The gaming landscape is one that is ever evolving. For every beefy single player experience, there are a multitude of multiplayer ones that are fighting to find a home on your console, resulting in somewhat of an arms race.
Who can supply you with the most content in a refreshing and timely manner, that also doesn’t ostracize its player base? Currently, when you think of games that double as a service, there are a handful that come to mind – Fortnite, Destiny, The Division, Rainbow Six Siege, and more line a list that continually try to find ways to keep players engaged and active every single day, given the heart of their content comes from their multiplayer aspects (for some games, even their entirety). Microsoft faces that daily battle through Rare’s Sea of Thieves, that has continually added content to help keep fans interested in the ongoing game. Yet, there is another franchise that goes unmentioned when talking about Microsoft games and continued online support (no, not Halo); and that’s Gears of War. Specifically the fourth entry.
Releasing in October 2016, Gears of War 4 was truly a pivotal point for the series. While the studio released the Ultimate Edition remaster of the original Gears of War the year prior, Gears of War 4 would be The Coalition’s first original game within the series. In many fans and critics eyes, the newly renamed and Gears-focused studio handled the remaster of the original quite well, which added much pressure to the already high standard the series had began to hold. Upon release the game scored quite well with many critics, sitting at an 85 average between the Xbox One and PC version on MetaCritic. With many praising the game’s improvements on quality of life instances, the overall story, and the gameplay in general, it’s a game that many fans view as a step in the right direction for fans.
While the campaigns in the Gears of War franchise have always been a high point, the multiplayer has been an aspect that has traditionally carried the entry for years after release. The fourth decided to take a different route when designing multiplayer, and it is one that has resulted in one of the best values on Microsoft’s Xbox One in terms of content provided.
Like entries in the past, Gears of War 4 launched with 10 playable multiplayer maps, including nine wholly new maps. What has set this entry past others, both within its own franchise and of a similar genre, is in regards the amount of content provided for free post launch. Leading up to the release of Gears of War 4, The Coalition announced that it would follow the trend of many modern titles by offering an additional Season Pass that would cover a wide variety of content. Included in the purchase was a Vintage VIP Pack, that provided a Vintage James Fenix character skin, Vintage Gnasher and Dropshot weapon skins, a Vintage JD Emblem and a Vintage JD Bounty for extra XP. On top of that, players would receive permanent DLC map ownership of the 24 additional maps that would come post-launch to use on private dedicated servers, access to developer playlists to test new maps, modes and features, and a 17-pack Starter Airdrop that contains 85 Gear cards total.
Now, you’re probably thinking: that’s all great, but how is that proving Gears of War 4 is a great value? While The Coalition still offered a paid iteration of the content in which players can buy certain cosmetics and maps, all content was offered free through playing matchmaking. By the end of the developer’s commitment to post-launch content, the game currently offers 34 maps that allow players the ability to play for free via rotation in public matchmaking. Sure, some maps includes remakes of some classic Gears battlegrounds, but with most large scale, AAA multiplayer games, the only way players normally see this level of commitment is through offering the maps at a premium. Yet, here The Coalition is taking the same stance their parent company Microsoft has for the past few years of making decisions that put the gamer first. On top of that, the staggering 50+ characters, along with their respective skins, have all been available as unlockables as well. Does it take a time commitment to feasibly unlock many of these cosmetics? Of course, but the approach Microsoft and The Coalition took on providing a game as a service that focuses on giving the players opportunity to experience all that the game has to offer in a low barrier of entry should incentivize those same players to want to give back to the development team.
Yet, while all of the work and emphasis up on the accessibility from the developer’s end is very commendable, the icing on the cake comes from Microsoft making all exclusive first party titles, available day and date, on Xbox Game Pass. At the low cost of $10 a month, Xbox One fans have access to over 100 Xbox One and 360 games at their fingertips, along with multiple backwards compatible original Xbox and Xbox Live Arcade titles, including one Gears of War 4. But it doesn’t stop there. Not only do owners of Gears of War 4 have access to the game on Xbox One, but paired with Microsoft’s Play Anywhere promotion, those same players have full access to Gear of War 4 on PC as well. Pair these two together and you have a game that your wallet will breath a heavy sigh of relief when you boot it up. Not to mention, with the game being cross platform on Xbox One and PC, a consistent player count helps keep the game alive and well.
So, let’s run the numbers again: with over 30+ maps and 50+ unlockable characters for free, along with the inclusion of Xbox Game Pass and the included additional copy of the game via Xbox Play Anywhere, the grand total to play Gears of War 4 with this plethora of content is a whopping $10 (a month on Game Pass, with many online retailers offering the title for a similar price point). While there are many games across other platforms that offer quality content for exceptional value, The Coalition should be commended for their commitment to the franchise, and honoring Microsoft’s vision of putting gamers first and foremost.
Looking forward to the upcoming of Gears of War 5 (Gears 5 in promotional material), fans of the franchise should feel comfort knowing their favorite blood-splattering series is in great hands. In terms of the Xbox One, Gears of War 4 may have set the new standard of how to handle multiplayer DLC and the best value in gaming on the console.