Gears 5 is almost upon us, at least for those who went with the Ultimate Edition, which is releasing one week early.
The Coalition definitely put its best foot forward with the second entry in the new Gears trilogy, which improves upon the classic Gears of War gameplay formula is multiple areas. Not only are there new multiplayer modes to explore such as Escape, but the campaign itself has been overhauled to feature two acts that offer open-world-like exploration, giving the Gears campaign a break from its standard pop, cover, rinse and repeat mechanics. Plus, it pays off on the Kait cliffhanger from Gears 4’s ending, and definitely offers insights into the game’s lore unlike any entry before it.
You can check out my full review below in video or scripted formats.
“Hey now my fellow COGs, Matt Heywood here from Entertainment Buddha to review Gears 5, or what I like to call, beautiful chaos.
Gears 5 more or less picks up after the events of Gears 4, so the Swarm has continued to wreak havoc on the pockets of humanity that remain on Sera, the Outsiders still hate the COGs, and Kait is dealing with the revelation that her lineage could be directly tied to someone very nefarious in Gears lore.
She’s having killer headaches and disturbing visions, which ultimately kick off the game’s main narrative, which is centered on her quest of discovery, albeit with a backdrop of utter human extermination at the hands of the Swarm.
Before Kait becomes the main protagonist though, you do still get a turn with JD during the game’s first Act, which serves as reintroduction to Delta Squad, and how their relationships have changed with each other since the last time we saw them together.
Let’s just say that JD, Del, and Kait aren’t quite the Three Musketeers anymore due to something JD did, and their fractured relationship helps to infuse some real emotion into the instagib heavy campaign. By the end of the story, there’s a chance that you may experience genuine sadness due to a gut wrenching player choice thrown your way late in the game, so the Gears 5 narrative is pretty legit and compels you to keep pushing through the 10-15 hour, fully fleshed out campaign.
You also get plenty of answers on Kait’s mysterious past, but I’ll leave the plot alone at this point in an effort to avoid spoilers. The story is compelling to say the least, but it is a middle act of a trilogy, so it suffers from a lack of a true ending and resolutions, but it did leave me wanting more.
In terms of gameplay, Gears 5 adds just enough new mechanics to make it feel a bit fresh, but not so fresh that it doesn’t feel like a classic Gears of War experience. The biggest changes come to Jack, your robot companion. He’s now much more involved in the action, and provides way more assistance than just opening locked doors.
You can now equip and upgrade Jack with various abilities that range from shock attacks to the ability to make you all invisible. You have passive abilities as well that can upgrade Jack and his support mechanics, so he really can become an invaluable tool during the game’s many bloody firefights.
The next biggest change comes in the form of open-ish world exploration during two of the game’s beefier Acts. You come into the possession of a skiff that allows you to get around open areas pretty quickly, and these areas not only have your main objectives to explore, but there are now secondary objectives, or side quest to pursue. This is a first for the Gears franchise, and it felt a bit odd at first to explore in a Gears game and not just blow bad guys away, but I did appreciate the tweak.
It made the game feel less like it was just a series of firefights in between calm walking segments, and more like a third person action-adventure title with hidden areas to explore and more collectibles than you could ever want to collect.
The more open ended approach to Gears 5’s missions also lends well to the 3-player co-op mode, thanks to offering up more reasons to explore the game’s larger environments with friends.
Visually and audibly, Gears 5 is a freaking gem, especially on the Xbox One X, which supports 4K HDR at 60fps across all of the game’s five modes. The graphics are just mesmerizing and never skip a beat or frame, and quite frankly, the sound, if you have an Atmos setup, could be even better than the visuals. Either way, one look and listen at this game is all you need to know that it has been primed for the One X and high-end PC rigs.
I really did enjoy and appreciate the Gears 5 campaign immensely. Some of the narrative choices felt a bit convenient, and the pacing of the Acts is very uneven, especially the final Act, which resolves very quickly when compared to the previous ones, but overall the narrative and tight gameplay kept me glued to my screen. Plus, real answers are provided for a few of the bigger mysteries that were uncovered in Gears 4, and long time Gears players will appreciate how the answers play into the Gears franchise as a whole.
The campaign is only one of five modes though, so Gears 5 is packed with content to keep you busy. The other four modes are all dedicated to the game’s Multiplayer components, so I couldn’t test live matchmaking during the review period, but I was able to play custom matches with bots to get a feel for the new Escape mode, as well as the traditional Gears multiplayer modes like Versus and Horde.
I have full confidence that MS and The Coalition will have servers in place to handle the crunch once the game goes live publicly, but as a disclaimer, all of my multiplayer testing was done in custom matches, so I can’t comment if the matchmaking system will be a tire fire or not at launch.
In terms of the multiplayer modes though I always love myself some Gears Versus, and all of the varieties return in Gears 5. There are plenty of new maps for this mode, and the gameplay looks great at 60fps.
Horde also feels solid, and maintains the aspects of it that has made it a popular game type in the Gears franchise. It was tough to play with bots, but for the most part a competent match could be had, so those interested in co-op Gears will surely find a home here.
Finally, Escape is the brand new mode in Gears 5, and it tasks a team of 3-players with infiltrating a Swarm hive, detonating a bomb in it, and then being force to escape. This mode is as frantic as it gets, because you’re on a clock, you have limited guns and ammo, and you’re literally in a hive, so there are enemies all around you at all times. There are safe rooms to catch your breath and possibly find more ammo, but this mode is all about being nimble and escaping the hive before it’s too late.
Players will also be able to create their own Maps for this mode, but I didn’t test that feature out during the review period.
What can I say? If you’re a Gears of War fan then you will undoubtedly appreciate Gears 5. It’s definitely more of the same with a few improvements and additions to both the campaign and multiplayer modes. The more open approach to the campaign is a nice touch, and the story reveals many questions you had about Kait and her lineage, so the narrative pays off, albeit middle act of a trilogy style. This means the ending doesn’t really resolve much of anything. It mostly just sets up the final resolution in Gears 6, and feels a bit rushed.
The campaign is fairly beefy, but if you tire of it, or don’t care at all, then Gears 5 is loaded with multiplayer and co-op modes to give the game life for years to come thanks to the Tour of Duty ranking system, and the variety of modes.
Gears 5 is easily one of the best entries in the franchise, so it earns a 9 out of 10 review score. To me it’s a no-brainer pickup, and worth the extra $20 to play a week early with the Ultimate Edition.
Thanks for watching, I’m Matt Heywood signing off for Entertainment Buddha, where we make you a better geek, one post at a time.”
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