The next chapter of the Gears of War saga is nearly here. Gears of War 4, which comes out October 11, is the first installment not helmed by game creator Cliff Bleszinski. He’s moved on to work on Paragon, while Microsoft has enlisted a relatively new development team called The Coalition to usher the series into the Xbox One era.
We won’t know how successful it is until the game comes out, but Microsoft has let out a lot of information about the game already. If you’re spoiler averse, or want to go into the game blind, you should probably ask yourself why you clicked on an article called “6 Spoilers for Gears of War 4” in the first place, and then find something else to do. But if you’re cool with getting some inside info early, here’s what you can expect from Gears of War 4.
1. It’s set 25 years later
The original Gears of War trilogy (plus Judgment) tied up the tale of Dom, Cole Train, and Marcus Fenix as they battled enemies both Locust and Lambent. Gears of War 4 picks up a few decades later, when humanity has settled in for a time of peace on the planet Sera.
Unfortunately, the government has gone a little nuts in terms of protecting the citizenry, and has kept humans guarded but also tightly controlled in big cities. That doesn’t fly with everyone, including Marcus Fenix, who retreats to wild lands to live out his golden years as a grizzled hermit. The game isn’t about him, though. It centers around Marcus’s son JD Fenix, along with his pals Kait Diaz and Del Walker, as they go on a mission to find out why people are starting to disappear.
2. There are new enemies in town
To date, creatures called Locusts and Lambent have been the primary antagonists in the Gears of War games. They were meanies who wanted to wipe humanity’s existence from the universe. The previous games told the story of how humans eradicated them instead.
In Gears of War 4, you’ll be going up against the Swarm, some of whom act similar to Locusts, while others do strange, awful things like emit toxic gas clouds, or even gobble you up, holding you in their belly until a teammate guns them down.
You’ll also have to face robotic enemies called DeeBees. These government-controlled enforcers come in all shapes and sizes, including massive mechs that rush at you in a suicidal attack when their health is low.
3. New weapons, too
The Overkill shotgun is a new weapon you’ll be able to use in Gears of War 4. It’s a quad-barrel monstrosity that has two firing modes. One sets off all four barrels simultaneously to deliver an attack that’s nicely suited to blasting nearby enemies to pieces. The other lets you unleash two rounds at a time, creating a nice mid-distance attack when you have some space between you and your foe.
You’ll also get to use the Embar rifle, which lets you charge up a blast (be careful not to charge for too long, though), kind of like the Torque Bow from previous games. There’s also a Buzzkill weapon that discharges saw blades that can curve around cover, and something called a Dropshot that shoots out an explosive drill bit that causes area damage.
4. Multiplayer modes galore
A story campaign is all well and good, but what gives a shooter legs is its online multiplayer. In Gears of War 4, you get an array of multiplayer modes that range from the familiar — Horde, King of the Hill, TDM, Guardian, and Warzone — to the new, like Dodgeball, Escalation, and Arms Race.
As an example of a new mode, Dodgeball pits two teams of five players against one another. Each person gets only one life, but when someone on your team makes a kill, one of your dead team members is resurrected. It’s like how catching a ball in dodgeball brings an eliminated teammate back into the game, which explains the mode’s name.
Meanwhile, in Arms Race, your team’s weapons are swapped out with random replacements every time your team racks up three kills. The result is that you need to keep adjusting your strategies as different classes of weapons appear in your hands.
5. It supports cross-play
Since now all Xbox One “exclusive” games come to Windows 10 as well, it’s refreshing to see that you can play with anyone who owns the game, regardless of what platform they’re playing it on. So if you own an Xbox One and your buddy has a gaming PC, you can still sync up for some online multiplayer action.
Because of the control differences between using an Xbox One controller and a PC’s mouse-and-keyboard setup, cross-play is limited to co-op mode, Horde mode, multiplayer versus AI, and private multiplayer versus matches. That means Xbox One players never have to worry about being automatically matched against PC players in online versus modes.
6. It has a good (but pricey) preorder bonus
These days, every game seems to offer up preorder incentives, and Gears of War 4 is no different. If you preorder the Ultimate Edition — which costs $100 — you get access to the game four days before everyone else. That means you can play it on October 7 instead of October 11. Remember that if you’re an Amazon Prime member, or a Best Buy Gamers Club Unlocked member, you get 20% off your preorder, bringing the price of a four-day lead time down to $80.