Welcomed faces and all-too-familiar foes return to the battlefield with The Coalition’s release of the highly anticipated Gears 5. Stepping away from Gears of War 4’s protagonist, this new adventure focuses on Kait Diaz’s journey to uncover the true nature of the fearsome Locust forces and the truth of her very own origin story. Promising to deliver the franchise’s famous, visceral combat alongside the new additions of open-world exploration, co-op campaign, and a flurry of multiplayer modes, Gears 5 hopes to bring the franchise to new heights. Does it meet the mark?
Gears 5 Review
Gears 5 wastes little time before it blows you away, and I don’t mean with grenades and chainsaw bayonets. As we near the end of the current console generation, it can sometimes be difficult to push the envelope of aesthetics, as expectations continue to rise but the consoles capabilities do not. However, it seems someone forgot to tell the developers. Gears 5 is the most beautiful and most visually impressive game I’ve played all year, with everything from environments to facial animations executed to a level of detail and quality seldom seen in the shooter space.
Crazy weather effects tossing huge rocks across the landscape, fiery tornadoes kicking up a storm, a character’s face damp with tears – it comes together in a visual package that delivers a level of awe and immersion that wonderfully compliments its overall narrative.
As someone that’s been absent from the Gears franchise for many a year, I went into Gears 5 a little unprepared in the overarching story department. I had a brief understanding of the events leading up to Gears 5, but not with the same level of understanding I have with the earlier games in the series. The game does feature a couple of vignettes to bring players up to speed, filling in holes and adding depth to characters previously unexplored.
I thoroughly enjoyed the narrative on offer throughout the Gears 5 campaign, but I have no doubt there’s much more on offer here for veterans of the franchise. The story follows Kait Diaz with many familiar faces donning main and supportive roles, as she journeys deeper into her past, the Locust, and the Locust Queen Myrrah. It’s a gritty, often dark story that delivers a thrilling story-driven campaign with many twists, turns, and thought-provoking scenarios.
The story itself pales in comparison to the characters, expertly brought to life with stellar performances across the cast. It’s difficult to truly deliver emotions in characters, at least in a visual sense. Facial animations, tears, it’s not something easily delivered but Gears 5 does just that: it delivers. Many of the games moments really invoke true emotion but not in the detached sense, you’re not feeling these feelings on behalf of these characters, you’re feeling it as these characters. Truly immersing the player in the Gears 5 narrative makes an otherwise decent story absolutely fantastic.
For the first time in its celebrated history, Gears 5 takes the battle up a scale. One could say they stepped it up a gear. Gears 5 features two sprawling open-world environments – one being a tundra like region in the North, and the other a parched and barren desert with blood red sands. Each area boast its own unique weather system providing both awe-inspiring moments of graphical appreciation and near terrifying moments of realization as you come to understand, mother nature is an entirely different beast.
Gears 5’s open-world environments are a double edged sword. Navigation is simple and exciting thanks to the Skiff, a strange contraption that’s half parachute, half snowmobile, but it’s also a little lackluster. It’s not a traditional open-world with living, breathing environments teeming with life and opportunity. It’s mostly filled with a small number of strongholds, events, and side quests with sprawling areas of nothingness in between.
Exploration is somewhat undermined by the rewards system; at least at first. Taking the skiff to the far reaches of the open-world areas offers some secondary objectives, collectibles pieces of lore, and upgrades for Jack. The content itself is great, whether that be clearing out a downed plane to scavenge for goods, or finishing off a sequence of connected secondary objectives that offer deeper insight into the pains and struggles of those that came before you.
The latter adds even further depth as the characters often exchange thoughts and opinions on the outcomes later in the game, keeping the entire experience connected on an intriguing level. As pure fun, many of these activities are a blast, but due to the lack of character advancement and permanent weapon choices the outcome can often feel somewhat anticlimactic.
Gears 5’s open-world environments feel like a toe-dipping test. Sitting on the edge of the pool, not certain you’re wanting to dive straight in, testing the waters with a quick flick of the foot. It’s a little shallow in the grand scale of open-world titles, but as its first adventure into the more expansive space, it proves to be a fantastic addition. It adds a lot of variety to an otherwise linear approach.
All of this, of course, is supported by Gears’ iconic combat. A flawless cover system paired with intuitive controls and impactful weapons, this combat has long been the defining aspect of the series, and it’s easy to see why. It’s fun, pure fun; you feel powerful, unstoppable, indestructible, then you get absorbed into an aliens stomach and spend the next 30 seconds screaming like a school girl as you pray for your allies to come to your aid. It’s a blast.
The campaign mode, which features fully supported co-op throughout for up to three players, will take you around the 10-15 hour mark to complete, but there’s a lot more on offer once the dust settles. Gears 5 features several multiplayer modes including Versus, Escape, and Horde. While each mode is exciting and rewarding in its own right, Horde Mode took the vast majority of my time post-campaign completion – I just couldn’t put it down.
You and several other players face off against increasingly difficult waves of enemies. It’s a recipe we’ve seen time and time again. Some innovative design ideas, such as the ability to move the defensive objective between rounds, coupled with a ton of progression options works together with Gears’ award-winning combat to offer endless hours of post-game entertainment.
Much like its iconic Lancer Assault Rifle, Gears 5 functions as perfectly as it was designed. The developers threw on a chainsaw of character, narrative, and content to make an over-the-top, thrilling experience from start to finish. Gears 5 is a badass game, and you’ll come away feeling more badass than the legendary Marcus himself.
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