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Gears of War 4 Multiplayer Beta has arrived

Last summer Microsoft announced that fans who play Gears of War: Ultimate Edition on Xbox One or Windows 10 before March 1st, 2016 (later extended to April 11th), will gain access to the exciting, exclusive Gears of War 4 Early Access Multiplayer Beta. The beta, which rolled out to Early Access members yesterday, offers the first peak at how Gears of War 4 is evolving the franchise’s multiplayer experience.

This is a beta in its truest sense. Not all features in the final game are present, and the overall framerate and graphics engine are not yet full optimized. The beta is intended to help the developers tweak and refine the multiplayer experience as we move closer to big worldwide release date of October 11th, 2016. After diving into the Multiplayer Beta this weekend during a limited preview period, I can confidently say that even at this early stage, Gears of Wars 4 multiplayer delivers. The combat has gone back-to-basics, taking the best elements from the exceptional Gears of War 3 multiplayer, while also innovating the gameplay in many ways.

Everything you love about Gears multiplayer is here, and more

Roadie running, cover shooting, wall frag tagging, gnasher rolling, enemy spotting, meatshields, tac-com, down-but-not-out, and my personal favourite—chainsaw duels—are all back and better than ever in Gears of War 4 multiplayer. This is a true-to-form multiplayer incarnation that takes you back to the glory days of early Gears of War multiplayer, and will make you forget about the rather underwhelming, arcadey, FPS-style multiplayer offering in Gears of War: Judgment. The old-school intensity is back.

Reyna_and_Kait_Dropshot_Execution.jpgNew Moves

Gears of War 4 multiplayer does a great job at building upon core, classic Gears gameplay elements, refining and tweaking them to make combat more fluid and finessed. Take the new Vault Kick for example, this move allows you to roadie run towards an enemy on the other side of cover, and quickly vault over to perform a stunning kick to the face. It’s like the mantle kick from Gears 3, only with no need to slow down your momentum. Next, there’s the new Yank and Shank maneuver, which allows you to pull opponents over cover to your side, leaving them vulnerable to the many new knife executions. Both of these moves can be countered, so while they are very effective to under specific situations, you need to be choosey where and when you employ them.

New Maps

There are three maps included in the Gears of War 4 Multiplayer Beta—Dam, Harbor, and Foundation. All three of them are roughly symmetrical, giving each team equal opportunity secure key chokepoints and obtain the highly coveted power weapons. Dam was my favourite map with its gorgeous moss-covered construction yard, magnificent flowing dam backdrop, and central hot zone everyone hustles towards to secure the game-changing power weapon. Action can occur anywhere on this multi-area battlefield: in the bunkered pit at the map’s base, in the tight corridors underneath a towering crane, or in the precarious, yet integral, raised central platform. It’s frenetic fun combat from start to finish.

MP_Map_Harbor.jpgFor urban environment lovers there’s Foundation, a map filled with close-range encounters and a key bisecting path that gives you line of sight down the whole map. I loved the carnage-filled 5-on-5 wars that took place down the central corridor, but you have to watch out for players who duck into the upper piston room, or lower statue monument area to grab power weapons like the Torque Bow and all-new Dropshot grenade launcher. These weapons make a huge impact, especially in the highly populated central stretch.

Finally, there’s Harbor, a dark, drizzly outdoor industrial shipyard filled with protruding pipes, a large crane, a docked boat, and a multi-floor docking area. This felt like the smallest map of the bunch, and control of the boat is critical to success. You get a great view of the battlefield when at the front of the boat, but you need to be ready to defend your position in close-quarter combat should you get flanked. The best aspect of this map is the multiple lanes to enter from unexpected angles, resulting in surprise encounters that constantly keep you on your toes.

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New (and Returning) Modes

Team Deathmatch returns in Gears of War 4 multiplayer in all its glory. Each 5-player team is given a 15 life pool, so you need to strategize and fight as if each life was your last. Unlike other shooters, there are no infinite spawns in Team Deathmatch, so you need to stick together, fight as a unit, and have each other’s backs. After playing several hours of Team Deathmatch, I switched over to 5-player vs 5 bots mode, to see how the game’s AI stacked up. They obviously posed less of a challenge than human players, as the AIs didn’t seem to coordinate their attacks very well, but they have deadly aim with a Torque Bow or Dropshot so you have to watch out.

The one new mode included in the beta is Dodgeball, which if you know from the real game, once you tag an opposing player, one of your teammates gets to re-enter the play field. The Gears version works pretty much the same: each player only has one life, but if you die, you can get resurrected and re-entry the fray after one of your teammate scores a kill. Remember all those times you were in 5-2, or worse, 5-1 situations and thought you had little chance to win? In Dodgeball, a 5-1 match can easily become a 4-2 after taking down an opponent, and then an even 3-3 if you take down one more. Huge upset comebacks can occur in Dodgeball, making it the most thrilling multiplayer mode included in the beta.

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New (and Returning) Weapons

I’ve already mentioned some of the returning weapons, like the iconic Lancer (w/ chainsaw), Gnasher shotgun, Hammerburst, and Torque Bow. The beta also includes the devastating Boomshot (still my favourite Gears weapon), as well as the Longshot sniper rifle, now just as deadly as it was in the original Gears. Rounding out the returning weapons are the Boltok and Snub pistols, as well as smoke and frag grenades.

The one new weapon in the beta, the Dropshot, is just downright nuts. It’s basically a hybrid drill-mine that hovers in the air and darts outwards the longer you hold the trigger button. When you release the button, the drill comes crashing down with high explosive power, obliterating everyone in its radius. Should you time the drop such that it lands squarely on the head of your opponent, the drill will burrow inside your victim’s body, then explode them into a pile of mush. It takes a few rounds to really get the hang of this weapon, so don’t be surprised if you miss the mark the first few times until you learn exactly how long to hold the trigger to get your desired distance.

JD_Dropshot.jpgRewards for playing

First the bad news—your stats and progression in the beta will not carry over to the final game come October. However, by reaching XP Level 20 in the beta, you can obtain exclusive DLC like the ‘Vintage Kait’ character model, an emblem, a special Vintage Kait bounty, plus the Vintage weapon skin for the Lancer and Snub Pistol. Sure it would have been great to carry over your progression, but look on the bright side—the beta is totally free (and it’s awesome), plus you can score some cool items and gear to give you a head start when the full game releases.

Don’t miss out – pre-order now

If you’re currently playing the Gears of War 4 Multiplayer Beta I’m sure you’ll agree—Gears multiplayer is back with a vengeance. If you didn’t play Gears of War: Ultimate Edition during the valid period, and thus can’t join the Early Access, don’t fret: an open beta is currently scheduled for April 25 through to May 1 for all Xbox Live Gold members.

Considering how great the beta is, Gears of War 4 multiplayer is going to be epic. Now we just have to see about the campaign, hopefully we’ll get more of it at this year’s E3.

Don’t miss your chance to be a part of this groundbreaking new entry on Xbox One.