Gears of Wars fans eager to see the franchise return on this generation of consoles won't have to wait much longer. Earlier today, Gears of War 4 developer The Coalition announced that the game would release worldwide on October 11, 2016. If you're eager to play before that, there will be multiplayer beta starting on April 18 on Xbox One for players who purchased last year's Gears of War: Ultimate Edition on either Xbox One or PC. That beta will become open to all Xbox Live Gold members on April 25.
Not counting the recent remaster, it's been three years since players last set foot on the planet Sera with Gears of War: Judgment, and five years since they took on the role of Marcus Fenix in the mainline sequel Gears of War 3. Gears 4 sets the action 25 years after the conclusion of the first trilogy and puts the player in the role of Marcus' son, JD.
If developer The Coalition sounds unfamiliar to you, that's probably because the only thing the studio has shipped so far is last year's Gears 1 remaster. That said, early reports speak well to the talent at the team, and it has a direct line of continuity with earlier Gears of War games in the form of Studio Head Rod Fergusson, who was formerly the Director of Production on the Gears series for Epic Games.
Over on Entertainment Weekly, Fergusson debuted the game's cover art and spoke a bit about why the team decided to go in the narrative direction they've chosen with Gears 4:
[We] talked about an alternate planet and let’s go somewhere else. We thought, wow, it would be rough on Sera to get attacked by yet another monster, so maybe we should give them a break and go somewhere else. But then we realized by doing that that we couldn’t harken back to the past. We couldn’t go to places that were familiar, we couldn’t use things, like weapons, that were familiar. Everything would be new. We just felt like the idea of a new cast and a new enemy and a new setting, all of it together was going to be almost too much new. We didn’t have that grounding to what made Gears,Gears.
At the end of the day, we decided, well, why don’t we just advance time and allow ourselves to create a new cast through creating the next generation of hero by having JD Fenix being Marcus’ son and sort of taking up 25 years later.
The full interview really gives a decent amount of insight into the process The Coalition went through in the early stages of development, and provides a little more insight into the direction they're taking the franchise.
I'm curious to see if The Coalition will stick the landing on Gears 4. Taking charge of a beloved franchise from a seasoned developer is a pretty tough challenge, and in some ways it's similar to the job that Halo 4 and 5 developer 343 Industries has had to do. A big difference, though, is that with the second Halo trilogy, 343 decided to further develop familiar and well loved characters in Master Chief and Cortana. The heroes of Gears 4 may have a connection to Marcus Fenix, but The Coalition seems set on telling a fresh story with new faces. It's a goal I totally admire, I just hope that they're able to nail it.
Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that beta access for Gears of War 4 was being made available to those who pre-ordered the game. This has been corrected.