If you’ve played any of the previous Gears of War games, it should be an easy jump right into the fourth installment. It picks up a quarter-century after the events of Gears of War 3 with a new band of heroes, two of whom are former soldiers who defected from the Coalition of Ordered Governments (COG) to be free of its totalitarian bureaucracy. They are attempting to steal a “fabricator,” a device for making weapons, from a COG facility, to aid a group of outsiders who took in the AWOL soldiers.

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Players have their own squads who return to the outsiders’ village. It’s attacked by unknown aliens who lay waste to it, but not before the mother of one of your squad members locks your group in a building for its own protection. Your journey to help a teammate find out what happened to her mother takes you into territory that looks increasingly like living viscera. Playing the game on the second-highest difficulty, “Hardcore,” you’ll be treated to plenty of firefights that will leave your palms sweaty. Although there are some technical issues — frame-rate slowdowns in the campaign and lag in multiplayer matches — the mechanics are so well polished, and the enemy encounters so well choreographed, that you’ll revel in the experience and will want to play against as many friends as possible.

Players will want to spend time with the game’s multiplayer modes, including Dodgeball and Arms Race. The former encourages a series of power plays since downed teammates don’t respawn unless players on the opposing team get knocked out, while the latter is an exercise in chaos in which your weapons are constantly changing.

Forget Pokemon Go: Gears of War 4 should be your social game of the season.