Microsoft announced its Xbox Play Anywhere initiative during its E3 press conference. Gears of War 4 is one of the Play Anywhere flagship titles.
Players who buy Gears 4 digitally on Xbox One or Windows 10 will receive both versions of the game – this buy once, play anywhere style of digital license is commonly referred to as cross-buy. Campaign progress transfers seamlessly between versions via cloud saves, hence the ‘Play Anywhere’ description.
Xbox One and Windows 10 players will also be able to play together online via cross-play. This has the benefit of vastly increasing the online player pool as well as allowing people to play with friends who don’t own an Xbox One.
The balance between console and PC players can potentially be an issue with cross-play titles, though. PC gamers with mouse and keyboard access can simply aim and respond much faster than the analog sticks of a controller allow. Gears 4’s solution is to limit cross-play to cooperative game modes. That way, PC gamers don’t put console players at a disadvantage – everybody plays on the same team.
Gears of War 4 allows Xbox One and Windows 10 players to team up in three different cooperative modes:
- Co-op campaign: Play through the entire game in 2-player co-op. That’s two fewer players than Gears of War 3, but it should allow for a more focused experience. Gears 4 will also feature 2-player split-screen on Xbox One.
- Co-op versus AI: Teams of up to five players can play competitive modes against bots. The Gears 4 open beta featured this mode, among others. In my experience, it’s a great way for less skilled players to enjoy traditional competitive game types.
- Horde 3.0 mode: Join a team of up to five players and do battle against increasingly difficult waves of enemies. Gears of War 2 introduced Horde Mode to the series and inspired similar modes in numerous other games such as the Call of Duty series. Microsoft won’t divulge other specifics about Horde 3.0 mode just yet, but we’ll surely learn about it in the months leading up to launch.