E3 is filled with a mixed spectrum of content that ranges from hype-tastic games to show floor titles that probably shouldn't have left the development offices. Unfortunately, a lot of demos can be centered around hype without carrying substance, which is what I felt with Gears of War 4. The next title in the Gears of War saga had a nice gameplay demo showing off much of what Gears fans have seen in the past. I'll be transparent—I haven't seen a Gears game since the first launched on Xbox 360 many moons ago. My absence from jumping back into the gritty foray probably hurt my mental investment into another sequel, but I was disappointed in seeing what Microsoft had to offer in their Gears booth at E3. Gears of War 4 looked much more like what I'd expect from a sequel to the original rather than the fourth in the series.
I tried to approach it with an open mind, but the audience in the booth was being fed much of what I remember from Gears 1--chainsaw-equipped machine guns, slimy enemies, emergence holes, frag grenades swung from chains, and the occasional gruesome mutilation shower from hacking away at baddies. Yes, the graphics have an upgrade and I'm glad to see the cogs aren't graphically stuttery as they used to be back on the 360, but I expected more from the fourth game in this series.
That aside, the next game from The Coalition and Microsoft took a surprising turn for me. I wasn't aware Marcus Fenix was out of the picture, and I was glad to see rapid narrative progression. A few new weapons (to me, at least) made their debuts in the game as two of the developers took the reigns to play co-op mode. They announced the return of Horde Mode for multiplayer as the 20-minute play session went on. Voice acting, graphical detail, action, difficulty, use of different weapons, it's all there in a nice package. I was just disappointed to see more of what I remember from the first installment repeated, almost a formulaic sales pitch that Gears fans might be too heavily invested into. It's two sides of the same donut—there's the glazed side for the donut fans and the boring side that donut critics are wary of. Either way, you're still getting a donut.
Preordering the Ultimate version for Gears of War 4 might be the only redeeming action—it's bundled with the previous three games that feature the Xbox One's backwards compatibility and the Play Anywhere feature. That's an easy sell for someone who has been out of the cog machine for years, but I don't know if playing the first three will make me salivate enough to pick up a fourth, especially during a time where games often pull our attention in different directions. They've netted the Gears fans and are trying to bring more players under that entertainment wing, but I think we won't see many newcomers to this franchise unless they have more to entice them.