When a mobile game appears to involve one of Microsoft’s flagship franchises, giving up Xbox Achievements and Gamerscore in the process, it can’t really be ignored. This is precisely what has happened with the release of Gears POP! on mobile and it seems as if the planets have aligned to produce a game that not only features everyone’s favourite plastic figures, but the juggernaut that is Gears of War. What better way can there be to warm up for the release of Gears 5? Well, it’s time to dive into the world of cute characters and Gears…
Now, the first thing to say is that the graphical appeal is very strong with Gears POP!, and I defy anyone not to be won over by the caricatures of Marcus and Cole Train; even Carmine and the Locust look fantastic. The development team have captured the look and spirit of the Funko POP! figures perfectly, and the tenth time, never mind the first, that you see the victory screen where two characters clash with Lancers will have you smiling.
The sound is perfect too, with the frag grenade sounding exactly like it does in the main games, and the cute voices of Marcus et al coming at a higher pitch; they are just adorable. Hearing a POP! Boomer say “Boom” is hilarious and had me giggling each time. Butchers, Seeders, Kait, J.D. – they are all here in their miniature glory and the intangible “feel” of the game is bang on, with a great atmosphere. Even on an iPhone screen, the design is such that things are never too cluttered, and while in the last stages of a battle things can get pretty fraught, the action never lets up and you can see clearly what is going on. This is a testament to the design work that has gone into Gears POP!, with the clear and uncluttered UI giving you all the information you need without overloading matters.
The actual gameplay comes in two main modes, PvP and Horde, which is a co-operative game mode. Luckily, there are clubs that can be joined and it is from the ranks of these that your Horde companions are pulled. Obviously, some luck is required to get teammates online at the same time as you, as even with a Thumper – which is required to start a game of Horde and that comes out of loot crates – you need a companion to accept your invite to start the match.
Playing PvP, or Versus as it is called is a lot simpler; you start a match, some electronic wizardry happens, and a foe is plucked from the ether to challenge you. Now, the matchmaking algorithms are very good, on the whole, and they don’t usually match two people with too dissimilar skill levels in a match. Your level is based on the number of COGs you have: currently I have about 700, and this is enough to put me on Tier three of the ladder. As you win battles, you gain more COGs, advancing slowly to the next Tier: if you lose a battle, you lose a number of COGs and slip back. It’s a great mechanic, and keeps you on your toes, preventing you getting complacent. Play the wrong character at the wrong time and you can really mess it all up!
The actual game screen is divided into zones, with waist high cover dotted about that we expect from a Gears game. Capturing cover can be done by pins, or characters, with the wall icon on their image, and if you capture both the left and right cover of a zone, it becomes yours. This then means that you can start your pins further down the screen, and this makes it easier for your characters to reach the objective. And then, at each end of the battlefield, a leader is placed, with two turrets next to them. Destroying any of these items gives your team a point; the one with the highest score wins. This turns into a frantic back and forth as you attempt to push forward to destroy the enemy leader, but also not leave your guy undefended.
With pins such as grenades, Butchers, Cole Train and even a turret to be played, there is a fantastic strategic balance to be struck, and having the correct team assembled can make a real difference. Pins come from loot boxes, which are usually awarded for winning a round, but then have to be left for a time to be “decrypted”. As you’d expect, if you pay with in-game currency the time for decryption can be reduced or cancelled, but I’ve never found it overly onerous having to wait, and haven’t spent a penny on the game.
And this means, without that overarcing feel of ever having to throw in cash, I highly recommend Gears POP! to any fan of the series. Seeing a new perspective to the Gears Universe is always interesting, and this one is just a happy, fun to play, place to be; it really makes me smile every time. The presentation is spot on, the personality of the figures shines through, and with fast and furious gameplay and Xbox achievements to earn, what more reason could there be to get involved.
The very least you should do is download it and take it for a test drive right now!