last shooter to have balanced multiplayer with any consistency.
  • As much as I hate shotguns, well it is a shotgun. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Sure, but going shotgun only is so much less viable in Halo and other games. The developers could balance them to reduce that kind of behavior.
  • I'd say shotguns have been plenty usable over the years, depending on the map and game design Plus, it's rare in any game for you to survive with just one weapon. It's not like you can run many games with just a sniper. There have been plenty of games with strong shotguns, with the biggest examples being Gears and Modern Warfare 2 (particularly its AA-12). I actually did a lot of damage with the S12 in Black Ops 2 as well. It's one thing to have pitiful shotguns, but I think that's pretty uncommon. I found it pretty lame the way Gears made its signature weapon almost unusable in online play.
  • Good thing this is coming out later this year, give me more time for never winter~
  • Never much good at Gears, but played it so much back in the day! Hooked up with an epic squad once or twice and it was perfect. Looking forward to the end of the year.
  • I'm a fan of the new modes. Unlockable items in a beta are also great!
  • Dissapointed in graphics so far, hope they improve.
  • Got my code.  I agree the graphics are unpolished at this time, but I have hope for the team and the franchise.
  • I have the code. Did the download. If I get to it harah. In reality im to busy. Lately I avoid betas. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • I see the gameplay, looks like a Shadowgun Deadzone