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The Gears Are in Motion with Gears of War 4’s Open Multiplayer Beta

With the eagerly awaited Gears of War 4 scheduled for release on Xbox One in October of this year, Microsoft has kicked off a beta of the game to help test its multiplayer component. And after spending some time bashing heads and taking names, we’ve got a hunch you’re going to dig what this newest title in the venerable series is doling out. The Gears of War 4 Multiplayer Beta is now available for all Xbox Live Gold members, so grab it after you finish reading!

Gears has always been about tight, satisfying controls and gameplay feedback loops – and this fourth installment already manages to impress along these lines. Returning weapons such as the Gnasher Shotgun and Lancer assualt rifle with its trademark chainsaw bayonet will feel like second nature for both Gears vets and series newcomers, letting them blow enemies to bits or slice them to smithereens. The Longshot lets sniper types pick off enemies from a distance, while the Torque Bow mixes things up for more strategic players, by letting them place explosive shots with careful precision. If you run out of ammo entirely, the Snub Pistol serves as an unlimited backup weapon.

Oh, and don’t forget about the brand new Drop Shot weapon. Launch this beast from your gun while holding down the fire button, and let go when you’re ready for it to drop – at which point it explodes on whoever is unlucky enough to be hanging out beneath it. The Drop Shot is a brilliant piece of game design, as it serves as the perfect foil to throw into Gears’ cover-based gameplay; a well-placed shot can kill an enemy hiding behind cover, or at very least flush them out and into a more vulnerable position. Mastery of this weapon feels like it’s going to be a huge factor in Gears of War 4’s multiplayer combat. Oh, and the game’s beloved Active Reload system has been remixed a bit, allowing players to yield more damage without necessarily sacrificing ammo.

The three maps featured in the beta (the final game promises at least 10) include Dam, and Foundation, and Harbor. Dam, for its part, features an open expanse with a central building with a power weapon at its center, surrounded by beautiful, enormous waterfalls. Foundation feels like a mash-up of “Autumn in New York” and “The Hurt Locker” (you’ll see what we mean), while Harbor features a sprawling dock with two bases facing one another – classic Gears, really.

In terms of modes, Team Deathmatch is once again a main attraction, pressurized a few notches by a limited number of respawns. One of the new modes is Dodgeball, whereby killing a rival player after your team is taken out lets you bring another player back into the match; it’s a smart take that emphasizes the value of staying alive rather than simply playing for as many kills as possible. Finally, Co-op A.I. pits a team of five humans against five bots, providing Gears newcomers with a (relatively, mind you) safe place to start.

Think you’re ready for this? If so, get in on the action through the Gears of War 4 Multiplayer Beta, which starts today and runs through May 1. Happy hunting, everyone!