Title: Gears 5
Available on: PC, Xbox One
Developer: The Coalition
Publisher: Xbox Games Studios
Genre: Action, Third-Person Shooter
Version Tested: Xbox One
Official Site: Gears 5.com
Release Date: Ultimate Edition – September 5, Standard Edition – September 10.
There was a time when Gears 5 sounded like an impossibility. While once being one of the most popular series in gaming, the luster had since worn off the Gears of War franchise.
Despite some people wondering why The Coalition wanted to go there, Gears of War 4 was released a few years back. It turned out to be enough to get people interested in the series again. Even if it fell short of being a great game in some people’s eyes.
If the only purpose of Gears of War 4 ended up being to set the stage of Gears 5, it was worth it. With the latest addition to the series, the dev team has found the magic that made the original games so beloved. Even better than that, there’s enough new and enough innovative that even players who aren’t devotees to this world will find enough to hook them.
Nicely Branching Out in Gears 5
While almost all games in the series have had players seeing the action through the eyes of either Marcus Fenix or his son JD, this time around you get to play as Kait Diaz or Del. Both characters were introduced in the immediately preceding installment.
While both were entertaining enough in Gears of War 4, they were little more than peripheral characters. This time around, their personalities are sketched in and I’ve got to say I found myself having a hard time putting the game down each night because I wanted to see where they would go.
The big reason Gears 5 shines is the story. There’s more to it than there was in 4. As you attempt to unravel the mystery behind the story, you’ll arrive at the answer quicker than Kait and Del. It’s still fun to watch them slowly understand what exactly is going on.
By having the Fenix clan largely take a back seat, the game forces you to meet new people. A very well written script and top-notch actors make you feel as though you really are “meeting” them.
Combat is Still Engrossing
While the Gears 5 campaign will take you places no game in the series has gone, it’s still a Gears of War game. That means at its heart, it’s a cover shooter that will allow you to switch between up to four different weapons at one time, all geared towards taking out “The Swarm”.
The good news is that fans of the series will know what to do. The even better news is the developers have tweaked things just enough to keep it fresh and fun.
Thanks to souped-up graphics, easily the most beautiful of the franchise, the gore and violence are even more striking. So is the scenery you’ll run through to get from one battle to another. While familiar enemy faces pop up early and often, there are also some new “big bads” involved this time around. Figuring out the most efficient way to turn them into a heap of smoking flesh is plenty of fun as well.
Jack is the biggest addition to your fight through the worlds of Gears 5. A flying AI who (most likely intentionally) seems like a call back to R2D2 is everpresent.
Sometimes he can be as a weapon if you need to stun or blind an enemy. Other times he’s the team’s hacker who will open doors. Still other times he’ll give you a shield or a cloak of invisibility.
Jack is also a playable character if you manage to get two other friends to team up with you. As the support character, he’s better to be used by someone who is brand new to the series and who doesn’t mind being led by the nose.
Multiplayer Modes Leave Something to be Desired
Much has been made of the new modes added to Gears 5. Horde Mode and Escape stand out as two new ways to play. I didn’t have the online issues that were quite prevalent after the September 5 Ultimate Edition launch.
That doesn’t mean I enjoyed my time in any of the other modes. While the campaign is one of the best in the entire series, Horde Mode and Escape both seemed tedious and repetitive. The ability to play as people like Sarah Connor or Dave Bautista is a nice touch. Just not enough of a nice touch to make me want to spend hours in the multiplayer modes.
The modes don’t take anything away from Gears 5, but they don’t add enough either.
Verdict: Gears 5 hooks you by making you actually care about the characters it shows you. It keeps you by showing you the stuff you loved about your favorite previous Gears of War game. That combo is enough to maybe attain the title of best Xbox One console exclusive title ever. It’s certainly the best one to hit in the last few years. Add in the fact that you can get it for no extra charge through Game Pass and it’s worth both the time and cost.
- Gorgeous scenery throughout
- Great story that fleshes out newly introduced characters
- Still tons of fun to shoot and kill Locust troops
- A more open world and no maps at all in some spots can leave you wandering
- Only saving at checkpoints rather than offering a quick save feature can be frustrating