If there is one series other than Halo that defines the Xbox brand, I’d have to say it’s Gears of War. The first three Gears of War games on the Xbox 360 are some of the best games in the series. That is until the recently released Gears 5 hit the scene.
In 2013, Microsoft purchased the rights to the series from Epic Games. And, a Vancouver-based company known at the time as Black Tusk Studios (later renamed The Coalition) was brought on board to make a new game in the series. Gears of War 4 introduced new heroes and a new story line to freshen up the series. While Gears of War 4 was good, in my opinion, it felt like it was missing that magical touch of a Gears of War game.
To be honest, I though that the franchise had seen its best days. Then, last year at E3 2018, Microsoft announced that Gears 5 was in development. Dropping “War” from the title, I was mildly interested in it. This past June at E3 2019 I had a chance to play the all-new multiplayer mode called Escape. Though it was fun, I was a tad disappointed that the campaign mode was no where to be found. Honestly, I was getting worried that the campaign was being neglected and the multiplayer aspect was being focused on. Boy was I wrong!
Gears 5 Details
Platform: Xbox One
Reviewed on: Xbox One X
Developer: The Coalition
Publisher: Xbox Game Studios
Genre: Third-person shooter
Modes: Single player, Multiplayer
ESRB Rating: M (Mature 17+)
An unforgettable deeply thrilling story
For those that didn’t play or simple forgot what happened in Gears of War 4, you don’t have to worry. In an effort to make Gears 5 more accessible to everyone, the game includes a brief summary of the events that took place. This is good because Gears 5 is a direct continuation of Gears of War 4.
Gears 5 is centred around Kait Diaz, an Outsider of Locust descent. In search of answers, Kait is looking to uncover the true origins of her family and the Locust. Along for the ride are JD Fenix, his friend Delmont Walker, Marcus Fenix (JD’s Dad), and Jack your robotic companion. They all play supporting rolls in the story, some more so than others.
Interestingly enough, Kait doesn’t become the main focus of the story until the second act of the game. At first it seemed a bit odd, and I questioned as to why The Coalition choose to do so. Though, the deeper I got into the story, the more it became clear as to why they choose to do so.
I really don’t want to give away much about the story of Gears 5 but I will say that the hours seemed to fly by when playing. The character building and relationships between your squad is second to none. And, as you might have guessed, the story is full of twists and turns. Perfectly transitioned cutscenes help tell the story of Kait and the world around her.
Core Gears gameplay with new additions
At its core, Gears 5 is still very much the Gears of War we all know and love. It has phenomenal cover-based gameplay, brutal visceral combat, and world-class online multiplayer modes. You can expect to spend anywhere between 12-16 hours playing, depending on your skill level and if you search every nook and cranny.
My favourite addition to Gears 5‘s gameplay is none other than Jack. Your robotic companion plays an essential role in the game and is not just shoe horned in. For example, Jack can fetch weapons and gear that are out of reach, attack enemies, hack terminals, and temporarily take control over your enemies. Furthermore, Jack’s abilities can be upgraded by using components that you find through out your journey. And, are done via a skill tree that is easy to understand and not overly complex.
Gears 5 features an open world that you traverse around via your Skiff—a wind powered, sail driven sled. Along the way there are optional sidequests scattered throughout that allow you to fully upgrade Jack and skirmishes against the Swarm. Of note, when travelling around the open world it does seem somewhat barren. Though, I’m not really sure what else they could have done to make it feel less so.
One of the best looking games this generation
Without a doubt, Gears 5 is the most technically visually impressive games on Xbox One X and this generation. Running at a full 4K resolution with 60fps, the amount of detail put into this game is astonishing. Visual effects such as snow and lightning sandstorms in the desert are a sight to see. Looking at the way light reflects off of surfaces and character models is amazing. Simply put, Gears 5 is absolutely gorgeous.
There were only a handful of times that I noticed a hiccup in the framerate. And, a few times I was backing up to a wall only for the camera to go behind the wall making it impossible for me to see anything. With that being said, these were rare instances and only lasted for a second or two at most.
As much detail that was put into Gears 5‘s visuals is included in its audio. The crunching of snow and sand beneath your feet is ultra realistic as well as the echoes of empty corridors. The voice acting of the characters is another standout feature of the game and dialogue between characters feels natural.
An exceptional multiplayer offering
Aside from its campaign, multiplayer is a big component of Gears 5. The Coalition listened to gamers and their dislike of microtransactions found in Gears of War 4. As a result, all the DLC for Gears 5 is free and there are no microtransactions. Yay!
Gears 5 multiplayer includes both Arcade and Ranked playlists for casual and competitive players respectively. Arcade mode comes with pre-built loadouts making it easier to get online and start playing. Each character has his or her own traits that make them unique and each round allows you to upgrade weapons using the in-game currency. And, when you die, your upgraded weapons are lost but your in-game currency is not.
The fan-favourite Horde Mode is back in Gears 5 and has been revamped. In addition to facing wave after wave of increasingly difficult enemies, each character has their own unique Ultimate abilities. For example, Kait can cloak herself, and JD can call in an airstrike. Power Traps are a new mechanic added to Horde Mode in Gears 5, which encourage you to keep moving around the map collecting energy taps that will in turn boost your power.
One of my favourite multiplayer modes is Escalation. It features 5v5 against each other as they battle it out for three objectives on the map. In order to win, your team needs to score 250 points and each player is given five lives to do so. Halftime allows you to change loadouts, upgraded weapons, and even ban a weapon respawn on the map.
This new mode features a three-player squad that must work together to take out enemy hives from within and escape within a certain time period. Escape Mode is very action driven and requires teamwork to be successful. Essentially, you are infiltrating a Swarm Hive, planting a bomb and getting the heck out dodge before the deadly gas kills you.
Gears 5 is one of the top must play games of 2019 and the best game in the series
Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would enjoy Gears 5 as much as I did. It’s clear that The Coalition has poured its heart and soul into making Gears 5 and as a result have produced, in my opinion, the best game in the series to date. The story is captivating and kept my interest throughout the entire campaign—something Gears of War 4 could not do.
Combat is tight and everything you come to expect from a game in the series to have. The addition of Jack and his abilities breathe a breath of fresh air into gameplay. Multiplayer fans have a considerable amount of gameplay modes to be happy about, which provide countless hours of entertainment and replayability.
In conclusion, Gears 5 is one of the top must play games of 2019 and the best in the series. Even if you haven’t played any of the previous games in the series, you can still jump in and have a good time. Gears 5 is a serious contender for 2019 GOTY.
+ The campaign offers an exciting and unforgettable emotional ride
+ Kait is a strong protagonist that is not afraid to voice her opinion
+ Exceptional multiplayer offering
+ Exceptional 4K 60fps visuals
– Occasional framerate dips
– Abrupt campaign ending
OVERALL ASSESSMENT OF GEARS 5
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 5/5