I’ve not popped back recently into Tom Clancy’s The Division for a couple of reasons. One, after grabbing every single collectible on the map, I’ve found that it’s a shockingly empty, bland world and terribly lonely to play by yourself, especially when you don’t have a goal to go after, like nabbing all those cell phone recordings. Two, all of my Division buddies have been playing the Gears of War 4 Beta for the last week or so, which makes diseased New York City doubly abandoned. They got into the Beta seven days early for being special money-tossing loyalists to the series, but it went open to all on Monday, which means I get a week with the thing, which is plenty of time for me to figure out if I’m cut out for this kill or be killed multiplayer-driven world.
So far, I don’t know. I’m not great. Surprisingly, I’m probably not the worst player out there, but by no means am I at the top of the end game stats list. Getting more than three kills in a match is something worth getting excited over, and, if you think that’s silly, think back to your first time with the game, any game, and whether or not you were an unstoppable tank then or a fragile mosquito desperately facing down a shower of bullets with little to no luck on your side. I believe I did try once or twice to play a multiplayer session in the original Gears of War, which I was getting into some seven years after its initial release, and that didn’t go over terribly hot. In terms of my performance, yes, but also with how many people were still into that mode after fancier, enhanced editions were available for consumption from Gears of War 2 and Gears of War 3.
Let’s see. This Gears of War 4 Beta is…all about the multiplayer. Here’s what you get access to. There are two modes: the returning Team Deathmatch and brand new Dodgeball mode. To play these two modes, there are three available maps–Harbor, Dam, and Foundation. At this point, all I’ve played is Team Deathmatch on all of the maps, with my favorite one being whatever is the brightest one set during a nice afternoon with no clouds in the blue sky. My old man eyes are able to see the other team’s players much easier on this map, whatever one it is. I’m leaning towards Dam, but don’t make me swear on it.
The goal: murder everyone that doesn’t look like you. You’ll get randomly selected to play as either the humans or monsters before the start of each round. Each team only has so many lives and respawns, and everyone must work together to take control of the map. If not, the other team will slaughter you, and you’ll feel bad about yourself and probably not want to play anymore, especially if your own teammates are reinforcing these thoughts in your head. Thankfully, my gaming group has been relatively kind to me considering I’m brand new at all this, and I can see myself improving in small ways from round to round, but the nagging thought that I’m bringing everyone’s experience down a wee bit is a lingering friend nonetheless. My biggest hiccups are not moving around enough, going from cover to cover to cover, and learning how to blind-fire effectively.
My strategy is to generally follow a team member or two and stick near them like glue, helping where I can. A lot of my co-op online experience comes from The Division, and I had a role there too, which was dropping turrets, healing/reviving everyone when needed, and occasionally taking a shot or two at the bad dudes. Here, you really need to be on top of yourself, alerting everyone about what you are doing and where people are and how many and so on. This means a lot of communication, which is not my strong point when gaming online. There were definitely a few times where an enemy team member took me down and I didn’t say anything, and then that player took out a few more of my friends due to my silence. Whoops, and I’m sorry.
As a “thank you” to those participating in the Gears of War 4 Beta, anyone who reaches XP Level 20 will receive the Beta exclusive “Vintage Kait” character model, an emblem, and a special Vintage Kait bounty, as well as the Vintage weapon skin for the Lancer and Snub Pistol. Hmm. Lot of vintage going on here. Okay, I guess. I’m somewhere around XP Level 10 or so, with a few more days left to play, but if I somehow don’t hit this mark and get these mostly cosmetic freebies, I’ll live.
If anything, the Gears of War 4 Beta has inspired me to pop back into Gears of War 2 and make some new progress in the solo campaign (on its easiest difficulty, of course), for better or for worse. More on that later in a separate post, but let me just tease you with this: having a limited number of chances to toss a grenade into a boss sea monster’s mouth on a boat that is prone to glitches and having the characters lock up on its geometry and then having you do it all over again from the very beginning if you miss on those grenades because there is no other way to damage the beast is not fun. I’m currently on attempt number seven, if you are curious.
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