Much more war
This was the best of Gears was the worst of Gears . It was an extension of everything that all Gears had done well before, and was the maturation of everything that those same games were fighting. It was an identity crisis, a dysmorphic concern with the correction of deficiencies, which were not real deficiencies. It was bitter but sweeter than bitter.
Gears 5 is the best game Gears to date, but hardly. In the second round, developer The Coalition shows real confidence in removing every drop of tension from gunfire and in continuously producing larger-than-life sequences. However, as the stewards of the new guard of Gears the studio puts its imprint on the series with the game design, which is already dated. It's not enough to sink all the effort, but it's enough to anchor Gears 5 down.
Gears 5 (PC, Xbox One [reviewed])
Publisher: Xbox Game Studios
Released: September 10, 2019
MSRP: $ 59.99 ; Included as part of Xbox Game Pass
Not surprisingly, Gears 5 picks up right where Gears of War 4 stopped. Macro and micro level stories are told. The massive conflict revolves around the return of the Hammer of Dawn network online to protect the COG capital from swarming; the more personal story deals with the protagonist Kate's genealogy and how she reconciles with him. The former drives most of the gameplay, but the latter is definitely more interesting.
Although Gears 5 uses the ghosts of her past (again) to make a splash, Kait's conflicts are the most emotional severity. Her moments of revelation, despair, determination, pain – most of all, it is effective and nuanced, while the past Gears titles of such moments diverge in order. Kate's relationship with Dell, who has accompanied her throughout the campaign, is natural and compassionate. He is a great side-kick and their camaraderie gives weight to the already difficult choices that Gears 5 wants players to make.
Gears 5 navigates its story more elegantly than any previous game and gives a very real sense that it's Gears growing up. The action is similarly elevated in a way that feels … bigger ? The Setpiece series packaged explosive beats the way everyone expected. Fighting, however, raises the pressure, always stretching shooting slightly past the point of comfort. It's intense. The coalition has done a great job designing weapons, enemy models and arenas that prevent the player from sticking to the same piece of cover until everything is dead. Some degree of mobility is required and this makes it even more dangerous.
But the best addition to the whole shoot is all not shooting. Gears 5 is confident enough to count on long periods of silence, asking his characters to take their place in the environment and exposure. These are some of the most compelling moments that Gears 5 has to offer – especially a mid-game robot-guided tour through a horror carnival – because it allows one to think and learn. Then, when the bullets start flying again, it sounds much stronger because it is contrasted with silence.
All this is intertwined with the most fierce omission of Gears 5 . The coalition has introduced a component of a pseudo-open world, as average acts are strung by the passage of vehicles, which is lifeless and unexpected. Piloting a Scythian through vast and barren areas is an uninspired way of making Gears feel less linear. It also takes the step between the two scripts. Until this is realized, this approach to the open world is a relic in 2019 – something that would have looked new many years ago but did not stand up to modern design standards. Not everything is bad, however; at the very least, it facilitates an impressive series: a train race against a thunderstorm.
Probably the biggest justification for the open world system is that it is in the service of adding side missions. They are located in places that are beyond the critical path and are always flagged. The side missions are rudimentary and not very diverse. They are nothing more than quick battle sections, usually just a wave of enemies. But their rewards make life much easier.
Another (and better) basic addition to Gears 5 is about Jack, the "all that" robot who supports Kait throughout the campaign. The world is filled with resources to build on Jack's capabilities, and side missions unlock his ultimate capabilities. In the early game, Jack seems superfluous – a worthy companion, but not a necessity. Later, Jack became more significant. Abilities as a flash freeze enemy and deploying a giant barrier shield open up new avenues for combat, rather than just hiding in cover until it's time to strike.
The Campaigns Gears 5 is a tale of competing interests. When it's convenient enough to stick to the roots of Gears it does those things better than any game before it. The story and action are inconsistent (and I don't think it's just an addiction to getting started), proving that the Coalition absolutely knows how to create a game Gears that can transcend anything in the original trilogy. But when Gears 5 tries to invent his own identity, it is a separate decision. Things from Jack may remain, but the open world must continue.
However, Gears 5 is more than a campaign. Three specialized multiplayer modes capture the essence of Gears in different ways. The purest is probably the Horde, the favorite cooperative wave based on pressure that boils Gears to its basic experience. This iteration extends to classes, equipping every player with a role in the team. Tanks draw fire, engineers build stuff, etc. A good addition is Jack as a support class, a robot buzz around and helping where needed, not the traditional Gears goal of just dropping bullets in everything. This is a Horde mode that emphasizes and requires strategy more than ever.
Versus is still a competitive draw, quoting players against each other in five-to-five modes, which is a core element of the series. Team Deathmatch, King of the Hill, Guardian and more – everything is back, mostly untouched by previous iterations. A notable addition is Arcade mode, which tends to be more casual, not super serious. This is a team race of up to 50 kills and any kill you personally throw will earn you a skull. They can be used to buy new weapons: a few skulls for some minor improvement, or a lot of skulls for heavy artillery. Arcade is good and fun in short bursts, but there is no call to lure competitors away from their wall-to-wall Gnasher battles.
Last (and at least), the brand has a new Escape mode. Escape puts three players in the center of Locust's hive, planting a bomb with the intention of blowing up all the work. The idea is to escape. The constantly moving wall of poison gas towards the back forces them to continue running through the rooms. If it feels very contrary to the formula Gears to crash into past enemies without guaranteeing that everything is dead. However, its urgency can be exciting. Escape undermines what should be Gears and that's interesting. But, of all modes, it is the most fleeting. It lacks the depth that established modes have. This means that most players will consider this a pleasant distraction rather than their game.
The Coalition achieved a great deal with Gears 5 . Writing and acting often rival the best moments of the series, even surpassing their precursors at times. The total package is the healthiest Gears ever seen. But a major structural change feels like an unmistakable misstep. Gears 5 is a smashing success, but it could be accomplished without undue change.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
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Gears 5 Reviewed by Brett Makedonski
An impressive effort with a few notable issues that keep it going. It won't hit everyone, but it's worth your time and money.
How We Rate: Destructoid Review Guide