Xbox exclusives have been rather scarce in 2019 and of those only, a couple of them have been really noteworthy. However, this was fine for many fans, since they had Gears 5 to look forward to. Being the fifth installment in the long-running Gears of War series, expectations are rather high. And, with it following Kait Diaz, the first female lead for the franchise, on her quest to uncover her past through an intense campaign and addicting multiplayer. With so much, it seems like a sure-fire hit, though is it enough to stand out from previous titles or is it more of the same? Here’s our Gears 5 review.
For over a decade, the Gears of War series has been the staple series of Microsoft and every time a new entry gets released, it feels as if they are running out of ideas in both of their campaigns and multiplayer. Gears of War 4 is phenomenal but the formula has been the same back when the first Gears of War was released back then. With Gears 5, being the fifth in the series, The Coalition aims to bring something new to the series and yes, it works and it’s beautiful, especially the intense campaign.
Gears 5 is divided into four acts. Compared to previous Gears of War games where it was five, many will assume right away that Gears 5 will offer a short campaign. Fortunately, it does not as Gears 5 manages to bring players about twelve to fifteen hours of intense gameplay in the campaign. The campaign may offer four acts but those chapters within the Acts can take a long time to clear as The Coalition introduces new things in the series.
In every Gears of War game that has been released, we are accustomed by now just how linear the campaign is. You shoot Locusst at one point, proceed to the next area, and do the same thing over again. In Gears 5, it will feel that way on the first Act but as you go into the second, third and fourth – it all changes within. What The Coalition did to make the campaign refreshing and not as linear as the first one is to make each chapter of the Act semi-open world. Yes, as soon as you hit the second chapter of Act 2, the game opens up, giving you a much wider area to explore, do quests within the map, and unlock missions. This is totally a new addition to the series that totally makes Gears 5 stand out.
As you enter those open areas, the way it works out is as soon as Del arrives in an open-map, there will be a mission that you have to tackle. Each of the mission contains the classic Gears firefight and as soon as you clear, you get to proceed. However, the overworld maps are big where these mini Gears of War firefights are fleshed out and there is a decent amount of missions to tackle that further develops the story and characters if you do them. Writing-wise, The Coalition did a phenomenal job as the more you see Kait and Del interact with each other, the more attached you get to them.
Now onto the story, Gears 5 takes place immediately after Gears of War 4 left off. With the cliffhanger of Gears of War 4 where we saw Kait holding a Locust Necklace that came from her family, it is up to Kait, and the rest of the COGs to help her find answers. Thoughts such as if Kait will turn bad seeing as she has a connection with the Locust will arise or will she remain the protagonist and save the day, are the types of questions lurk into fans. It will all be answered in Gears 5 as it unfolds the most intensifying story, that has a mix of drama and intense action. Compared to previous Gears of War games, Gears 5 hits the mark that makes the series once again on top.
For the Gears of War games, we have seen Marcus Fenix and lately his son JD been the staple characters of the series. In Gears 5, fan favorite characters will return, but the game will now focus heavily on exploring the connection of Kait with the Locust. Fans who love the Fenix father-and-son tandem will get to see both characters in the game, just don’t expect them to shine out in this game.
Another huge addition in the campaign of Gears 5 is Jack. This time, Jack will now become your companion, either AI-controlled or with a friend. He will become really useful in terms of protecting you or flanking enemies many times in the game. Going through the story of the game, Jack will unlock abilities such as Shock Trap that electrocutes Juvies, Cloak that gives your party invincibility for a short while or ask him to scan the area to see if there are any Swarms behind those walls. Pretty much, Jack is a trusted partner you will appreciate later on as the fight against the Swarms intensifies.
When using Jack in the middle of the firefight, only one ability can be used. Each of the abilities that become available for Jack can be unlocked by finding component parts throughout the game. Similar to collectibles where you have to secretly hunt them down, which is still present in Gears 5, you will be doing the same with the Component parts if you wish to make use of Jack’s full potential. Depending on how many Component parts you got, the more chances you can upgrade his abilities through his own personal skill tree.
Now for the multiplayer portion of the game, it retains the favorite modes that fans have loved over the years – the Horde and classic competitive modes. Fans looking forward to a complete overhaul or something to reinvent the series’ multiplayer portion, it didn’t happen with Gears 5. Instead, The Coalition simply upgraded the experience players will have such as add new customization and play styles. If you have consistently played the Gears of War multiplayer modes, you will be glad that they are back with a much better customization and play styles.
Playing through the multiplayer modes of Gears 5 will still feel your efforts are rewarded a the progression system makes a return. The more you progress your rank, the more things that you get to unlock, which this time is much better. If you are a wealthy person and don’t mind spending more money on Gears 5, there is still that customization item that you get to buy with real money.
Modes that make a return in Gears 5 are King of the Hill, Arms Race from Gears of War 4, and Dodgeball. The very classic Team Deathmatch and Deathmatch make a return a return as well.
In every Gears of War games that get released, the refinements that The Coalition makes is always something I am looking forward to. In Gears 5, the fan-favorite Horde Mode makes a return, which puts five players to take fifty waves of enemies. One of the notable changes that I noticed is the shard resources that you get to use in improving your characters. Aside from that, the same old Horde mode is back.
If Horde isn’t your thing and wanted something new for co-op play, there’s this new mode called Escape that you play with your friends. In Escape mode, you and your friends must race through the Swarm Hive as you find your way out and kill enemies along the way. The further you go along, the harder it gets as there will be limited resources, ammunition, and more. So it’s purely teamwork and strategic gameplay.
Similar to the competitive modes, there is a progression system in both Horde and Escape but they are separate from one another. The more you play either the Horde or Escape, the stronger your character gets as it offers resources that allow you to level them up, buy perks, and more.
Now, in terms of visuals, I have played the game on both PC running on an Ultrawide screen and on my Xbox One X, and they all look fantastic. With the Xbox One X version, I get to experience 4K resolution with a lock to sixty-frames per second. The textures are solid, but there are occasional pop-ins, and it’s literally one of the best looking games on the console yet. For the PC version, I must say that there is a lot of customization in visual to cater to a gamer’s needs. If you have a beefy PC like me running the game on RTX 2080, you will get the best experience as you get to max out the graphics and feel the smoothness, especially on a 144hz G-Sync monitor.
After 13 years of the same thing, Gears 5 finally manages to change things for the better. With some much-added flair and long-overdue tweaks, it’s a refreshing and easily the best the series has ever been. The Coalition did a phenomenal job with the campaign, co-op elements and the newly added Escape mode is an absolute delight. So, if you’re expecting business as usual, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by Gears 5.
[Editor’s Note: Gears 5 was reviewed on Xbox One X and PC platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes. For the PC version, it was tested on a I7-8700K, 32GB DDR4 3200Mhz RAM, RTX 2080]