The Gears of War franchise has continued to grow and change over the years. With this fifth main entry, The Coalition has taken things further with this being the most ambitious title to date. It’s expansive not only in terms of how much content is provided, but also in the scale of the narrative experience. The story now directly follows Kait, she’s on a journey to find out about her heritage.
This leads her and Del to explore many long forgotten locations that have a special splash of nostalgia for fans of this series. It leans on the past, but not in a way that might alienate any newcomers as they won’t really be able to tell they’re missing anything. The narrative is still intimate in nature, but expanded in scope with massive open world exploration. This is interesting, and I’m eagerly awaiting to see the response players have to this.
I personally found some aspects of the open world in the campaign to be a tad boring, but I know many will love the approach. This was somewhat of an issue during Act 2, but it was beautifully refined and almost perfect during the third act. The former being an exploration within the frozen wastelands, and the latter being a dry seabed that consisted of now orange sand storms.
I believe my issue with the open style stems from it feeling like cinematics could have explained the gaps between areas. There are definitely many extra activities to take part in, but those could have had more depth to them. That aside, this was still an excellent and completely surprising campaign. It’s longer than any of the previous entries, and mixes things up quite a bit. It’s still a two player cooperative mode, but you can now have a third player come in as Jack for support.
Jack is a bigger part of this, he directly assists with gaining access to places or in the fetching of resources from the world. There are of course some collectibles to obtain, and many options for tackling situations. The sense of scale in this is insane, I’d say the sand landscape is just excessively massive and impressive. On top of this open crazed landscape there are ferocious storms and it appears as though it goes on for infinite miles.
Again, this is a sorrowing tale and one that makes me really wonder where they’re going with it. There are things we’ve never seen before, and that should shock players a lot. There’s a nice sense of mystery, and panic as you deal with a variety of unique situations across this tale that’s focused on Kait’s lineage. I question some narrative choices, but it’s impactful. I felt they could have dug into some elements a bit more, but that mystery does help as you focus on the essentials.
The largest take on the multiplayer yet brings accessible options for more casual players, refined competitive play and generally enhanced ranked eSports with Escalation. It has all the modes from the previous title, while adding some extras. There’s now an Arcade, this is a hero style of shooter setup where you buy weapons and battle it out. I wouldn’t personally play this, but know many that would enjoy it as an option over competitive play.
King of the Hill appears to be the strong main competitive option, with many others such as Arms Race or Guardian. All of the past favorites, they’re here and ready to go under the refined style of play present in this release. Finally we have Escalation that has been pushed forward in its setup for how weapons are placed, lives are handled and the progression of the battles. There’s actually a lot to this part of play, and it’ll likely continue to evolve into the future.
The versus is hard to really go over as it is something that’s so similar, yet just expanded upon here mostly in terms of the gameplay. I will note there’s a Tour of Duty for keeping track of certain progression rewards across the modes as well, this layers on versus as well as the other multiplayer options within the game. The customization has been greatly expanded upon with taunts, multiple execution options and hero type characters though the latter part I’ll cover under the upcoming topics. One final mention goes to the addition of a game browser across all modes which is very appreciated, a huge help to find games we want to play in.
This is an all new mode that really is almost its own thing. In this game type you’re working within a group of three to escape. You’re going on a suicide run essentially, planting a special gas bomb in a hive and then trying to get out. It might sound simplistic, but what they do with it makes this a truly special expansion to the series.
It’s frantic, tense and you always feel the pressure of low ammo. You’re running through a selection of hives, just trying to get out. It can be difficult if you add modifiers to increase the challenge of the world and they’re likely filled with enemies. The rooms could lead to dead ends, you might find ammo caches and there are also some helpful spots as well along the way. Now, this might sound like it could get repetitive after awhile.
That’s not the case however as we’ll get additional hives, and there’s a map builder. This allows players to create the hives as a custom selection of section cut outs with possibly multiple levels to work through, to place enemies wherever you want or even grant players weapons. These hives can be shared with others, and you can find more to download. You could just continuously play this if you like it. Some matches may take awhile to play, and there’s just a lot of value here if you like It. It’s a great challenge for a group of friends, or with matchmaking.
This is another mode that feels familiar, but is expanded upon in new ways. The class system is gone, with the characters being the prime focus instead. Some aspects of what I’m about to discuss are also shared with Escalation. Each character which is considered a “hero” has fourteen skill cards that can be improved by stacking duplicates.
The characters have an ultimate, special in-game perks that can help you survive and access to particular fortifications. There are many traps and barriers to use in this, a refined quantity that works well for assisting in protecting your areas. The fortifications can be leveled to four, anyone can move them or repair them. It’s just the special engineers that can have access to all of the building options which is neat. Now, here’s some general context about Horde, if you’re not familiar with it. This is a cooperative survival option where five players battle increasing difficulties. Every ten waves is a boss, and now a resource tap to collect from.
The enemies grow in difficulty, and are varied. It was more fun than ever here, and perhaps more challenging as modifiers can completely change up how difficult it is. If you’re a more casual player, you can have a Jack come into play. If you have someone drop out, or no friends, there are bots that can fill the void which is great.
This is a fast paced, brutal take on the franchise. There’s more balance than ever, and the guns pack even more of a punch. The distance options feel more effective, but the Gnasher continues to hold might which is great. There are some new additions to the weapons roster, and they’re really neat to use. They don’t change things up too much, but feel generally at home with what’s already available. The tweak to melee actually worked very well and I liked it, you now have a knife alongside traditional close range attacks.
The combat is fast paced, and this game is stunning. It feels so smooth with the 60fps across the board, and that push towards 4k provides stunning results with the Xbox One X enhancement. The HDR is remarkable for the lighting, and it helps make those storming windflares come across as insane. The sense of scale here is incredible, there’s never been anything like this in the franchise. The sense of destruction is bigger, and the worlds can be insanely large. Like I mentioned previously, the sand area is just excessive and that’s grand. It feels like a sort of linear experience, with the option to go out there further. I compare it to the recent God of War, or Uncharted: The Lost Legacy in that regard.
These areas are also packed with more enemies than ever before, with dynamic battles and epic scenes. The smaller areas feel tenser with these packed in enemies, and it’s intense. There are many types of unique enemies, the new ones fit right in and provide new threats. The movement within these environments is fluid, natural and beautifully. That’s whether you’re leaping over cover, or soaring across the dunes on the new vehicle transports.
Gears 5 is an ambitious, and incredible expansion of the franchise that takes this series to new heights. Things will never be the same for Gears of War, and they’ve set standards that will be hard to reach going forward. The campaign is bigger, bolder and more emotionally driven than ever before. Kait takes center stage, and there are some stunning moments in this. It has that charm you remember, that intimate story and it just takes it to larger locations. I found the Act 2 open world to be a bit boring, but they really hit the charm with the third act and I’d like to see more worlds like this in the future.
You really sort of could call this, Gears: The Space Race as that was one fun theme to see play out. There’s a deeper look into the lore of the planet, the factions and many surprise moments. It’s a longer campaign than ever before, and there’s value beyond what we’ve ever witnessed. The versus is excellent, I see myself spending countless hours battling others. There’s room for expansion, but we already have a solid selection of brand new maps to play on.
They have all of the important modes, with some new ones for the more casual player and Escalation is fiercer than ever. They’ve done a great job with that aspect of play, it’ll provide countless hours of conflict to engage in. Escape is a solid extension to the core package, and it could provide many gameplay hours. There’s the set selection of maps for various challenges for your group, and the option to easily expand that within the custom map builder. The builder has many choices for you to make whatever type of course you’d like, and that could greatly expand the replay value for this mode.
Hopefully it’s also a step towards a more in-depth Forge type mode down the road like with what Halo has, that would be neat. Horde has grown, changed in some exciting ways and it’s more appealing than ever for me to spend time playing it. The character heroes role makes sense, and the refinements here are a good choice for the better. There are many fortifications new ways to interact and a completely revamped selection of difficulty choices with the modifiers.
This is a complete effort for an entry in the Gears of War franchise, taking the series to new heights with a level of ambition we’ve never seen before. This is a big swing, and a triumphant release late in the generation. It’s a technical masterpiece on the platform and delivers absolutely stunning worlds. It’s a stellar game, it’s fierce and of course visceral as you would expect. This is the Gears you know, but more accessible and expanded beyond belief.
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Gears 5 Review on Xbox One X
Review Code Provided by Microsoft