Act 4 started with Marcus’ squad driving into Char on a truck and running out of fuel. It began a long trek to recover some to make the trip to Endeavor shipyard. Today, we cover the events at Endeavor.
We start with Chapter 4, Batten Down the Hatches. Dizzy drives the pickup through a closed gate while the rest of the squad stands in the flatbed, completely unsecured. At least one of them, preferably Jace, should have been ejected from the vehicle upon hitting the gate. That would have been good.
Our first bit of action is a small firefight. The Locust are set up pretty well here, with an old Troika in a gate house. The firefight is pretty well designed for the first half, where Locust are coming out and it feels like an ambush. There are plenty of cover options, and then a gas barge drops some reinforcements off. Things turn sour beyond the gatehouse, where Locust come out from around a corner. This demonstrates a problem with encounters in large open areas: enemies either have to be there to start with, or spawn in monster closets and come out at a pre-determined time. The second half of this encounter uses the latter, and it is poorly done. The first half felt like an ambush, while the second feels like the Locust are just coming off of their break.
In Hangar 1, we see a rusted ship. At the end of 3-2, the first thing Baird says about the vessel Hoffman speaks of has to be seaworthy. This vessel is not seaworthy. We have failed our first objective!
Aside from the bridge between the two hangars, Endeavor looks like it could be a shipyard. This level has form and function! Well done, Epic.
In the second hangar, we find a submarine that is seaworthy. However, the rotor is cracked clean through and needs fuel. Remember, this is what Baird said in 3-2:
Hoffman: “There’s an old sub in the shipyard at Endeavor.”
Baird: “Yeah, if it’s sea-worthy, and you can get the motors running, and if you have fuel for it.”
Jace thought the COG had subs the size of Thrashball fields. Dizzy tells him that “size ain’t everything.” It has been suggested to me that this is a penis joke, because Dizzy fits as a stereotypical redneck, and Jace looks like a stereotypical black man; the assumption is that Dizzy is racist because he’s a redneck. Is there a discussion worth having about Epic being racist? Perhaps, but then we’d have to look at all of Gears and every character and every interaction, and that is all a huge time investment. It might be something to look at later, but completely falls outside the scope of this single post.
Marcus: Didn’t special ops use these during the Pendulum Wars?
Dizzy: Shit if I know!
Dom would know. Marcus is still thinking about him.
At this point, we come to the only meaningful decision in the game. The implementation makes sense and it doesn’t split the squad apart. The choices: Do you look for a rotor first, or some fuel?
On the way to finding a rotor, we’re treated to an encounter where Locust have set up turrets at the end of a warehouse loading dock, or something. It’s the area where there are two carts with old, unstable shells that can be pushed down the ramp.
After clearing that encounter, we have to fight some more Locust outside of a suspiciously large hangar. Jace will start a conversation:
Jace: We should look for a maintenance area.
Sam: <pointing at the hangar> That looks promising.
Jace: If that’s a maintenance bay, then it probably has our rotor.
This dialogue is redundant. Jace basically says the same thing twice within a 15 second period. The words ‘Maintenance Bay’ are painted in big white letters on the side of the building. Anyway, there is a rotor inside, along with a conveniently placed loader like we saw in 1-3.
Carrying the rotor to sub, we can see the turret emplacements from earlier, below. Attentive players will think to themselves, “Hey, I remember fighting down there!” It’s good design, because it shows players the progress they’ve made; as mentioned for being able to see 4-2 while on 4-3, this is why Act 1 was a disappointment.
Looking for a fuel supply, there is a tugboat being stored in a hangar, and Locust are occupying it. The space for this encounter is well-designed. The layout is good for form and function; it looks the part of being a harbored tugboat and plays well.
The area leading up to the fuel tank on the boat is designed for sniping or the silverback; cover play also works, but is not optimal. What helps make this work is that there is a sniper rifle at the entrance to the area, and the Silverback isn’t too far away. The player has immediate options. Also, if in the Silverback, the brow—boarding ramp—is moved for you by the AI squad. Nice. Wait, why is there even a Silverback bay at the docks?
After getting up onto the boat, Marcus will mention how they should use the crane to move the fuel. Shortly afterward, Sam will say, “Let’s use the crane to get the fuel to the conveyor belt.” Is this what an aneurysm feels like?
After securing the fuel and returning to the sub hangar, we have some heart-to-heart conversation:
Marcus: “Sam, you doin’ okay?”
Sam: “No, I’m not. And neither are you.”
Marcus: “Yeah, that’s about the size of it.”
Sam: “But we’ll keep going, right? For him.”
With all of the parts assembled, the squad escorts the sub through the dry dock. These encounters are very superfluous and don’t seem to have any real purpose other than filler. At the end of the dry docks are Armored Kantus, which can only be defeated through use of explosives. There isn’t a lot of cover, they have two Gorgon pistols (very lethal), and they can roll into the player. Then, after defeating one, multiple groups come out, each with their own assortment of Locust baddies. One includes Serapedes. This final section definitely looks like the Locust are making a last stand against Marcus and his squad, but the execution could be much better.
The act closes with a rail shooter inside the submarine. The whole underwater scene is very nice to look at, and it’s a shame that the sub can’t be slowed down so someone (hint: me) can take in all the nice little details. It’s also a shame that all of this eye-candy is washed away by explosions and combat. The combat which is boring, as rail-shooters tend to be. The only thing of note is that this is all seen while on route to Azura, and there is Imulsion leaking up from the sea floor. When there’s Imulsion, there’s Lambent, so we can probably expect to see some at Azura.
We finish this game off with our criticism of Act 5 next week. We’re so close to the end, folks!